Daniel Korski

Miliband should re-examine Cameron’s playbook for the real lessons

Miliband should re-examine Cameron's playbook for the real lessons
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Ed Miliband has come roaring back from his paternity leave, keen to silence the growing chorus of criticism that he is not in control of his party and has let the Coalition determine the agenda.    

To do so, he has come out in favour of a permanent top rate of income tax at 50 percent, but is otherwise taking a leaf out of the Cameron playbook - by establishing a number of policy reviews. But he might want to take another look at Cameron's experience.

Reviews are a great tactical ploy - they show a willingness to "think big", allow a leader to reach out to a range party factions, aid front bench spokesmen to understand their portfolios and, perhaps most importantly, punts any serious policy discussions into the future. "Thank you, Jeremy, for that question. But until our thorough-going review it would be wrong to comment." In David Cameron's case the reviews were key to show he was not just a slick PR creature.

Looking at the Tory leader's experience, however, it is clear that reviews do not actually give a party that much policy to take into government. Of the reviews that David Cameron set up, a few were important. The one on National Security showed that the youngish opposition leader was able to draw on experienced people. The Poverty Group helped draw more Tories towards the aid agenda. The work on veterans allowed the Conservatives to attack Labour.

But most of the policy innovation actually came from David Cameron himself, his circle of advisers and a few Cameroon outriders. They could drive policy change from the top because the party knew it needed something new.

From a distance the Labour Party does not look like it is anywhere near as desperate as it was in the mid-1980s and the Tories were between 1997-2005. And desperation is what allows leaders to propose transformative changes. Labour looks - and sounds - more like it has wrongfully been deprived of power. Policy reviews cannot address this. Only a leader can - by levelling with the party about how badly things went wrong in the past and then lifting the party with image-altering ideas. Ed Milliband says he will be as radical as Cameron and Blair were. Good luck - but it will take more than a policy review.