Wonkish? Yes, but Miliband could be PM in 2015

The Labour brand is strong because voters think Labour will protect their jobs

Share

All you need to know about our alternative government was contained in the Labour leader's off-the-cuff remarks before his recent speech at the London Stock Exchange. Introducing Ed Balls, the Shadow Chancellor, with whom he would be taking questions afterwards, Ed Miliband said: "You won't be hearing any reference in my speech to post-neoclassical endogenous growth theory."

He was talking about one of Balls's most mocked soundbites, possibly one of the most misunderstood political quotations of the New Labour years. It was a line in a speech written by Balls for Gordon Brown in 1994, in which Brown, the then shadow chancellor, said that "post-neoclassical endogenous growth theory is hardly the stuff of soundbites". The speech then went on to explain that this strand of macroeconomic thinking nevertheless supported New Labour's plans to use education to raise the quality of human capital and therefore the trend rate of growth.

Having poked fun at Balls, as a way of saying that he, at least, would not be spouting jargon, Miliband then launched into his closely argued thesis on the subject of "predistribution".

It is a paradox, is it not, that the candidate who won the Labour leadership with the support of young people holding placards saying "Ed Speaks Human" so rarely communicates in normal English? It is also peculiar that someone who dismissed suggestions of tension between him and Balls as "nonsense" should handle his Shadow Chancellor so maladroitly in public.

Miliband is addicted to an academic style of abstract thought that cannot easily be translated into everyday language, as the team working on his conference speech must know. Unfortunately, Labour's lead in the opinion polls provides little incentive for them to try. This time last year, Labour was three points ahead. Now Labour has been a solid 10 points ahead since the Budget in March, and Miliband feels that his dreadful conference speech last year Ω the one dividing companies into predators and producers Ω has been vindicated. "I was definitely right," he told Charles Moore, the former editor of The Daily Telegraph and an unlikely recent convert to the idea that capitalism is a terrible idea.

That interview did not start well, Moore reveals in the current Spectator. Nervous of technology, Moore tested his new voice recorder by interviewing his daughter before setting off for Primrose Hill to talk to the Leader of the Opposition. He then pressed "play" instead of "record" and heard himself say, "So, Ed, how come you're so much less glamorous than your brother?" And heard his daughter reply, "It's because I am made of Plasticine."

It did not end well, either. It finished with Miliband saying, "We  want a market economy, not a market society." Which is a slogan, not a policy, and only slightly easier to understand than "predistribution".

Despite all that, Labour is 10 points ahead. Partly, this might be because Ed Miliband, who used to step out of his London home to provide a clip for the television news on just about any story, disappeared over the summer and has rationed his appearances since. He has not tried to interrupt the Government as it provides endless headlines of splits and toffs, which are wearing away the already broken stone of the coalition.

There are many Labour supporters who refuse to believe the opinion polls. Maybe this is a reflex dating back to 1992, when the polls said Neil Kinnock was going to be prime minister, but people look for reasons not to believe the Labour lead. It is the mid-term blues, they say, an anti-government sentiment that does not reflect the actual choice in an election. Or they say you have to look at who voters prefer to manage the economy; or who they prefer as prime minister. Or they just say that Labour's lead is "soft".

Well, it may be. But there is nothing inevitable about governments recovering from mid-term slumps in popularity. And people may prefer the Tory team to Labour's on the economy, or say that Cameron has the qualities to be prime minister and that Miliband has not, but they take all that into account when deciding how to vote. The Labour brand is strong, even in tough economic times, because voters think that Labour would protect people's jobs.

It is true that if pollsters remind people of the names of the three party leaders before asking them how they would vote, the effect is a swing of about 1.5 percentage points from Labour to Tory, compared with the usual, unprompted, question. If that mimics the effect of an election campaign focused on the leaders, it may be that Labour's lead is really seven points rather than 10. But that would mean a Labour majority of 80.

So Ed Miliband may be irredeemably wonkish; he may say he looks like Wallace; but when people say that they intend to vote Labour, I am inclined to believe them. Miliband could well be prime minister in 2015. We should judge him this week in that light.

twitter.com/@JohnRentoul; independent.co.uk/johnrentoul

React Now

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

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: how to spell BBQ and other linguistic irregularities

Guy Keleny
 

South Africa's race problem is less between black and white than between poor blacks and immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa

John Carlin
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own