Thursday, 2 October 2014

Maybe its a question of message. Enduring David Cameron's speech too conference yesterday lunchtime (not the best work break I have ever had in retrospect) whilst I disagreed with almost every syllable and, at times, find myself furiously searching the internet for rebuttals I had to concede that, as a piece of public speaking, it knocked Ed Miliband's effort last week into a cocked hat. Sure, all the requisite modern politician elements were present and correct, a touch of self-deprecation here ('see, he can laugh at himself'), a wrenching personal story there ('you've got to feel for the bloke, having lots of money means nothing if your kids are sick') but it worked. Were I (hard to imagine) a believer in some of the policies espoused I could actually imagine myself applauding. I am a believer in some (crucial word that) of the policies Ed Miliband espoused and yet I found myself less than motivated by his turn.

This may be less to do with Miliband and more to do with the re-alignment of the British political centre over the last 35 years. The push points that Cameron could return to, all familiar Tory ground post Thatcher, (home ownership, low taxes, anti- EU and anti-immigration with a side serving of Little Englander), bolstered by the waving mini Union flags distributed to the blue masses pre-speech are near indistinguishable from Thatcher's long time in power. Where she created a new political orthodoxy, Blair followed, swallowing up the centre ground by moving Labour decisively and, it would seem, permanently, into a liberal / capitalist dynamic where any whiffs of socialism are delivered via means testing and bottom line calculation rather than high taxes on high earners and real, radical redistribution of wealth from top to bottom. Throw into that mix Labour's perennial fear of upsetting Murdoch and The Mail and Miliband's room for manoeuvre on current Labour thinking is minimal from a genuinely radical perspective in comparison to his opposite number. Miliband is essentially in the mirror position to the Tories of the 50's, 60's and 70's, forced to pay lip service to nationalised everything to retain a voice in the prevailing political orthodoxy. Tony Blair's much vaunted third way has become a dead end for his successors. He may squeak through the next election on core support, the 'who else would we vote for?' brigade and UKIP raids on hitherto safe Tory seats but it won't change the weather. Expect Cameron's agenda, whether full blooded or refracted through Labour's pained attempts at mediation, to win out come 2015.

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