David Blackburn

Miliband goes Cameron-lite

Miliband goes Cameron-lite
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Well, it turns out that ‘Red Ed’ is really a social conservative. As both Pete and James say, his speech contained notable sallies into Cameroon territory – community and family. He didn’t follow Cameron’s trail to the metre, but fell into many of the same ditches. Two things struck me:

1). Ever the opportunist, Miliband sees that there is the kernel of a good idea at the root of the ‘Big Society’ and tried to exploit Cameron’s inability to present it. Miliband’s gave us the ‘Good Society’, a clear though sanctimonious slogan for community renewal. However, he, like Cameron, can’t define what he means by community. He talked about post offices, high streets and, of course, the local pub. That’s all pukka and frightfully nice, but he was describing a bygone version of Britain - I was reminded of Philip Blond’s Beatrix Potter Britain - and both are irrelevant. Permanent community requires radically different responses in an era of mass transit and globalisation. As Pete said this morning, British politics, and particularly the Labour party, are lagging behind progress's route march. Instant communication and technology can keep people in contact and preserve and develop past ties, but gabbing on about the decline of the local isn’t going to crack it.   

2). Miliband emphasised the family with pious regularity – politicians always do when grasping for a popular meme. The family, he said (again echoing Cameron), is central to national life and individual prosperity. But (unlike Cameron) he didn’t explain how he would support families by tipping the tax system back in their favour. True, details were few and far between for such a long homily, but his sincerity is questionable. He insisted that you’ll know him by his deeds and Miliband has not married Justine Thornton because he 'hasn’t had time’. I don’t care if he marries her or not – family has always extended beyond its nuclear definition. But to say you’ve not had time to tie the knot? Come off it. Also, not signing your son’s birth certificate could give the wrong impression…