Simon Carr: Casting Tories as an army of occupation is not the answer

Sketch: It's not entirely clear that Ed Miliband finds this civil war rhetoric desirable

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The Independent Online

There was an entirely characteristic standing ovation for the leader – reported as "awkward" by a party member. An awkward ovation – Ed-watchers have come to expect nothing less.

The ovation for the new party secretary was, by contrast, thoroughly generous, convincing and faintly malevolent.

The leader had wanted someone else in the post but this character Iain McNicol was elected instead (much to the surprise and dismay of the leader's office).

Ed himself started the day with a confident performance on The Andrew Marr Show.

"I am my own man and I say what I think," he said bravely. I didn't necessarily disbelieve him. His glottal stops rang so true.

There were a few things for scoffers and cynics to bark at.

Ed said disparagingly that the welfare net was "full of holes" (nets are mostly holes, aren't they?).

He said we wanted to "get stuck into Europe and get it to grow" rather than "just viewing it as a problem". Ah, the optimism of youth! And he proclaimed himself determined "to change the way the economy works". That is his grand project, to remake the soul of man by socialism. It makes Cameron's Big Society look as simple as a clockwork toy.

In the conference hall McNicol made his speech; it leant heavily on the credulity of his audience. To applaud his ideas you had to believe that the Tories were an army of occupation whose purpose was to crush the hopes and realise the most macabre fears of the poor. As I say: an immediate ovation.

But how can this noggin believe in equality? He's got twice as many teeth as anyone else in the audience and he certainly didn't offer to share them.

A mummified Ken Livingstone told us about the vileness of Boris Johnson.

You could almost see the children's little fingers sticking out of the Mayor's mouth.

Speaker after speaker denounced "disgraceful, shameless Tories" and one young delegate told us that Chelsea and Fulham has "the curse of being a Tory seat" and that for years Tories had been "destroying the community".

It's not entirely clear that Ed Miliband finds this civil war rhetoric desirable. It does cast a good half of the electorate as the enemy. Not just the enemy of Labour but the enemy of mankind. That's not necessarily a winning strategy.

It certainly didn't work for Gordon Brown.