What the Labour leader must do to get noticed – the experts' advice


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Deborah Mattinson

Former pollster for Gordon Brown

Never mind appearing like a Prime Minister-in-waiting. Ed Miliband's immediate task is to get Labour back on to the page and into the conversation. The current Labour position is complete invisibility.

"Ed needs to introduce himself and say: 'This is what I'm here for'. Voters still know nothing about him, other than he battled his brother. Labour needs a plan. Not detailed policy prescriptions, but something that shows how things would be different. At the moment it's like sitting in on a strategy meeting. The effort put into the conference speech is counter-productive because no one will notice anyway."

David Clark

Special adviser to Robin Cook 1997-2001

Ed should speak as the one leader willing to grasp what the rest of the political class cannot bear to face up to: that the Thatcherite consensus, to which New Labour was a defensive response, is broken beyond repair just like the old Keynesian consensus it replaced 30 years ago.

Everything he says about how to fix our economy and society should be couched as a similar, epoch-defining challenge requiring a similar radicalism of purpose, albeit to very different ends.

Like Lady Thatcher, he will face hostility and ridicule, but like Lady Thatcher, he should have the confidence to believe that he is pushing with the grain of history.

Neal Lawson

Chair of the Labour pressure group, Compass

With more than three years to go to the election, Ed doesn't have to define himself to the country – he can't because the country isn't listening. He should begin by talking about the good society – a world in which we are united by our common humanity and our need for love, security, time, freedom and creativity. He has to set a political strategy, not just for Labour, but social Liberals, Greens and those who want such a good society. If he inspires confidence in Labour and the wider progressive community then the nation will start to listen.

Lance Price

Former Labour Downing Street adviser

The economy is the issue and Ed Miliband needs to address it himself on an almost daily basis. It can't be left to Ed Balls. He also needs to explain what Labour would do in concrete terms to boost jobs and stimulate economic activity.

Simply criticising the Government for going 'too far too soon' won't do. Ed has to tell the unions they can't be a barrier to recovery and or to Labour making the right judgements on economic matters. He might add that the Murdoch scandal and the failure to regulate the City shows a responsible leader has to assert his or her independence.

Kitty Ussher

Former Labour Treasury minister and a Demos associate

Ed doesn't need to set out his entire policy platform this year, but he does need to give a convincing description of the values that would drive a Labour government in action, as well as instilling fear that the Tories are threatening our stability with their panicked, knee-jerk responses, whether it's on health, the economy or their response to the riots. On spending, he needs a surprisingly hard-line announcement, such as driving up productivity in the NHS, to show he is capable of making tough decisions on the economy.

But he must not concede the point that it was Labour spending that caused the recession, because it simply isn't true.

As the IMF has shown, even after taking account of population size, most of the toxic debt that built up in the banking system originated in America.

Jason Cowley

Editor New Statesman

Ed Miliband has a point of departure (the orthodoxies of the New Labour years) and a destination (a fairer, more equal social democratic nation), but does not have a route map.

He knows that the old high tax-and-spend model of social democracy is broken. In a world in which capital is so mobile and the rich so adept at avoiding tax, Labour needs to find new ways of switching the tax burden from earned to unearned income, from punitively taxing wages and consumption to land, property and assets.

Dan Hodges

Contributing editor Labour Uncut

This year Labour's poll rating has flatlined. Ed Miliband has had the same political resonance with the electorate as Harriet Harman when she was acting-leader. That reflects positively on Harriet; less so Ed. Mr Miliband has three main problems: the economy, the economy and the economy. Ed Miliband should do three things. Firstly, reshuffle Ed Balls. On his watch the Tories have opened a double-digit lead on economic competence. Second, pledge to match Tory spending limits, eradicating deficit denial as an issue. Third, find something to sell and cut. Trident. Forests. It doesn't matter. Or he could just send for Harriet.