Donald Macintyre's Sketch: Miliband enters the lions den and gets away with it - just about

 

True, there was no standing ovation. The TUC doesn’t do ecstatic. But in a speech sandwiched between debates on low paid youth - enlivened by the fact that the speakers were mostly young workers on low pay - and on rail privatisation, Miliband repeated that he was “absolutely determined” to reform the way union members donate to Labour. And survived.

Otherwise he dwelt heavily on the economic inequality preoccupying an audience so pragmatic that the biggest applause came when he declared that “we’ll say to any business: if you want a major government contract, you must provide apprenticeships to the next generation"

In places it was oddly pedagogic – confiding that “living standards have been falling for longer than at any time since 1870” and that "Britain is currently 159th in the international league table of investment.”

This may need a little amplification since to the ignorant it seems to put us in the same division as – say Somalia, North Korea, and, er, Greece.

And he took his passion for invoking 19th Century Conservative prime ministers even further yesterday with an unexpected eulogy of Edward Stanley, Earl of Derby. Derby (or “Red Ed” as Miliband fancifully referred to him in his one joke of the day) had been the “first man to legislate to allow trade unions in this country”. And had marvelled at the “almost perfect military discipline” of an 1867 union march (the sort, he didn’t say, that these days Miliband would be in big  trouble for joining).

Like the Labour leader’s favourite, Disraeli - and unlike David Cameron who “doesn’t just write you off but oozes contempt for you from every pore” - Lord Derby was a “one nation” Conservative. Does Miliband ever wonder if he isn’t overworking the “one nation” theme? Apparently not.

The 1945 Attlee government - the only mentionable Labour administration these days - was a “one nation” government. And the changes to the Labour link were needed to build - a bit of a tautology - “a one nation country".

Maybe having a woman TUC general secretary and president helped? Asking photographers not to obstruct delegates, the president, Lesley Mercer, added - in a kindly tone that might have eluded some of her male predecessors - “and I would ask delegates to tolerate the photographers who are union members doing their job".

The Q and A - during which Miliband’s tone was notably livelier and less monotonous than in the speech itself - was polite. Even if PCS president Janice Godrich was clearly disappointed by the answer to her blunt “are you for or against austerity?" which was roughly speaking: "against, but in practice we have to get the deficit down to be credible".

Worryingly for those wanting reductions in the unions’ block vote and say in electing leaders and parliamentary candidates - which Miliband did not mention - Unite leader Len McCluskey was quite nice about him.  But Unison’s Dave Prentis said all this talk about reforming the party link was “a turn-off”. So there was some traction after all.   

News
people
News
people And here is why...
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
News
i100
Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
people
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsWelsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
News
Destructive discourse: Jewish boys look at anti-Semitic graffiti sprayed on to the walls of the synagogue in March 2006, near Tel Aviv
peopleAt the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Life and Style
Couples who boast about their relationship have been condemned as the most annoying Facebook users
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Associate Recrutiment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Group have been well ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: Real Staffing Group is seeking Traine...

Year 6 Teacher (interventions)

£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We have an exciting opportunity...

PMLD Teacher

Competitive: Randstad Education Manchester: SEN Teacher urgently required for ...

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Time to stop running: At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity

Time to stop running

At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence