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Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Wednesday, October 3, 2012
** Labour Conference Edition ** Ed Speaks Human ** Goodbye Dukakis! ** Un-Privatising The NHS? ** War On Banksters ** Porky Pies ** Don't Mess With Branson ** Abortion Wars ** Mitt's Last Chance **

BREAKING: Speaking on the Today programme, in an interview with Evan Davis (rather than his usual tormentor-in-chief John Humphreys) a few moments ago, Ed Miliband said he sees the 'One Nation' idea as "a country where everyone has a stake, where we get our young people back to work... prosperity being fairly shaired... we defend our shared institutions, our shared life, whether it's the NHS or the United Kingdom itself. It's also a different political approach for the Labour Party: it's not Old's not New Labour either, which was too relaxed about those at the top, too timid about vested interests...One Nation Labour says that no interest is too powerful to be held to account in our society."

So is this the end of New Labour, asked Davis? "I said when I became leader that we need to move on from New Labour," replied Miliband. This isn't Old Labour, Miliband repeated, again and again, denying it was a shift to the left.

Did you learn the speech by heart, asked Davis? "Of course I had notes in writing a speech yourself it's in your head anyway." Hmm...


It's the morning after and time to ask the obvious question: has Labour's leader ever had a better bunch of newspaper headlines? Ed Miliband appears on the front pages of the Guardian, the Mirror, the Independent, the Telegraph, the Times and the FT:

'Miliband's National Anthem' (Guardian)

"Ed's The One" (Mirror)

'Miliband Finds His Voice' (Independent)

'Miliband claims the 'one nation' ideal' (Telegraph)

'Ed co-opts One Nation as he takes centre stage' (Times)

'Miliband reaches out to business with 'one nation' Labour vision' (FT)


So, the placard-wavers were telling the truth: Ed Miliband can indeed "speak human". He delivered an address that was, in the words of the Guardian's Seumas Milne, "a rhetorical tour de force, speaking without notes for more than an hour". In fact, columnists on both the right and the left lined up to heap praise on Miliband and the speech.

For Polly Toynbee, on the front page of the Guardian, this was "the day Ed Miliband wiped the smile off Conservative faces. With breathtaking bravura he held the hall rapt. No autocue, at ease, personal and passionate". Steve Richards, in the Independent, says: "Ed Miliband has delivered one of the cleverest and most significant party conference speeches in recent years, one that will make a difference to the way he and his party are perceived."

The Telegraph's Benedict Brogan says: "He was fluent, compelling, human, who showed a deft touch with an audience. His outings get better each time, and this was a big step forward". "A resounding success," was the verdict of Spectator editor Fraser Nelson.

The paper's lead editorials are equally effusive: the Times says Miliband "gave his best performance yet in the job... He looks more plausible now as a possible Prime Minister than he has before." The Daily Mail says "Miliband can justly feel pleased with himself: he has come a long way as a public speaker since his first, geeky steps into the limelight as Labour leader only two years ago". The Telegraph called it a "virtuoso platform display".

There are the usual caveats, though, on both left and right: Seumas Milne urges Miliband "to move further and faster from the obsolete New Labour inheritance" while Ben Brogan says that the Labour leader "identified problems, but his speech was short on specific solutions". The Sun was, unsurprisingly, the most negative of all: "The more he tries to sound sincere, the more insincere he sounds," said its leader. "His speech was more platitude than attitude."

You can't win 'em all, eh?


7,369 Number of words he used
65 Number of minutes it lasted
46 Number of times he used the phrase 'one nation'
9 Number of references to David Cameron
0 Number of references to the "deficit"


"Whatever question I ask David Cameron's advisers, I get almost exactly the same two-word answer. What will you do, I ask, if the economy doesn't return to robust growth? 'Ed Miliband,' comes the reply," wrote ConservativeHome's Tim Montgomerie in the Times last month. ConHome also reported that the the Tories were planning to paint Ed Miliband as a Michael-Dukakis-figure.

