On the Sunday prior to Ed Miliband’s party conference address, Andrew Marr posited, “What is it that people out there haven’t got about you?” He was referring to the Sunday Times poll rating which indicated a continued apprehension towards the prospect of Ed Miliband as the UK’s future Prime Minister. Ed Miliband’s hour long un-aided address to conference the following Tuesday did little to invigorate any monumental shift in these statistics. A spectacle purportedly orchestrated by a Hollywood director, his humbling anecdotes gave far less insight into our nation than the delegates themselves offered during conference unaided by Oscar-winning spin. What’s more, despite these clear efforts to ensure his impassioned beliefs were presented with a leading-man conviction, Mr Miliband arrived on stage already impaled by his performance in his Sunday morning interview, failing to present any real detail or commitment to policy that would enable Britain to do better.
In attempting to illustrate that Labour had learnt the lessons of the past he recollected his opposition to military intervention in Syria, his dealings with McBride and emphasis on the concept of responsible economics. In reality, the One Nation ethos with cautious attempts to challenge the role of Union involvement with Labour was not dissimilar to Tony Blair’s address to conference in Brighton eight years previously. Mr Miliband’s leadership would abandon the bedroom tax, lower voting age, set out taxing solutions for improved redistribution of wealth, cap immigration and gas and electricity bills. He would ensure that this would be the generation that dealt head on with global warming, who drew together as a society and was not driven apart. Regurgitation of rhetoric is undoubtedly expected in an age of largely accepted socially democratic values. Few would argue against the want for social responsibility, cooperation and cohesion. What differentiates one cycle of promises from the next is the generating of inspiration and innovation. And what Mr Miliband failed to do was exactly that.
While Nick Clegg’s carefully crafted rhetoric posed interesting debate as to the future of our democracy, the potential need for establishing a framework for future coalition governance, Mr Miliband closed the door to party cooperation; Labour will win outright, he claimed.While Boris Johnson proposed a need to extend education beyond school years, to the re-education of the wealthiest to ensure they take on greater social responsibility, Mr Miliband warbled a vague and standard commitment to alternative taxation plans that was neither dazzling nor particularly convincing.
One Nation Labour rolls off the tongue and tickles the fancy of all the ideals that the Labour party should hold. Yes we should address wealth inequalities, unclear immigration commitments, the future of the environment and how we cope with increasingly importing fuel to meet our energy needs. And while solace can be taken in the way Labour has stood up to major issues of Syria, the bedroom tax, and women’s representation in parliament, they have proved dangerously hesitant in opposition. Policy commitments, raw political argument, big questions on Britain from devolution, to social cohesion, pragmatic changes to education are answered with an unconvincing collage of tentative reassurance. Indeed, as the world watched on as McBride’s story pasted another questionable mark on the true legacy of the later years of New Labour, the real question remains to be answered: How can Britain do better than this?