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:
YouGov’s Peter Kellner: “The best Labour party leader’s speech since Kinnock in 1985 and the most important since Blair in 1994”.
— Tom Newton Dunn (@tnewtondunn) October 2, 2012
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: