Labour leader Ed Miliband did just about enough today in his keynote speech at the party’s annual conference in Liverpool to send delegates away satisfied. With a general election more than three years off, his speech was always going to be light on policies. But he achieved his main goals.
First, he didn’t screw up. Oratory isn’t Miliband’s strong suit. But he was rather better than the “all the authority of wet lettuce” description by the Daily Mail’s Andrew Pierce.
He managed to score some open goals awarded him by the Coalition – the chief being “You can’t trust the Tories with the NHS.”
Most importantly, he began to shape a future for the Labour party that owed very little to either Tony Blair or Gordon Brown in his enthusiasm for a “something for something” society.
Hard working families and wealth creating bosses should both flourish in a Miliband Britain. He avoided the pitfall of getting carried away by his own rhetoric, unlike his shadow culture secretary Ivan Lewis yesterday.
Not content with knocking chunks out of Rupert Murdoch, Lewis threw in the idiotic suggestion that miscreant journalists should be “struck off” like other professionals. Struck off what? being only one of many objections to Lewis’s ill-considered bluster.
Miliband came closest to stumbling when expanding on his brand of pro-business policy.
He distinguishes between producers who “train, invest, invent, sell” and asset-stripping predators (there’s a throwback notion) out to make a fast buck.
He has in mind Rolls-Royce among the former and the fate of Southern Cross – the private equity-owned care home business which came to grief – among the latter.
He wants the “most competitive tax and regulatory environment for British business” to aid good companies at the expense of the bad. Of how this might be achieved, he gave no clue.
But credit where it is due, Miliband’s judgement:” We won't be able to reverse many of the cuts this Government is making” and his albeit oblique remonstration with the unions to seek “co-operation not conflict in the workplace” took courage.
The best that can be said is I doubt his brother David would have done any better.