Donald Macintyre's Sketch: What's another word for voters?


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Indy Politics

Ed Miliband declared yesterday: “We must pull together as a society… We cannot do that if deficit reduction is simply on the backs of everyday people.”

“Everyday people” is a new Milibandism. (We doubt he was thinking of the Sly and the Family Stone single of the same name, since it came out in 1968, a year before he was born).

It’s hardly perfect, implying there are also “weekend people” or “only on Tuesdays people” or whatever. But nor are some of the other solutions to the perennial politicians’ problem of how to describe most of the voters.

The Tories’ “hardworking families” ignores people who through no fault of their own are not working. “Ordinary people” is patronising. “The masses” is too Marxian. “The punters” is disrespectful. So “everyday people” may be no worse.

The same sentence contained one of 25 mentions of the deficit in Miliband’s speech. He so didn’t forget the deficit, unlike in his party conference speech. Unless he actually meant to mention it another 25 times. But that seems unlikely since he was careful to stick to his script.

The heart of Mammon, or rather the Institute of Chartered Accountants, was just the place to announce that, deficit-wise, he was going to be no more Mr Nice Guy: balancing the books; cutting the deficit every year; no new borrowing.

But you couldn’t help wondering whether the accountants were so keen to be reminded of higher taxes for the rich. Though perhaps they were. The more taxes, the more work advising their rich clients how to avoid them!

Asked about borrowing for investment, Miliband said: “I want to be sort of clear about this.” Which he sort of was. “Yes” would have been clear. Saying that he would be “targeting” current (as opposed to capital) spending was “sort of clear”.

Asked to give his message in eight words, he said: “A country that works for you, not the privileged few.” Ten words actually, but not a bad try.

On torture and the CIA he said his big brother, the ex-Foreign Secretary, “would never countenance” involvement in such a thing. But he was silent on whether Tony Blair should give evidence on it. As he usually is about the former Labour PM. Who is not – whatever else – “everyday people”.