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As the Labour party annual conference drew to a close on Thursday, deputy leader Harriet Harman exclaimed that the party was leaving Manchester “emboldened” by a leader’s speech that had “fired the starting gun” for the 2015 election. Indeed Ed Miliband’s hour-long, 7,500 word speech, impressively performed without notes or an auto-cue, was a rallying cry for a party doubtful of its own direction or of its leader’s ability and endurance.
Back in 2010 Ed’s election as leader of the party was over-shadowed by the torrent of attention heaped on the competition between him and big brother David, yet as the interest in that particular soap opera died so did the presence of Ed Miliband in the public’s political mind-set. Alastair Campbell rounded up Labour’s problem as “[going] from the most interesting party for a long time to the third most interesting”, Ed’s speech attempted to revive the party by kindling an interest in him both as a person and as a leader. But did it work?
For the majority of you reading this, who (it can be presumed) have at least a passing interest in the workings of political parties, the answer would probably be yes. Ed has at last set out his vision for Britain with him at the helm. ‘One Nation’ was the key theme of his speech, a concept snatched from 19th century Conservative Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli. It is, Miliband explained, a vision for a better Britain, a country “coming together to overcome the challenges we face…where everyone has a stake…where prosperity is fairly shared”. He emphasised his education at a local comprehensive, an implicit attack on the privately educated Etonian’s of the current government, and was on an obvious track to reveal more about himself to a public who aren’t even sure who exactly he is, let alone why they should vote for him.
But for the average person not interested in ideology or rhetoric, the question is, did Miliband actually offer the solid policy that Labour has thus far been severely lacking? Well, yes and no.
Whilst there were some vaguely significant pledges: to join in with the TUC march against cuts taking place on 20th October, to reverse the NHS reforms and to stand up to vested interests such as the banks and Murdoch media, for the most part Labour is sticking to the plan where they simply describe what they would do if they were in power now. A plan that critics say simply isn’t good enough. What was set out was a clear direction. Ed has instructed his shadow cabinet to construct policy that links in directly to his set of One Nation principles. Policy based on the common good and a fairer distribution of wealth, the biggest hint so far that Labour would put the top rate of tax back up to 50p in the pound for the wealthiest in society were they to win the next election.
The general consensus is that Ed Miliband’s speech was a success, kindling a belief that, actually, this guy might just be able to lead Labour to an electoral victory. After all, with Labour ahead of the Conservatives in the polls, the only thing holding them back was the widespread belief that Miliband isn’t ‘Prime Ministerial’ enough to lead the country. His speech has done much to quell the feeling that Miliband isn’t up to governing and must surely have the Conservative camp re-evaluating their approach if they can no longer rely on the weakness of Miliband to hold Labour back. So, is Ed back from the putative political dead? It would appear that the answer to that question is simply, yes.

By: Louise Hill