Ed Miliband’s seizure of the one nation Tory mantel had political hacks of all sort of persuasions swooning. The consensus was it spelled an audacious land grab for the centre ground of politics; it was big picture, it was smart and it was even – for Ed Miliband – a little funny. It was conviction politics, it was a labour leader injecting a little vision, which hasn’t happened since the Blair era at his most preachy. It also probably won’t make a blind bit of difference to voters, as many have already made their minds up about Ed Miliband.
This didn’t stop the likes of the Political Editor of ITV Tom Bradby gushing on twitter that it was “ superb, transformative speech by Ed M. On the measures that really counted today, he hit the ball out of the park” – a Labour press officer couldn’t have spun it better. The fact that there was nothing on the really big picture stuff of Syria, the EU, the threat of Iran, the Arab spring and the euro seems to have passed most experts by – safely encamped in the Westminster village as they are. The speech was more Little Britain than one or even two nations.
The reaction – or should that be overreaction – to Miliband’s speech for me is simply because he didn’t completely fluff his moment. He did not indulge in a squirm-inducing Ian Duncan Smith ‘ quiet man’ moment, he didn’t do a little ditty about single mums à la Peter Lilley, and he didn’t bawl at the crowd " oh yeah, oh yeah" - like Kinnock before the '92 election. His constant harping on about his comprehensive education was, of course, annoying. I don’t know what’s worse, someone who gets sent to Eton, or someone who could go to Eton but whose parents decide he should slum it with the rest of us – due to some socialist ideal.
And the playing of the toff card is dangerous for Ed because he still strikes many as a bit of geek or school swot – a good natured one but captain of the chess club all the same. He has never had a proper job and when he saw his chance he used the unions to off his own brother - something that doesn’t play well in the country.
All in all, Miliband gave a well-constructed speech, without notes, (a common ploy and one Cameron was able to pull off before he became PM), which was devoid of real policy but tickled the belly of the Westminster villagers.
I decided to carry out my own focus group and rang some friends this morning. They live in my hometown of Chester, a northern swing seat. Labour has to win Chester to form the government. And here’s the result: Ed is still seen as a bit strange, a nice enough guy, but not someone you want to be running the country – in short the speech hasn’t made a blind bit of difference.