Editorial: Convince us, Ed

The time is right for Labour's leader to move beyond rhetoric and platitudes

Related Topics

This week it is the turn of the opposition party to hold its annual conference, sandwiched between the two governing parties.

Last week, Nick Clegg made a reasonable fist of his after-the-event justification of going into government with the Conservatives. The Liberal Democrats, for whom working in coalition is a principle, not just an expedient, had little choice in 2010. Since then, they have had no choice but to make a virtue of their original decision – hoping that the economy comes right and, crucially, that they share the credit, both of which are heroic assumptions.

Still, Mr Clegg had a neat triangulation: "Are you ready to trust Labour with your money again? And do you really think the Tories will make Britain fairer?"

Next week, we get to see if the Prime Minister can restore any sense of order and purpose to the rolling shambles of the Conservative Party. Its activists, and too many of its MPs, are excited by fantasies about Europe, including the possibility of a referendum on something or other. Or by slogans about tax cuts, or cutting through red tape, or shooting burglars, or tilting at windmills. By anything, in other words, apart from what the voters worry about, namely jobs, childcare, schools and hospitals. The shine has come off David Cameron. His light-touch, chairman-of-the-board style was unsuccessful, yet when he becomes involved in the detail, such as that of the NHS reforms, the results have been disastrous.

The Downing Street operation is weak and the Chancellor's high-flying reputation has sunk without trace. Next week, Mr Cameron has to persuade us that he has a mission beyond staying in office.

First, though, Ed Miliband has the chance to show that he is prime minister material after all. We are open-minded on that question, and remain to be convinced. He seems a geek and a nerd, and yet he has shown some toughness. His performances in the House of Commons have been effective against an inconsistent Prime Minister. His speech to last year's Labour conference, drawing a distinction between companies that are predators and ones that are producers, was clunky, but it struck a chord. At the very least, it marked a welcome change in tone from the uncritical worship of "business" of the New Labour years.

This year, the bar is higher. He has to try to close the gap between his personal ratings and those of his party, about which John Rentoul writes today. He really needs to shake off the persistent view held by two-thirds of voters, reported by a mischievous Conservative opinion poll yesterday, that "Labour elected the wrong brother as their leader". The only way to do that is to start to set out some of the big, bold themes of a Labour government. And in doing so, he has to show that he "speaks human", as his enthusiastic supporters claimed two years ago.

Rachel Reeves, the shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, makes a good start in her interview with this newspaper today, getting serious about financial discipline in the public sector. When even the Scottish Labour leader, Johann Lamont, accepts that public services are not "free" – they have to be paid for from people's taxes – the time is clearly right for Mr Miliband to move beyond rhetoric and platitudes. No one expects detailed policies, but he has a big job this week in explaining how his party would promote social justice in a cold economic climate.

And we, the jury, are still out.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Glazier

£16500 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This specialist historic buildi...

Recruitment Genius: Office and Customer Services Manager

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small but very busy (and f...

Recruitment Genius: Portfolio Administrator

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company has become known a...

Recruitment Genius: Mechanical and Electrical Engineer - Midlands

£35000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of refrig...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Builders have been taking on apprentices and even turning to sources such as army veterans for workers  

The march of the apprentices

Chris Blackhurst
Mukesh Singh, who appears in the film, was sentenced to death for his part in the 2012 rape  

The depressing similarity between the Delhi rapist Mukesh Singh and Oxford's Police

Sophia Cannon
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot