Anyone expecting an electric start to Ed Miliband’s leadership will have been sorely disappointed. He played down the idea of this being the most important speech of his career and instead delivered a safe, solid performance. That is not to say there were no talking points, far from it, as I’ll discuss in a moment. Just that we are going to have to wait a little longer for the detail of whist his leadership means.
The word cloud above tells the real story of his speech – ‘change’ and ‘new generation’ are the stand out phrases… It is clear he thinks that he can steal the mantle of change from the coalition and turn it into a tangible vote winner for Labour. Sceptics suggest the government is just too new for any change message to be effective but I am not so sure. Ed Miliband has been hugely popular among young voters (as any photo of his massive volunteer led campaign team will attest to) who buy into a vision that politics needs a fundamental shift if it is to remain relevant in the 21st century. There are plenty of unhappy Lib-Dems too who feel their party has not quite matched actions to the rhetoric when it comes to changing the way politics does business – genuine change will be music to their disaffected ears.
Speaking of disaffected Lib-Dems, this speech had plenty to woo them back to their rightful home within the Labour party. Ed showed real humility when admitting that the party was wrong to be relaxed about people getting filthy rich. Relative wealth is just as an important indicator of a fair society as absolute wealth. He also showed no mercy when it came to Iraq. Rather than skirt round it, he squared up to it, denounced the decision to go to war as wrong and moved on. Most of the conference floor breathed a sigh of relief and applauded, the absence of applause from most of the former cabinet (Harriet Harman excepted bless her) will only help cement the fact the party has moved on.
By the end of the speech he had clearly won most of conference around, if not yet the country or commentariat. For me though it cemented my views and confirmed once and for all I voted for the right person. Ed’s campaign was all about hope and change for the future – an opportunity to redefine the centre-ground of politics, to set the agenda rather than just follow it. His speech today, although not perfect, suggests he will not shirk from this ambition as leader.