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Politics: Red, Ed and Redemption

29th September 2010

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Ed Miliband's maiden speech as Labour leader to a full conference hall of the party faithful was not dominated by politics or policy but positioning. There will be no 'lurch to the left' or pandering to the unions under Miliband's reign in opposition or in a future government as feared by many.

As soon as victory had been secured by indulging and courting the core of the party by venturing left, he rushed back to the centre ground to join the coalition. As he perfectly put it, "Red Ed? Come off it."

After the narrowest of wins against his more experienced brother, David, in the leadership contest, gaining comparisons with the biblical tale of Esau and Jacob, or Antonio and Prospero from Shakespeare's The Tempest, unity was mandatory. Yet Miliband the younger's tone was of honesty and humility about the accomplishments and in particular the mistakes in which New Labour had made over their 13 years in office. Which cost them to lose 5 million voters, and if David had been anointed he could or would never have had such a frank admission with his party or the electorate, as his ties and loyalties were deep routed within the New Labour machine. A metamorphosis from "reformers to the establishment", losing the argument on wealth inequality, tuition fees, immigration, and above all the Iraq war, which New Labour had got "wrong".

Also the denouncement of his former boss and close ally Gordon Brown for boasting to end 'boom and boost' showed that Ed's freedom is evident in his freshness to the public and in parliament. His rhetoric spelt out a break away from the Blair-Brown eras of infighting and political civil war, giving Labour a fresh start and thrust forward it has been lusting for since the banking crisis.

Miliband spoke of a "new generation" to lead and move the party forward that would restore "optimism" amongst the nation, to challenge the "pessimism" of David Cameron's Conservative party. He proclaimed, in the vein of every political leader since the election of Obama, that he would bring "change" and a "new politics", "by being a responsible opposition".

The contest over the cuts and taxation will be the foreseeable future of mainstream politics. Miliband's stance is that the severity being enforced will lead to mass jobs losses and endanger the country's economy causing a double dip recession. Here lies the clearest divide between the political elite, but this may be the exception to the rule. The strategy of defining and sounding himself as a mould completely divergent to the prime minister was not achieved. How can Ed separate himself from the political pack? Words of being his "own man" but will that resonate with the wider public. He comes from a famous political family, graduating from Oxford - in Politics, Philosophy and Economics. He then acquired a job as a special advisor in the Treasury serving the Chancellor, eventually being elected as an MP by being parachuted into a safe seat constituency, culminating in writing a manifesto that was rejected by the electorate to then be propelled to party leader by beating a run-away front runner. The similarities are contagious.

Ed may have to show his true colour to get everyone talking about his generation.

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