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Last word on that speech

John Rentoul

Ed Miliband at the Labour 007 300x180 Last word on that speechAs one says after a trauma, there is no need to dwell. So let us move on from Ed Miliband’s speech. But first let us note Daniel Finkelstein’s excellent column in The Times (pay wall).

The Fink tells a story of 10 years ago:

In 2001, standing as a candidate in a marginal seat and with days to go until the contest was over, I was ringing up undecided voters to see if I could give them one final push our way. “I’m not going to vote for you,” said a woman in Rayners Lane. “I can’t stand William Hague’s voice.”

Bristling a little, because I worked for the party leader and admired him, I responded: “Well, if you don’t mind me saying so, that’s not much of a reason to cast a vote.” Straight back came the answer: “Actually, I do mind you saying so. That’s my reason. And it’s my vote.”

As Finkelstein says, it is superficial to note that a lot of voters do not think that Ed Miliband is up to being prime minister. Superficial, but unavoidable.

After the Opposition leader had finished speaking yesterday, a Downing Street adviser said to me: “The problem they will have with the news broadcasts is that all the clips of the speech will have Ed Miliband in them.”

There is a question of substance as well. Ed Miliband is too left-wing, says Finkelstein:

I don’t believe that Mr Miliband is very left-wing, just that he is a tiny bit too left-wing … He is reasonable and moderate, but he is also firmly a social democrat, steeped in the writings of the Left, accepting much of its analysis and regarding equality as his priority. And so, inevitably, he will shift the party to the left.

And Finkelstein does not accept the line from Miliband’s spin doctors that the centre of British politics has moved to the left as a result of the financial crisis.

Of course, Finkelstein is a Conservative. But he is right, and there are Labour people who agree.

One Labour MP asked after the speech: “How the hell can he take on vested interests in banks and business if he can’t even take on – if he capitulates to – the vested interests in the party, the unions? Ridiculous.”

“For the first time in my life,” said a lifelong Labour activist and party worker, “I listened to a Labour leader and thought, I’m not sure I’d want to work for you.”

Right. Back to my policy of not saying any more about the Labour Party until 2014.

Photograph: Jonathan Hordle / Rex Features

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  • JohnJustice

    And I have sincere anger against those who sully the name of someone who did so much for this country and helped to remove an evil dictator who caused the deaths of many family members in Iraq.

    It is a great effort to reduce my feelings about such people to terms such as spiteful nonsense but I make the effort in the interests of civilised debate.

  • gj1966

    “I’m not going to vote for you,” said a woman in Rayners Lane. “I can’t stand William Hague’s voice.” Bristling a little, because I worked for the party leader and admired him, I responded: “Well, if you don’t mind me saying so, that’s not much of a reason to cast a vote.” Straight back came the answer: “Actually, I do mind you saying so. That’s my reason. And it’s my vote.”

    Finklestein repeated the same story on BBC News, and I totally agree with him. Brown suffered similarly, people just didn’t like him; just like Miliband lacks gravitas, and he is seen as a schoolboy leading a bunch of no-ones.

    The Tories shouldn’t gloat, though, as they should have won a majority last time, but Cameron stopped them. He is too smarmy, fickle-minded yet self-righteous…….

  • ineluctable2u

    This is a quid pro quo for my remarks about Mr Rentoul’s superficial attempt at dismantling Ed Miliband’s speech yesterday. Transparently so. Are you a sock puppet? The notion that you could demean, and trivialise genuinely expressed feelings so dismissively redounds to what I suspect could be some kind of narcissism. I am proud of my views and feel nothing but contempt for your behaviour here. You have “Blair Derangement”: that of the Blair fan club secretary. The fact that you can’t distinguish feelings of revulsion for the abject caprice exhibited in the lack of forethought, and afterthought exhibited by Bush and Blair about Iraq, and all its ramifications- and dismiss this as “spite” is telling. How ugly. 

  • ineluctable2u

    This is further proof, if needed, of your extraordinary lack of proportion and civility. 

  • JohnJustice

    Lack of civility??!? That’s rich coming from you!

  • OnTheWayOut

    I’ve got a hypothesis on the Hague thing: the lady objected to various things he had said and done, but found it difficult to express her objection or even remember the specific things that he had done. What she could remember was the voice, so that was the reason that she gave. People are good at combining different bits of information to form a judgement, but less good at explaining how they have done it. I recall that Margaret Thatcher had a voice, but she still won elections.

    So it is with Miliband: some people object to his platitudes, to the way that he talks as if sympathy for the poor and resentment of the rich amount to an intellectually rigorous and morally superior ideology that only he has discovered, but they find it difficult to put it into words.  (I, too, find it difficult to put into words, as you see).

    If they just judged him on transcripts, I don’t think that would make them like him any more.

  • OnTheWayOut

    I read the speech and I thought that Miliband’s big idea could be summed up in this line: “we spent a lot of time reforming the public sector, but forgot to reform the private sector” (I paraphrase).

    The line comes from David M’s leadership campaign.

    By the way, if you’re going to title your post “Last Word on that Speech” then you shouldn’t really allow comments -that’s asking for trouble.

  • tomdonnelly

    He doesn’t understand. I’m guessing he doesn’t have the sharpest.. He doesn’t realise  that personal aspersions will never compensate for lack of dismantlement of your opposition’s argument. Why do you feed trolls? He’s a sock puppet, I think, as many have before me. Well worth ignoring.

  • trottitout

    Well said. Really, well said.


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