Isabel Hardman Isabel Hardman

Ed Miliband: a prophet without notes

Why does Ed Miliband think memorising a speech is more important than convincing voters that Labour really can be tough on the deficit? It wasn’t just his performance yesterday, in which the Labour leader failed to communicate key passages on the economy and immigration (James has them here), but the lack of candour from anyone on the stage about the scale of the challenge facing a Labour government if it came to power next year. Ed Balls said Labour was facing difficult, unpopular decisions, but then undermined his bad cop routine rather by announcing two relatively uncontroversial cuts.

On the Today programme Miliband tried to argue that his speech had still contained points on the economy, but that one of the ‘perils’ of memorising speeches was that you might leave bits out. This was odd, as it gave the impression that he didn’t think failing to talk about the issue that you trail behind the Tories on was a big deal. If dropping passages where you try to address your weakness is a ‘peril’ you’re prepared to risk, then perhaps you’re not quite as concerned by the deficit as you claim to be.

Of course, Miliband needed to use this broadcast interview to try to minimise the forgotten passages element of his speech (although the reporting before those omitted passages emerged was hardly complimentary: read Quentin Letts’ piece on the Labour leader’s spin doctors trying to drum up enthusiasm in the hall). But he managed to give the impression that he still thought his impressive feats of memory were more important.

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