The Sketch: To be honest. To be fair.In all humility. Miliband needs a Plan B

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The Independent Online

Give him a chance, you say, give him room, give him time. To be honest. To be fair. In all humility (as Ed Miliband said in every other paragraph).

Was the CBI conference the best place to be limbering up? Was that the forum for the new Labour leader to run through his scales? Might the conference have been expecting something a little more finished?

Did they hope to learn the what, the how and the why of the Labour Party? To be honest, to be fair, in all humility, no. His purpose was to introduce himself. To let them absorb his presence. The swampy catarrh of his voice, his wild, wind-tunnel mouth. His "Human Spoken Here" quality (though he really should take a blue pencil to phrases like "the centrality of economic efficiency" and "competitive deregulation in search of comparative advantage").

He told the hall that what he wanted was "to start to build with you the relationship we need with wealth creators". That was collaborative, consultative, co-operative. Already he was winding the innocents into his collectivist coils without them realising what he was doing. He finished with the same thought. "I look forward to working with you to make Labour a pro-business party."

But has that been cleared with the NEC? Have the unions agreed that industrialists are to be moulding the Labour Party into something more billionaire-friendly? Is Ed Balls on board? Miliband's work behind the scenes must be more advanced than we'd thought.

Others will say whether they were convinced by his attitude to the deficit – though a business audience would have been interested to learn why there was a deficit at all after 15 years of boomtime. To be honest.

He wanted to tell us that "what it means to be pro-business today is different from what it was" in the 1990s. Better regulation, more balance, and everyone gets a decent living.

"In finance we need to make a difference." Bold, but not too bold. "No one should pretend there are easy answers." That was wise. And the middle class "had no option but to increase their debts to sustain their living standards". That's such a corrupt idea it may not even be legal to say out loud.

He wanted to give tax breaks to employers who pay the "living wage". Taxpayers will be paying companies to pay themselves higher wages. A brilliant plan inspired by the perpetual motion machine.

Having listened long and heard little I say, Labour needs a Plan B.

So just in case, just as a precaution, let's start looking for the missing Miliband. Is there another brother out there somewhere? David's gone, Ed may be going, the stage is set for... Zeppo Miliband!

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