Former MP urges Miliband to drop the 'management speak'

As a Labour MP and government minister, he had a reputation for straight talking on subjects as varied as the Turner Prize and devolution.

Retirement from parliament does not appear to have mellowed Kim Howells. Moonlighting as presenter of Sunday Supplement on Radio Wales yesterday, I asked Dr Howells what advice he would offer to Ed Miliband on how to improve his voter appeal.

This was his reply: "What he's got to come up with are policies expressed in a language that people can understand. My criticism of Ed Miliband and of his front bench is I don't understand anything they say. It's this kind of awful management speak which nobody understands. I don't know anybody in Pontypridd who understands what the front bench are saying about anything." (I wonder what his successor as the local MP, who sits on the front bench, makes of that).

Dr Howells went on: "The problem is, if your thinking is muddled you're going to come out with words that disguise what you're trying to say rather than express it clearly and that may be part of this whole thing about full-time professional politicians who've never done anything else.

"They don't have to go down to Tesco's and talk to ordinary people most of the time. They should try it actually; it would be good for them."

A Welsh Labour spokesperson responded: "Put simply, only Ed Miliband and a Labour UK government will take action on the cost-of-living crisis, scrap the bedroom tax, freeze energy bills and cut tax for 24 million people. As last week's European election result made clear, the only truly progressive alternative to David Cameron's Tories in Wales is Welsh Labour."

Today, Welsh Secretary David Jones noted the response in a tweet: "Kim Howells tells Labour not to use "management speak". In response, party spokesman says Labour is a "truly progressive alternative". QED."

Mr Jones himself heads a department that is particularly fond of management speak and jargon in its communications with the outside world. Who can forget this headline from a Wales Office press release - "Baroness Randerson hosts roundtable in Cardiff alongside Age Cymru". Lady Randerson was hearing from "key stakeholders" who feature quite regularly in Wales Office statements.

Mr Jones himself "assembled a group of key stakeholders" to discuss rail electrification last year. The thinking may have involved blue skies. Presumably, Mr Jones will now be running a few of Dr Howells's ideas up the Wales Office flagpole to see if anyone salutes.