Ed Miliband’s speech was splendid. No lectern, no notes, no teleprompter for 65 minutes. Fluent, self-deprecating, funny at times – but obviously the product of a seriously intelligent mind, addressing serious issues.
It was clearly written by Ed as well; equally clearly a lot of thought had gone into it. He promised to say “Who I am, what I believe, and where I want to take the country.” He did all of that. He also said he was out to prove that not all politicians are the same. He did that as well.
On the substance, Miliband reached back to another Jewish leader, the Tory Disraeli, with his “One Nation” theme, repeated 46 times in the speech. One Nation Labour wasn’t any timid move to the centre, it claimed the 99% for Labour’s project. But it was no swing to the right. Without saying as much, he directly addressed the issues of class inequality. He was firmly opposed to privilege, against increasing inequality, and prepared to take on the bankers in Britain’s rentier economy. Miliband at one stroke shifted the centre ground of British politics to the left, and the divide between Labour and the Conservatives to the 1% line. Brilliant.
In the “Spin Alley” session hosted by the Fabians after the speech, Jackie Ashley of the Guardian described the speech as barnstorming and said it had certainly impressed the journalists. Mehdi Hasan said the Tory strategy “We have David Cameron, they have Ed Miliband” had been blown out the window. This was confirmed by ConservativeHome’s Tim Montgomerie who rated it a 10/10 speech which will require a rethink and a response from David Cameron and next week’s Tory conference.
In my view, there is such a thing as political intelligence. It builds on emotional intelligence, which Ed Milband from all accounts has in spades, but is more than that. It can’t be found in opinion polls, although they are can contribute if used intelligently. There are no books written about it yet, but you know it when you see it, and I and 2000 others saw it yesterday.
For New Zealand, there is a lot to study and learn from what is happening here in the UK. Much more than from the US, in my view. Good links have been established and were strengthened in the course of the conference. For Shearer at Labour’s upcoming conference, the task will be similar; don’t use “one nation New Zealand” or “rebuilding New Zealand”; but do tell us who you are, what you believe, and where you want to take the country.