Manchester is one of my favourite cities for party political conferences – those autumnal gatherings of the faithful and the fevered that breathe life into our politics. The moment you step into the Midland Hotel, the chaos hits you. As a reporter perched in the corner of the lobby, you can see every bigwig, hack and corporate shark.
I was introduced to a tall, young man at the bar there, must be eight years ago. “Lovely guy,” said my colleague afterwards. “And really smart.” Today, that man at the bar, Ed Miliband, will make his pitch to the nation. Imagine you’re him. (Bear with me.) Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition. You’ve seven months to convince the country that you and your team have what it takes to run Britain. You hold a marginal lead in the opinion polls but know that the recovery means voters may still return the Conservative Prime Minister to Downing Street. So what are you going to say to everyone?
Mr Miliband needs to persuade possible Labour voters on two fronts: social justice and economic competency. The first won’t be too much of a problem in the heartlands. Hence the red meat this week on high-earners, a mansion tax and canning the bedroom tax.
The second challenge, economic credibility, is trickier. Mr Miliband’s narrative today of a “national mission” is more stirring than last year’s “One Nation” slogan which pleased wonks but baffled the public. I wonder if the long-term goal to achieve all this – 2025 – lacks the urgency required to seize the keys to Downing Street, though. The mood in Manchester is of a cheerful party, but not one yet convinced it’s going to be in power.Reuse content