So how does yesterday's speech by the Labour leader impact on this (negative) Tory strategy? "So much for the Tories' secret weapon'," is the Telegraph leader's online headline. "The style was important, making it harder for his Tory and media opponents to portray him as a weird, detached geek," writes the Indy's Steve Richards.

I think that's actually an understatement: Miliband's fluent and engaging address leaves the Tory "he's a freak" strategy in tatters. Wouldn't you have loved to have been a fly on the wall inside Number Ten yesterday afternoon?


Referring to the London Olympics, Miliband said in his speech that "we succeeded because of a group of individuals... saw the odds against London's bid and thought, never mind the odds... we are going to win the bid for London, from Seb Coe to our very own Dame Tessa Jowell."

At a Policy Exchange fringe last night, Sky's Adam Boulton criticised the Labour leader for his failure to mention Tony Blair's role here. But as I pointed out to Adam, to be fair, Miliband also omitted to mention Ken Livingstone's role in the bid. No Blair, no Ken - I guess that's how Ed tacks to the centre.


From the BBC:

"Andy Burnham will vow to reverse the 'rapid' privatisation of NHS hospitals in England if Labour wins power.

The shadow health secretary will warn that some NHS hospitals are planning to double the number of private patients they treat under new freedoms."

The NHS is becoming, once again, a big, big political battleground for the two main parties. Ed Miliband got one of his biggest cheers yesterday when he proclaimed:

"[L]et me be clear, the next Labour government will end the free market experiment... and it will repeal the NHS Bill."


From the Guardian:

"Legisation that would have ensured that the City traders behind the Libor interest rates scandal did not escape prosecution is to be promised by the shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, on Wednesday."

Woo-hoo! "The police should have the confidence to tackle cyber fraud, money laundering and financial fiddling," the shadow home secretary is expected to say in her speech. "So for the first time Labour would introduce an Economic Crime Act."

Have Labour strategists finally (finally!) woken up to the fact that targeting the banksters who caused the crash is both good politics and good economics? One of Miliband's best lines yesterday was this one:

"We need banks that serve the country not a country that serves its banks."

He didn't, however, quite get round to elaborating how he'll make this happen...


What's the point of a party leader's conference speech if said leader doesn't cut a few corners here and there, bend the truth from para to para? Ed Miliband drove right-wing commentators up the wall with his claim that "next April, David Cameron will be writing a cheque for £40,000 to each and every millionaire in Britain."

The Spectator's Fraser Nelson tweeted:

"Okay, a lie: Miliband claims Cameron will be "writing a cheque" for £42,000 to each millionaire."

Former Tory blogger turned radio presenter Iain Dale tweeted:

No Ed, only to people who EARN £1 million - not to EVERY millionaire. Can't stand this loose use of language, designed to hoodwink people.

Even the Guardian's Reality Check blog concluded that "people earning a million pounds a year will save £42,295 a year in tax due to the change to the top rate of tax. But that wasn't what Miliband said. He said millionaires would save £40,000 a year. And clearly if you have a million pounds in the bank or under your mattress but you are only earning, say, £20,000 a year, you won't make any such savings. So Miliband's claim is wrong."

Whoops. Ed's been caught being economical with the actualite - still, amusing to see some of the same people who constantly and falsely claim that Labour overspending caused a global financial crisis accusing others of telling lies.


Watch this spoof video of Ed Miliband and Labour joining in the worldwide 'Gangnam Style' dance craze.


I guess if you're a coalition cabinet minister about to execute yet another humiliating U-turn, you try and sneak it out after midnight and hope it doesn't get too much negative coverage. Right?

From the Mail Online:

"Ministers have ditched their controversial plans to strip Virgin Trains of its right to run the main London to Glasgow rail route.

The decision to award the key West Coast Main Line rail franchise to rivals FirstGroup had been challenged in the High Court by Sir Richard Branson.

Early this morning, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin apologised profusely to Virgin and admitted his department had got its sums wrong."

The headline? "The Great Train Shambles". "Another hopeless, shambolic piece of incompetence," said Miliband on the Today programme this morning. Tory spinners will be delighted. Not.


The new minister for women and equalities, Maria Miller, has told the Telegraph it's "common sense" to lower the legal limit at which a pregnancy can be terminated in order to "reflect the way science has moved on". As the Telegraph notes, "Thanks to advances in care for children born very prematurely, it is now possible for doctors in some cases to save the lives of babies born before 24 weeks."

Miller's comments will make her Lib Dem cabinet colleagues pretty uncomfortable and have pro-choice groups up in arms - the latter are already furious over the prime minister's decision to appoint Jeremy Hunt, another supporter of lowering the legal abortion limit, as the new Secretary of State for Health.

Fight, fight, fight...


Ding, ding, ding! Round one: tonight (UK time, 2am-3:30am) is the first of the three 2012 presidential debates, with Republican candidate Mitt Romney and his supporters hoping and praying that the opening clash in Denver, moderated by PBS's Jim Lehrer, is a "game changer" for the Republican candidate, who is now trailing in national and state polls. Romney's aides say he has a bunch of "zingers", ready to throw at the zen-like Obama. I'm guessing, however, that the prez has a few of his one to throw back - "47%" anyone?

Meanwhile, the Washington Post has taken a walk down memory lane and asked the question: "How much do debates matter?"


"Have you ever seen a more incompetent, hopeless, out of touch, u-turning, pledge-breaking, make it up as you go along, back of the envelope, miserable shower than this Prime Minister and this Government?" - Ed Miliband takes on David Cameron and co in his speech, in what must have been one of the most difficult lines to memorise (and which also appears on the front of today's Mirror).


A listener to the Today programme this morning emailed in to say: "'One Nation' is an anagram for 'No Etonian'".


@MissEllieMae Looking forward to the bit where he tells us about how he lost his virginity #lab12

@georgeeaton Finally, a party leader who's not embarrassed by his atheism. #lab12

@davidschneider Andy Murray winning stuff, Ed Miliband making barnstorming, inspirational speeches. Where have all the comedy certainties gone?


Mary Riddell, writing in the Telegraph, says: "If Ed Miliband can change himself so totally, perhaps he really can change Britain."

Kevin Maguire, writing in the Mirror, "The geek done good in Manchester. Ed Miliband's "I'm the One" tour de passion was a Labour leader transformed."

Patrick O'Flynn, writing in the Daily Express, says: "Will Ed Miliband be this country's next prime minister? I still don't think so."

Got something you want to share? Please send any stories/tips/quotes/pix/plugs/gossip to Mehdi Hasan (, Chris Wimpress ( or Ned Simons ( You can also follow us on Twitter: @mehdirhasan, @chriswimpress, @nedsimons and @huffpostukpol
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There's no escaping it. Ed Miliband has much to do, starting with this week's Labour conference, to seal the deal with the electorate. Labour's lead over the Tories is rooted in disappointment with the Conservatives and disillusion with the Liberal Democrats, not a positive view of Labour, or enthusiasm for its leader. Does this matter? Can Labour really win in 2015 when its leader is so far behind his Conservative opponent? As a rule, the popularity of a party and its leader march roughly in parallel. But not always. In 1979, Margaret Thatcher led the Tories to victory.
Iain Anderson: One Nation Ed - Has He Grabbed it Away From the Tories Forever?
MIliband depicted the immense patriotism of an immigrant family story to stir up the party faithful in the hall. But today he did much more than that - he brought to life a political creed that the Tory party may have cast aside.
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The UK remains in the midst of the deepest recession in living memory with few predicting a change in fortune anytime soon. People in Wales are particularly feeling the pinch. Unemployment is higher than the UK average and the cull of the public sector has, and will continue to, hit us especially hard since it employs a higher proportion of our workforce than in England or Scotland.

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