Miliband's speech was ok on argument, good on delivery, and bad on Labour's atonement

The party leader was surprisingly funny and confident in Manchester. But predictably enough he addressed the party faithful rather than the country at large

Share
Related Topics

Ed Miliband’s tasks this afternoon were threefold: first, to argue rationally that come 2015, it will be time for a change in Britain; second, to explain in an emotionally engaging way that he is capable of embodying that change; third, and related, to show that Labour has understood its failures when last in power. How did he fare? In order: ok, quite well, and not very well.

On the first, he was hobbled by timing. Two and a half years ahead of a General Election, it wasn’t plausible for him to list a bunch of policy positions. And as Steve Richards argued in this morning’s Independent, we do in any case know quite a lot about what Miliband and Ed Balls would do. Still, the speech was strikingly short of detail: too short, in fact.

We thought we might hear some specifics about a living wage or taxes on wealth – a mansion tax, for instance – but there was none of that. Instead we got a moderately effective critique of the Coalition’s failings – particularly on the economy, where the government will borrow an extra £465bn between 2009-10 and 2014-15, as against New Labour’s extra £319bn between 1996-7 and 2009-10 – and a reasonable denunciation of its u-turns, botched Budgets, and complete mismanagement of the NHS.

On the second, his delivery seemed vastly and surprisingly improved. There were some good jokes about David Cameron’s tax status and new Cabinet appointments, and minimal stumbling. It was confidently done, and the much-vaunted trumpeting of his comprehensive education wasn’t laid on too thick. There was plenty of this is where I come from, this is what I believe, I might be an atheist of Jewish heritage but that’s ok because this is modern Britain and that’s how we roll. His invocation of Benjamin Disraeli's One Nation Conservatism is a reasonable but highly unoriginal gambit. The 0.1 per cent of Britain, or less, who watched the whole thing would have had their feeling that he’s a nice guy confirmed; for everyone else, they’ll probably be marginally less inclined to describe him as a weirdo. Not bad.

On the third, there wasn’t enough. All party conferences induce leaders to address the party faithful instead of the country. Tony Blair was exceptional in defying that trend. Today too, Miliband could have done much more to recognise public anger over Labour’s profligate spending, liberal immigration, and big welfare bill. He did briefly mention the fact that some of the Coalition’s cuts will be retained, that we’ll all have to work for longer, that Labour didn’t care enough for public concern over immigration, and that those who can work, should work. But a confrontation with the failings of the past this was not.

It’s always silly to pretend these speeches matter very much. Nobody cares about them outside of those who pore over every word. But when Miliband gets his few minutes on the news this evening, he and his advisers will reflect with mild satisfaction on the decent gags, hyper-confident delivery and tolerable lack of detail that make this his best conference speech yet. I’d give him 5/10, if 1 is your average PMQs performance, and 10 is Lincoln at Gettysburg. There’s a compliment in that.

Read Oliver Wright's verdict on the speech here.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Software Engineer - Python / Node / C / Go

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: *Flexible working in a relaxed ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Bookkeeper

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This accountancy firm have an e...

Recruitment Genius: Junior Developer / Mobile Apps / Java / C# / HTML 5 / JS

£17000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Junior Mobile Application Devel...

Recruitment Genius: LGV Driver - Category C or C+E

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This national Company that manu...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Newspaper stands have been criticised by the Child Eyes campaign  

There were more reader complaints this year – but, then again, there were more readers

Will Gore
 

People drink to shut out pain and stress – arresting them won’t help

Deborah Coughlin
A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?