The first thing to remember about Ed Miliband’s speech to the Labour conference today is that it’s not about you, it’s about us. That is, it was designed to persuade the media to give Miliband a fresh look more than it was an attempt to impress the general public, far less the Labour members gathered in Manchester.
Initial impressions are that he succeeded in this aim. See Tim Shipman and Fraser Nelson, neither of whom are normally considered much of a Milibander, for good examples of this reappraisal. (John Rentoul is, of course, an exception.) Indeed, I can’t recall when the British half of my twitter timeline was last quite so impressed by any speech given by any British politician, far less any intervention made by Edward Miliband Esq.
The second thing to note is how American his speech was. Criticising it for failing to offer much in the way of policy rather misses the point. The next election may be three years away. There is ample time for policy in the future; a thematic address designed to help voters develop an idea of Ed the Man is surely more useful at this stage of the political cycle. (By some reckoning, mind you, this was the third such “This Is Who I Am” speech Miliband has given. Well, as a man in a cave* once concluded: Try, Try and Try Again.)
Miliband’s speech also had that American quality of making the banal stuff of everyday life seem a fresh and heroic voyage of Columbian proportions. Thus Ed was born and in a hospital no less! And Ed went to school! Just an ordinary school of the kind attended by 90% of children but no less heroic for that!
And then, of course, there were the lessons learnt from mum and dad and all the other normal things.