Ed Miliband has won over his party, but the electorate will be harder to convince

Demise deferred


Ed Miliband came out fighting yesterday. After three tough years in the top job, and a summer of sniping from his own side, the Labour leader faced the challenge of his political career at his party’s  autumn conference. Anything less than convincing, and his chances of political survival were slim.

The speech itself was no masterpiece, perhaps because it was trying to do too much at once. But what he lacked in  coherence, Mr Miliband made up for in  panache. For someone who is not a natural orator, it was a bravura performance – a relaxed, confident hour-plus of aspirational “Britain can do better than this”, without the benefit of notes. He needed to woo the party faithful; and he did it in spades.

But what of the message so beguilingly delivered? Last year’s theme, the nebulous notion of “One Nation” got the odd mention. But, to Mr Miliband’s credit, this year’s address was a meatier affair. With repeated recourse to stories from “real people”, the Labour leader painted a picture of a divided country with the wrong priorities. What economic recovery there is, he said, is for the few rather than the many, leaving us with a “cost of living crisis”. And where the Tories are exacerbating it by engaging in a global race to the bottom, Mr Miliband wants Britain to “win the race to the top” (a slogan repeated ad nauseam). 

So far, so familiar. But Mr Miliband also finally set out some clear policy commitments, dragging his would-be government out of the realm of theory for the first time. Some of his ideas are sensible enough – the pledge to ensure all primary schools offer after-hours care, for example. Some are of dubious practicality – such as the pledge to force any company hiring a skilled non-EU worker to set up an apprenticeship to train up a British worker. Others are of dubious value – the promise to tax larger businesses more and smaller ones less, say.

But the real show-stopper, neatly combining the twin crusades against living costs and vested interests, was the promise to freeze energy bills. The pledge will likely prove popular. It is also clever politics, stealing a march on Coalition efforts to talk tough on electricity costs. But while it is easy for Mr Miliband to say that power companies will be forced to bring down their prices yet keep investing, it is altogether less clear how that might be achieved.

Similarly, while he is right that Britain’s housing crisis must be a priority for any government, the plan for legislation  forcing property companies to forfeit their land if they do not use it, prompts as many questions as it answers.

Both proposals went down well with the conference audience. Whether the wider public will be equally receptive remains to be seen. For some, land appropriation and price controls will be too much of a lurch to the left, no matter how well-intentioned. What is certain, however, is that Mr Miliband has, finally, filled in at least some of the blanks. If the job of the Opposition is to offer a clear alternative, then the Labour leader has discharged his responsibilities admirably.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A Gold Ferrari sits outside Chanel on Sloane Street  

Sunday Times Rich List: We are no longer in thrall to very rich people

Terence Blacker
David Cameron was openly emotional at the prospect of Scotland leaving the union before the referendum  

Remember when David Cameron almost cried over Scotland because he loved it so much?

Matthew Norman
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions