I'm so Dizzy, claims Miliband

 

Unlikely as it may seem, the leader of Labour Party has placed a long dead Tory peer at the heart of his politics.

The Earl of Beaconsfield was prime minister twice, a Jewish-born Anglican convert of Portuguese origins with a predilection for writing romantic novels.

But he also came up with a rather nifty political idea and slogan that served the Tory party well for many years in the 19th and 20th centuries. It was the idea that Britain was divided into two nations, between rich and poor, and it was the job of a paternalistic government to unite the country into one nation.

It became known as "one-nation conservatism" and its author was Benjamin Disraeli. And today Ed Miliband shamelessly tried to steal old Dizzy's mantle for his own.

His pitch is simple: the one nation vision of Disraeli runs through the best bits of British history, through the battle against the Nazis and the creation of the NHS all the way to this year's Olympic Games. He is the only political leader, he claims, who can capture that vision and bring it to bear on Britain today, uniting a country that he claims the Tories have left divided.

Mr Miliband's argument is not just that his "one-nation" riff should be a destination for the country but it should also be a route map for a future Labour government. So from now on all the party's policies will come under a one-nation banner.

Relief

A one-nation banking system that serves not just investors but all its customers. A one-nation education system that helps not just those going to university, but those who take a vocational course instead. And so on ad nauseam

The aim of the speech was clear: to shift Labour into the middle ground of British politics, a space that Mr Miliband claims the Conservatives have vacated. He made a deliberate, explicit appeal to those who voted Tory at the last election, saying he understood why they gave David Cameron the benefit of the doubt.

So far so good. But there are potential difficulties with this approach:

1) Other politicians have already claimed Disraeli for their own. Such as, er, Tony Blair and Boris Johnson and John Major and Chuka Umunna and, oh yes, David Cameron. In interviews, Mr Cameron frequently cites Disraeli as his favourite Conservative.

2) How many voters have the first idea who Disraeli is? And, to many voters, the United Kingdom is made up of four nations, not one.

3) The danger is that one-nation Labourism becomes a catch-all phrase into which all policies are bundled, and the meaning of the phrase becomes diluted simply to mean policies that Labour favours. Slogans minted for conferences often have a habit of dying a slow death.

4) It is easy to argue for one nation - who is going to argue for two? - but it is harder to argue for the tough stuff that any future government will face. The one-nation thesis does not appear to say much about what spending a Labour government would cut or what taxes it would raise. Does one-nation Labourism tell us how long it should take to cut the deficit?

5) There were no substantive new policies in this speech. This is a strategic decision by Mr Miliband. He does not wish to reveal his hand too early and give a shopping list of ideas for his opponents to copy or trash. But at some point he will have to say what Labour would do, say, to reform welfare, the health service, social care - all big-ticket items that will involve cutting spending. How will that fit into the one-nation framework?

But that said, Mr Miliband did go some way to tackling one of the questions that have been hanging above his head: could voters imagine him as prime minister? Today he gave an outstanding speech, without notes or text, a performance that was assured and confident, engaging and near-faultlessly delivered.

In the hall, there was an overwhelming sense of relief among the Labour members that they had a leader who could rise to the occasion, and appear, well, a little more prime ministerial than he has done in the past. Perhaps one day the geek may inherit the earth.

 
James Landale Article written by James Landale James Landale Deputy political editor

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  • Comment number 74.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

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    Comment number 73.

    Given that EM only got the job because of union support I can't see how he can promote 1 Nation UK. Most of our unions are still stuck in an us & them mentality going back to the 70s. Every Labour govt there has ever been has left power with debt and unemployment higher than when they took office because of a need to tax and spend and bash the rich mentality oblivious to the fact it doesn't work.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 72.

    Policy, policy, policy - that is what I'll get excited about, not who he is. When someone comes along to show themselves to be heavyweight statesmen with policy ideas to drag this country out of it's current malaise they'll get my vote. TechBacc was a start, and a laudable idea (not labours though, a pinching of European models?), but populism like bank bashing and class warfare is just hot-air

  • rate this
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    Comment number 71.

    "One nation" - Impossible and complete nonsense until UKIP has won our sovereignty back.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 70.

    @59 jambon909

    You want reasons why EM is poor? He's nasal, which makes him bad on TV. He speaks in vague waffle that sounds good but means nothing. Some of that shouldn't matter, but in modern politics it does.

    But worst of all, he's been leader 2 years and voters still regularly say they don't like him and don't know him. That's a disaster. It's very hard to change perceptions that have set in.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 69.

    We've been crying out for years for a party leader who isn't a 'pretty boy', media obsessed or the product of spin doctors. Well here he is. He's not making any promises he can't keep, and he's talking about what inspires him and his ideology. I think most voters will go to the polls on the next General Election day and conclude they'd rather have an honest geek than a lying smooth operator.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 68.

    It would be nice to know which " one nation" he is on about. He still hasn't told us anything about how he will get UK plc up and running again nor how it will be funded.
    As for his speech without notes- doesn't prove he will make a decent PM, just that he can waffle a lot like every other MP.
    Give us a real choice, tell us how you will change things and then let us see what happens.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 67.

    Labour logo....Rebuilding Britain??? Weren't they the ones in power when most of the collapse happened???

  • rate this
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    Comment number 66.

    RyanB29 very well said!

  • rate this
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    Comment number 65.

    I thought the speech was utterly pointless.

    Ed Miliband seems to think we need to know his life story to work out if he'll be a good Prime Minister??? OK...

    Only hardcore Lab supporters will be impressed. Not a single Tory will swing. Not a single undecided will care.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 64.

    So labour leader cites Tory as his hero, claims middle ground vacated by Conservatives as his own, so why not change name of party to New Consevatives and be done with it. Cleggy can then change to Liberal Conservatives, and Cameron and Co can be called Posh Conservatives and they can squabble over the minutia of politics for the next government whilst we all try to get on with earning crust..

  • rate this
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    Comment number 63.

    61.Ryanb29 - ".....was fooled by Tony Blair's New Labour slogan, now it is promoting itself a party for one nation. LIES LIES LIES"


    He is very much distancing the party from the spin of TB's New Lab - give the guy a chance, they might prove in the fullness of time to be just the same, but we're a long way off the next election.

    Let's wait & see nearer the time if this a better Lab party.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 62.

    maybe he was a man ahead of his time-he was not what one would call the typical tory-he had a socialist attitude to a glaring fact-i am sure if he could have he would have liked to have created a better country but not every one was on his-shall we say-wave length-that does not mean the principle is not right or less prominent in todays political climate-time to try again??

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 61.

    If I am not mistaken was it not under the last Labour Party led by Tony Blair and Gordon Brown that coursed this mess we find ourselves in now! We need a party that represents the British people not Lab-con-Lib. I can remember when in 1997 the voters of this country
    including me was fooled by Tony Blair's New Labour slogan, now it is promoting itself a party for one nation. LIES LIES LIES

  • rate this
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    Comment number 60.

    I'm amazed that Lansdale thinks EM 'rose to the occasion' & looked Prime Ministerial. The performance was totally cringeworthy & painful to watch. He looked like some provincial librarian who'd become a born again Christian & didn't care who knew it. When he parroted on about the deficit increasing, he sounded like a teenage Emo, 'it's so unfair'... Ah well, less chance of him winning, then.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 59.

    There is a lot of panning EM, but no reasons why. Just simply 'he is useless'. Please share the reasons of why this is people? No matter what political persuasion you are, there is no taking it away from EM that this was a well delivered speech and a good performance. It is still only halfway through the coalition term, so yes, it is way to early to set out set policies as a lot can change!

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 58.

    One Nation Toryism is the only strand of Tory history with any sense of morality to it & it has long died a death.

    Ken Clarke is the only remining high profile believer in the One Nation ideals & he is only still in Cabinet by the skin of his teeth & there are constant attempts by the head bangers on the Tory back benches to see hi removed altogether.....

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 57.

    56. Mayna
    I agree, its a bit of a weakness expecting this Government to deal with anything that would help the economy or its people. The Government should deal with the petrol price issue with some urgency but I don't expect it to happen.I don't expect Cameron and Osborne to be embarrassed about the tax cuts for £1m earners but they should be!
    Now onto the pastie tax!

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 56.

    53.Jackdslipper

    Ed was on breakfast TV @ 7.45. When asked what he would do about high petrol prices he ignored the question & replied the current gov should deal with it, and then continued with irrelevant topics he was obviously geared up to talk about. Then when asked about £1M incomes he did the same & then had to ask for the question again. I leave you to draw your own conclusion.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 55.

    Worzel Gummidge wins scarecrow festival

    Column heading from todays Eastern Daily Press.

    Looks like Ed has beaten off Cameron Clegg and Osbourne after todays speech then

 

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