Peter Hoskin

Miliband borrows from the Cameroons for his most substantial speech so far

Thematically speaking, there wasn’t too much in Ed Miliband’s speech that we haven’t heard before. The middle is still squeezed, the Tories are still undermining the “Promise of Britain”, the bankers are still taking us for fools, and communities still need to be rebuilt. Even his remarks about benefit dependency bear comparion to those he made in February. But there was a difference here, and that was his punchiness. The Labour leader may not be the most freewheelin’ orator in town, but the text he delivered was less wonky than usual, more coherent and spikier. It was even — in parts — memorable.

You do wonder whether Miliband has learnt from the Cameroons. Much will be made of how his speech relied on the Blue Labour stylings of Maurice Glasman. But it also echoed the gospel according to Dave and George. This was the most I’ve ever heard the word “responsibility” outside of a speech by Cameron, and it was used in the same context: responsibility not to the state, as Miliband put it, but to friends, family, neighbours, communities, etc. And then there was Miliband’s Osbornian exhortation that “it isn’t right” for hardworking taxpayers to support benefit claimants who can work. “We must be the party of grafters,” he said, as everyone has said before him.

It wasn’t all about closing down the gaps between Labour and the Tories. though. For the first of his groups who are eschewing their responsibilities — those who can work, but don’t — Miliband softened his rhetoric. For the second — the bankers — he dialled it up to fever pitch, and attacked the government for being too forgiving. He also took some detours into weirder territory, such as fly-tipping and loud music.

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