Published On: Wed, Oct 10th, 2012

All that’s left: can Miliband shed ‘Red Ed’?

In her new column ‘All That’s Left’, Lauren will be bringing you her take on the left of UK politics each fortnight. This week she starts with a look at the Labour Party conference.

Image has always been the key factor that has held Ed Miliband back in his political career.

It is not uncommon to hear someone compare him to a modern-day Trotsky or an extra from an Aardman animation.

Unlike one of his predecessors, the ever charming Ken doll robot Tony Blair, Miliband does not possess a Hollywood smile, or even a pleasant sounding voice.

On the other hand, he is beginning to display charismatic speaking skills which he has honed through weekly Prime Minister’s Questions.

His speech at the 2012 Labour Party conference was the obvious device to rebrand not only the party, but himself.

However, his use of the phrase ‘One Nation’, a phrase once associated with the Conservative Party, has angered many right wing commentators.

Looking confident and assertive, Miliband made an impassioned speech about a range of issues, including the benefits of state education.

Miliband is the only leader of the three main parties that did not attend private school, a fact he is only keen to exploit and rightly so.

He also defended the National Health Service and condemned its continued privatisation by the Coalition.

Accusing the current government of being a ‘U-turning shower’, he attacked David Cameron’s leadership by stating ‘If the medicine isn’t working, change the medicine.’

However, what alternate medicine can Miliband’s Labour offer Great Britian?

Miliband attempted to offer new suggestions for future Labour policy through the latter half of his speech, including the idea of a ‘technical baccalaureate’.

This qualification, Miliband argues, would be as valuable as an academic degree for those who are interested in vocational and practical skills.

‘The forgotten 50%’ as Miliband described them, would then have a better chance of finding work after education.

This idea is bound to sit well with his traditional Labour core vote; the disillusioned working classes whose prospects after leaving secondary school are few and far between.

The themes of inclusiveness and ambition ran throughout Miliband’s speech. However, instead of referring to these core Labour values as ‘aspirational socialism’ or, heaven forbid, ‘Even Newer Labour’, Miliband used the term ‘One Nation’ to describe his vision.

The same ‘One Nation’ that former Conservative Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli used in 1845.

Some will inevitably find the adoption of this slogan mildly controversial, but it seems to be an inspired choice.

Evidently Miliband is trying to find the balance between keeping his core voters and unions happy by promoting key Labour values, whilst trying to reel in disillusioned former Tory voters with rhetoric that is familiar to them.

It was a risky move, the results of which will only be known as time goes on, though it looks like a step in the right direction for the re-branding of Labour and of Miliband.

However, currently ardent Tories everywhere are slightly agog and bemused at Miliband’s cheeky pinch of their old phrase.

Cameron is probably wondering why he didn’t dig up the slogan for a bit of nostalgia to win back disappointed Tories and do away with the whole ‘Big Society’ shtick.

About the Author

- Lauren is a second year politics student, hailing from sunny Wigan. She enjoys laughing at nothing, eating too much Italian food and the works of Tina Fey. She dislikes pigeons, lukewarm pasties and David Cameron's forehead.

  • James Margeson

    I hadn’t seen the Mail compare him to Trotsky, that’s brilliant! Then again, this is the same Mail that reckons the Olympic opening ceremony was a “Marxist” version of history and that JK Rowling’s new book is a “socialist manifesto”.

    It’s quite interesting that Ed condemned NHS privatisation, given that it was the government he was a member of that started doing it in the first place. I was glad to see the conference passed a decent motion on it by a significant margin though (http://labournhslobby.wordpress.com/2012/10/03/vote/).

    With regards to “One Nation”, I’m not sure why everyone is trying to nick each others rhetoric at the moment. George Osbourne uses the slogan “workers of the world unite.” We have Blue Labour, Red Tories and all the while neither of them is actually breaking from the political legacy of Thatcher in any significant way.

    On a brighter note I imagine the Tories are taking your advice on the Big Society. It was dreamed up by them in one of their romantic moods, and it would appear from the current conference slogans that they’re going more pseudo-Churchill tone: “these are dark times, but we can deliver” etc.