Miliband ditches the autocue for his Labour Conference speech, but who planted the tree?

Miliband is a nightmare for television broadcasters, says our diarist at the Labour Conference in Manchester, but could he be a voters dream?
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Autocue abandoned

Ed Miliband departed from what has been fixed practice for Labour leaders for 20 years by delivering an hour-long speech from memory. Tony Blair’s addresses may have sounded spontaneous, but that was the actor in him; his speeches were written out on the autocue.

That has been the practice of almost all party leaders since autocues were invented, and departing from it created a nightmare for the television broadcasters yesterday. They are used to being supplied before the speech with a transcript on which they can note the exact times of the best lines, enabling them to do an almost instant editing job, but it allowed Ed Miliband to walk about the stage, address different parts of the hall, and sound more natural than he did a year ago.

David Cameron is credited with being the first to throw away the autocue, in the speech he delivered to the Conservative Party conference in 2005, which turned him from being an outsider to the hot favourite in the Tory leadership election.

Who planted Miliband's tree?

There was something familiar about that ringing phrase from Ed Miliband’s speech yesterday “the Milibands haven’t sat under the same oak tree for the last 500 years.” What stirred the memory was not the Thomas Hardy novel: his was a greenwood tree. Nor was it the Old Testament angel of the Lord who sat under an oak tree in Ophrah. It was this phrase: “You could say my family have not sat under the same oak tree for the last 500 years. This is who I am”, from a speech delivered last June – by Ed Miliband.

Mr Whippy

It would be interesting to hear what the Secretary of the One Nation Group of Conservative MPs thinks about Ed Miliband stealing their trade name. But the man who served as their secretary from 1989-92 and again from 2005 is not answering calls, because he is the Chief Whip, and whips don’t speak to the press, and the other day he forgot that we are one nation when speaking to a police officer. He is Andrew Mitchell.

Ricky's radical past

Few people remember that Ricky Tomlinson, star of Brookside and The Royle Family, first came to public notice as a defendant in a criminal trial. In October 1972, the Home Secretary, Robert Carr, ordered chief constables to do something about flying pickets disrupting building sites. Two building workers, Tomlinson and another man, Des Warren, were jailed for ‘conspiracy to intimidate.’ Tomlinson will be in Manchester today to mark the anniversary, campaigning to get the convictions quashed.

Quote of the day

"Have you ever seen a more incompetent, hopeless, out-of-touch, U-turning, pledge-breaking, make-it-up-as-you-go-along, back-of-the-envelope, miserable shower than this Prime Minister and his government?" - Ed Miliband