Ed Miliband’s Labour

milibandAprès un été placé sous le signe des catastrophes pour le parti travailliste, Ed Miliband revient sur le devant de la scène politique britannique sous un nouveau jour. Son discours du 24 septembre lors de la conférence du parti travailliste à Brighton lui a valu les acclamations du public et un regain d’intérêt de l’électorat britannique pour le parti. Ed Miliband gagne du terrain et se prépare aux élections de 2015…

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This summer no one would have bet on such a success in the British opinion. Opposing the government’s spending cuts, Ed Miliband found himself on the wrong side of popular opinion. Later he didn’t take a clear position on the subject of Syria’s chemical weapons. But recently, he succeeded in giving himself another image.

Ed Miliband’s speech at his fourth party-conference as Labour leader marks a radical lurch to the left. He underlined the unfairness of the current economy. He attacked the Conservative-led coalition government on many issues: prices have risen faster than wages and the economy is no longer competitive. He made very coherent and relevant proposals. Ed Miliband said that if he became PM in 2015, the government would freeze electricity and gas prices for 20 months, and make it possible to build more houses. Miliband would also reshape the economy by boosting skills and raising productivity among the « squeezed middle ». These propositions could become very popular.

Ed Miliband’s speech was received with a standing ovation. In fact, contrary to his image since he won party leadership in September 2010, Mr Miliband was charismatic, brilliant and even funny. He also cruelly attacked David Cameron on his weak points (the public thinks Mr Cameron is an out-of-touch toff) as he said that « he may be strong at standing up to the weak, but he is always weak when it comes to standing up against the strong ».

The real success of this speech lies on the fact that it reconciled the militants with their party. It made Labour a real strong coherent alternative to the Tories, which used to be impossible as Milibandism was accused of being a “piecemeal political project” with no ideas or policies. He totally redefined his leadership and proposed a vision: “People are fed up with a government that doesn’t understand their lives and a Prime Minister who cannot walk in their shoes. We are Britain, we are better than this.”

After conference season, Ed Miliband and David Cameron faced each other during PMQ’s. They battled over the Labour leader’s energy freeze pledge. According to columnist Isabel Hardman, the Prime Minister’s attempts to label the Opposition leader a “Marxist” has fallen flat.

This fits in the context of the recent skirmish between Ed Miliband and the Daily Mail which published a profile of his father on September 27th. The article led with the headline : “The man who hated Britain” and described the Marxist professor as a “grave socialist”, leaning on his well-known hard-left socialism. The newspaper even argued that his father influenced his son for sure, saying that this “should disturb anybody who loves Britain”. Ed Miliband broke the codes and conventions as he insisted on a right to answer which impressed the public and even the Tories who were outraged. As The Economist underlines it, The Daily Mail has long been regarded as the most virulent enemy of the political sphere, but he made it look foolish. One Tory advisor even said: “it’s a shame no one had the guts to do this before.”

The problem is that such policies however good they can be won’t make people forget his lack of charisma and leadership.

But Ed Miliband could overturn the situation as the right is still divided and the centre-left is not solidly united. Bookmakers predict that its potential coalition comprises at least 40% of the electorate. According to Marcus Roberts, deputy general secretary of the Fabian Society the coalition would consist of the Labour base (about 28% of voters), former Lib Dem voters (6-7%), young and new voters (3%), former non-voters (2-3%) and former Conservative (1%). But some of them are hard to reach and Ed Miliband is not pursuing the sort of voters that Tony Blair wooed. They must focus their efforts on canvassing, recruiting more members and involving non-voters in campaigns on local issues.

Unlike Mr Miliband, Mr Cameron’s speech which took place on the 2nd of October, didn’t give the feeling that the current government had the answer to the question about wages and prices. He focused on the growth that corporations will generate: “Profit, wealth creation, tax cuts, enterprise they … really are the solution”. The main economic battle-lines of the next elections are kind of drawn: struggling consumers against markets and enterprise.

Ed Miliband seems to have his chances to win the elections in 2015. Indeed, the Conservative party is facing increasing unpopularity, since the scandal of the treasurer who asked for 250.000 pounds to let potential donors (in reality journalists) meet D.Cameron and G.Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequers. All the more, Mr Cameron’s attempt to involve Great-Britain in the Syrian conflict didn’t go in his favour. That he recalled a vote of Parliament on the subject was everything but appreciated. In fact, even Tory MPs joined forces with the opposition.

Justine CARLES & Célia SACUTO

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