5 quick thoughts on Ed Miliband’s speech

by Stephen Tall on October 2, 2012

It was a good speech

First, credit where it’s due. Ed Miliband’s speech was very well delivered. He looked and sounded more relaxed than usual, and to speak for over an hour without notes and barely a stumble is impressive. His refrain that Labour will create a ‘One Nation’ country was a clever way of re-framing the debate about equality while brazenly reaching to centrist Tory voters. More on this below.

But it wasn’t a great speech

Secondly, lets not get carried away either. The most absurd over-reaction I saw on Twitter was this one via The Sun’s political editor Tom Newton-Dunn quoting YouGov’s Peter Kellner:

Hyperbole much? That Kinnock speech and Blair at his best were about challenging their party to recognise governing isn’t as easy as opposition. This Miliband speech went out of its way to tell the party everything it wanted to hear. Dan Hodges pointed out the irony of the occasion:

Ed Miliband’s speech wasn’t light on charisma. It was light on content. We are told Miliband is the great policy wonk. But where were the policies? His solution to the immigration crisis? A rise in the minimum wage. His solution to the crisis in welfare? None. His solution to the greatest global economic crisis for the best part of a century? Something called the One Nation Business Model. This may not have been a speech rich in substance, but it was rich in irony. The conventional wisdom is that Ed Miliband is a man hiding his personality behind his policy prospectus. Today we saw a man using his personality to cover the gaping hole were his programme for government should be.

Do go read Joe Otten (but not quite yet)

Third, once you’ve read Dan’s piece, please read Joe Otten’s very funny insta-parody, That Ed Milliband Speech in full, posted within minutes of its conclusion. Here’s how it starts:

My son tells me I should be talking about dinosaurs, and that seems as good an idea as any.

Anyway instead of making a speech today I’m going to do what my image advisors keep telling me to do and tell you my story.

I was born in a hospital and went to a school. Just like you normal people.

I wouldn’t be standing here today without an education from one of the most exclusive comprehensive schools in the country.

My parents instilled in me a sense of duty to get on with my brother. [shrugs]

‘One Nation’: Nick said it too, but it’s a bit late now

Fourthly, I said I’d return to the phrase ‘One Nation’. It works well as a line because its both easy-to-grasp and astute positioning. As it happens, Nick Clegg used the line in his conference speech in March this year: “We are the One Nation party … We need a new economy that serves not one square mile, but one nation.” Why has Miliband’s uttering of it attracted attention? Simple. He repeated it 46 times in a single speech so that, gradually, people noticed. Say it once and it gets lost. It’s the same reason Richard Morris makes the very plausible case that the Nick Clegg autotune apology remix — with its repeat chorus, “I’m so, so sorry” — was more successful than the original.

What’s the Lib Dem response?

Fifthly, while Lib Dems will dismiss the Miliband ‘One Nation’ line as just that — a line in a speech not reflected in any real policies — it has a chance of being heard, and of resonating. Was there any line in Nick Clegg’s speech that had similar resonance? I asked the question on Twitter and you can see some of the replies below. The best of the bunch, I think, was this one:

The freedom to be who you are. The opportunity to be who you could be. That, in essence, is the Liberal promise.

Though I’ve a feeling it’s a subtle line that appeals more to the already-converted than the to-be-converted voter who has more everyday concerns.

Anyway here’s my Twitter verdict on this afternoon’s events, including Lib Dem supporters’ responses to my challenge:

My reaction to Ed Miliband’s speech & the challenge to Lib Dems

Storified by Stephen Tall · Tue, Oct 02 2012 09:13:44

Instant impressions on hearing Ed Miliband’s “no notes” conference speech…
Okay so I’m impressed that Ed Miliband has memorised a speech and I’m impressed he’s delivering it fluently…Stephen Tall
… I’m also impressed at the naked pitch for ‘One Nation’…Stephen Tall
… I’m also impressed that Ed’s no-notes schtick will distract from the pretty thin content.Stephen Tall
Ed Miliband’s speech last year got better reviews as time went by. Have a feeling this year’s might work in reverse.Stephen Tall
@stephentall Any reason or just wishful thinking? Clegg looking like a weak link of party leadersStephen Blenkinsop
@stephenupnorth I don’t think central argmt as strong as last year’s: ‘one nation’ a cheeky grab at Tory clothing, but what does it mean?Stephen Tall
@stephentall don’t they have a shelf life of about two days?Matthew Turner
@mjturner1975 Not even that in the real world. But journos remember (only speeches they pay attn to) & it frames their reporting for longer.Stephen Tall
Srsly, no > RT @tnewtondunn: Peter Kellner: "The best Labour leader’s speech since Kinnock in 1985 & most important since Blair in 1994".Stephen Tall
Yeah but he shd have repeated it 46x > RT @birdyword: Clegg 2012: "a new economy that serves not one square mile, but one nation" #vapidStephen Tall
And then I set a challenge to Lib Dem members via Twitter…
A challenge to Lib Dems – can you recall a single quotable line from Nick Clegg’s speech that helps define party (without looking it up)?Stephen Tall
@stephentall "I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m so so sorry"?aaemmerson
@aaemmerson Ahem. From his conference speech. That helps define party. #disqualifiedStephen Tall
@aaemmerson Ahem. From his conference speech. That helps define party. #disqualifiedStephen Tall
@stephentall ‘We are not on the left and we are not on the right, we have our own label: liberal’. Worked for me.Mike Bird
@Birdyword Mmm. But perhaps worked for you cos you’re already a liberal…? Not sure it wld for most voters.Stephen Tall
@stephentall Because the truth is, only the Liberal Democrats can be trusted on the economy and relied upon to deliver a fairer society tooaaemmerson
@AAEmmerson You’ve got a good memory, cos that ain’t snappy.Stephen Tall
@stephentall "National renewal: that is our mission"Liberal Martin
@liberalmartin Well remembered – but why’s it distinctively liberal? Can’t Tories/Lab believe in national renewal too?Stephen Tall
@stephentall "You can’t make Green with just Blue, you need some Yellow in there as well!"Sandra Taylor
@SandraD_Taylor Sadly that’s the only line I can remember too :)Stephen Tall
@stephentall the long or the short answer? The short is No. The long is Noooooooooooooo. I do however recall ‘alarm clock britain’ #shuddersNeil Monnery
@neilmonnery Thankfully no-one else can recall ‘alarm clock Britain’ :)Stephen Tall
@stephentall The freedom that you can be who you’re+ the opportunity for you to become what you wish to be.That’s the promise of Liberalism.Fernando North
@FernandoNorth You’re right that was a good line tho a bit cumbersome for everyday usage :)Stephen Tall
@liberalmartin Well remembered – but why’s it distinctively liberal? Can’t Tories/Lab believe in national renewal too?Stephen Tall
@stephentall "The people who suffer most when a country goes bankrupt, are the poorest and the most vulnerable"Sandra Taylor
@SandraD_Taylor You really did pay attention! It’s a good line. Not sure it’s distinctively liberal tho…Stephen Tall
@stephentall The freedom to be who you are and an opportunity to be who you could be. << he didn’t say it 46 times though.Chris Richards
@theChristophe True!Stephen Tall
@stephentall We are marching towards the sound of gunfire while stood on the shoulders of those looking in the rearview mirror. Or somethingAlex Marsh
@shodanalexm I’m not even too sure you’re misquoting…Stephen Tall