This conference season marks the half way point to the next election and we can see the political battle lines becoming clearer. The Tories, as their new poster campaign shows, intends to hammer Labour as the party that has learnt nothing from its mistakes. The argument of the coalition parties, which Nick Clegg previewed in Brighton, will be that the world has changed but Labour is stuck in the pre-crash era with its borrow and spend economics.
Ed Miliband for his part wants to run as the man who is ‘on your side’. Today’s policy announcement taking aim at pension charges and the energy companies are designed to resonate with those voters who feel that the economy is not working for them.
Today’s Miliband Q&A in Manchester is part of this ‘on your side’ approach. Rather than talking to party members in the conference bubble, he’s going out to speak to ordinary voters—they’ve been selected by the local paper not the Labour party.
This kind of politics is, obviously, easier for Miliband to do than Cameron or Clegg; the leader of the opposition doesn’t have the same security worries as the Prime Minister or deputy Prime Minister. But it is a clever piece of politics nevertheless. For Miliband, as the Tories Populus poll demonstrates, is never going to look as naturally authoritative as the Prime Minister. Instead, his best bet is to run as the insurgent, the man determined to change things.
The next election is going to be about which leader can show the country that they can change things. This is why from now on, we’re going to see such a determined effort to paint Miliband as part o the past, as a representative of the Labour party that got Britain into this mess. The success, or otherwise, of this Tory campaign is going to be crucial to the result of the next election.