Ed Miliband’s conference speech played well in the hall… and Conservative party HQ

 

Share
Related Topics

In his speech to Labour party conference, Ed Miliband answered the widespread pleas for policy substance with two eye catching announcements - a two year price freeze on energy prices from 2015 and a target to build 200,000 homes. Both were well received in the hall, but both will lead to some difficult moments for the party over the coming weeks.

The urge to act in a clear and unequivocal way on energy prices is understandable. It hardly bears repetition that soaring energy bills are an enormous problem for households. But at the moment the public don't believe that either the Tories or Labour will do anything to help.

Polling conducted for Labour Uncut by YouGov shows that voters narrowly place greater trust in Ed Miliband and Labour over David Cameron and the Tories, to keep gas and electricity prices down, by 21 per cent to 15 per cent. However, the majority - 51 per cent - trust neither to help with these bills.

In this context, a firm pledge to freeze prices should help persuade sceptical voters that Labour will take effective action.

But, it is a big step to impose price controls even for a limited period. Such a move is redolent of the prices policies of the 1970s Labour government and will spark another long running argument with business.

The public might be supportive of a price freeze that punishes unpopular energy companies, yet equally wary of a party that is happy to intervene so heavily in the market.

In the 2005 election, the Tories found that although voters liked their punitive rhetoric on immigration, it validated Labour's broader charges that the Tories were a hard-right party who would merrily privatise the NHS and cut benefits for pensioners.

The danger for Labour is that the battle on energy prices might be won at the cost of the war on economic credibility. The Tory charges of Labour as a hard-left, anti-business party that cannot be trusted to manage the economy, are already filling the airwaves.

The problems with Labour's new energy policy were echoed in the commitment to build 200,000 new homes each year of the new parliament.

Once again the problem to be solved was corporate malpractice, the target on this occasion being property development companies that hoard land rather than building on it.

Although there is an issue with this type of behaviour, it is in no way the biggest barrier to building more homes. In the passages of Ed Miliband's speech on housing, the big missing topic was money.

Research by Shelter has highlighted that there are 146,000 homes per year being delivered by the private sector and current government measures. To boost building by over 50,000 would require a direct capital investment from central government of £12bn.

This type of rhetorical sleight of hand, focusing on the failings of business while avoiding any talk of government funding, is why the public are sceptical about either major party's ability to build more homes.

Polling conducted for Labour Uncut by YouGov shows that although Ed Miliband and Labour are just about more trusted than David Cameron and the Tories to build more homes (26 per cent to 21 per cent), the majority - 52 per cent don't trust either. 34 per cent say neither will build more homes and 18 per cent say they don't know who they would trust.

Without a concrete pledge on funding, it is difficult to see how the 200,000 home target can be met and public scepticism countered.

Earlier this week, Labour Uncut launched a book, “Labour's manifesto uncut: how to win in 2015 and why” which charts a different route for Labour.

One where the route to lower household energy bills involves a fully funded pledge for £1000 of energy efficiency improvements to over 3m homes. Where a target of 200,000 new homes each year is backed by £12bn funding commitment replete with the detail of how the money will be found.

Rather than take the difficult choices to liberate funds for these important goals, Ed Miliband has chosen the path of least resistance in targeting big bad business. It's a message that plays well to the party faithful, but the next election will be decided by an audience far larger than a conference hall in Brighton.

Atul Hatwal is editor of Labour Uncut

React Now

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

Operations Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: I am currently recruiting for an Operati...

Project Coordinator/Order Entry, Security Cleared

£100 - £110 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Project Coordinator/Order Entry Ham...

Senior Digital Marketing Executive

£35000 - £45000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based i...

Junior Developer- CSS, HMTL, Bootstrap

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: A leading company within the healthcare ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Prime Minister David Cameron walks on stage to speak at The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) annual conference on November 4, 2013  

Does Cameron really believe in 'British Values'?

Temi Ogunye
The Lada became a symbol of Russia’s failure to keep up with Western economies  

Our sanctions will not cripple Russia. It is doing a lot of the dirty work itself

Hamish McRae
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz