Labour conference pledges under scrutiny from Andrew Neil

  • 28 September 2011
  • From the section UK Politics
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Ed Miliband
Ed Miliband divided British companies into good and bad

Party conferences are a maelstrom of things said that don't turn out to be quite accurate or don't manage to last the week.

That's true of all party conferences but we're in Liverpool with Labour so let's look at some examples from here.

Ed Miliband used yesterday's keynote speech to divide British companies into good and bad or "predator" and "producer".

But I couldn't get any Labour spokesmen to give me examples of either.

Mr Miliband singled out Southern Cross as a baddie, a private equity company that presided over the bankruptcy of old folks' homes and a business track record to be ashamed of.

Since Labour sometimes speaks as if private equity is synonymous with asset-stripping perhaps it is filing private equity under bad. But the AA, RAC, Boots, United Biscuits (McVities, Jacob's Cream Crackers) and several other household companies are all owned by private equity - and few would regard them as bad.

The Labour leader also singled out John Rose, the former boss of Rolls Royce, as the best of British presiding over a good, producer company.

But Sir John has just joined Rothschild's, a City banker that specialises in mergers and acquisitions - and M&As can sometimes involve asset stripping. So do we now remove him from the good file and stick him in the bad?

Then there was the party's new poster boy, 16-year-old Rory Weal who wowed the conference with his tale of being one step away from destitution only to be saved by the welfare state.

His family did indeed fall on hard times but it was from a pretty wealthy base (a £2m+ house).

This is no tale of grinding working class poverty - which meant this nice middle class lad was soon living in a decent house in Kent again (he had to move from private school to grammar school - which not everybody will regard as a sacrifice).

As an example of words that don't last the day, never mind the week, let me finish with Ivan Lewis.

Labour's Culture secretary called yesterday for a register of journalists, from which they be struck off for bad behaviour.

This caused a huge backlash with media from the left and right attacking the idea of journalists working under licence. By early evening the party had quietly ditched the whole idea.

Soon we'll be out of Liverpool and on to Manchester, where no doubt the Tories will erect a similar Potemkin Village.

I'll tell you the truth of what's behind it when I get there.