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Alistair Thompson was the Conservative candidate for West Bromwich East at the last general election. He also runs Media Intelligence Partners with business partner Nick Wood, the former press secretary to Conservative leaders William
Hague and Iain Duncan Smith.

It was an eclectic speech from the leader of the Labour Party, part panto, part comedy and part serious, but did Ed Miliband deliver?

It started poorly. Despite the obligatory back drop of young party activists, several of whom seemed to have wondered into the conference hall from a Harry Potter lookalike competition, but they found no magic here.

Mr Miliband’s delivery was leaden, not helped by his well documented nasal problem.

Then came Mr Miliband’s new strap line, “Britain can do better than this”. His team avoided the obvious blunder of putting the new mantra above their leader’s head – a gift to caption writers, but every time he said it it reminded of the now infamous line in the 2003 IDS speech,”the quiet man is here and he is turning up the volume.”

This line repeated several times during the wide ranging speech will certainly not inspire swing voters, but then it was not meant to.

It will appeal to his core voters, as this speech provided yet further evidence that Labour have given up on repeating the successes they enjoyed under Tony Blair. Labour strategists know that if they can secure just over 35 per cent of the vote given the unequal electoral system then Mr Miliband will be catapulted into No 10.

It would be unfair to say there were no good parts of the speech. The policy to cap increases in energy bills will certainly be popular, better still it is easy to sell on the door step and something that ordinary voters will understand.

Tory and Lib Dem protests that this might be illegal, could push prices up in the short term and may stop investment in the UK’s creaking energy industry simply won’t wash with an electorate who have seen their bills rise faster than inflation every year since at least 1997.

Then there were more announcements designed to appeal to his core vote, extra bank levies, more child care, land grabs and rises in corporation tax, an olive branch to the Party’s main funders the Unions and a class attack on David Cameron, certainly not the one nation party we heard about last year.

45 minutes into his speech and the rhythm the Labour had found seemed to be ebbing away, perhaps conscious of this Mr Miliband moved onto safe Labour ground, the NHS.

At one point Mr Miliband even started talking like Nick Clegg, because suddenly he was a man of the people…”I met a bloke on my way home from a cafe, he was a scaffolder…”. He even tried to make a virtue of his personal values, but with the betrayal of his brother still fresh in the minds of most Westminster watchers and devastating revelations from Damian McBride’s diary hanging over the Labour conference like the sword of Damocles waiting to drop, it was as convincing as a lecture on loyalty from Judas Iscariot.

Then there was a bizarre reference to the Children’s programme Octonauts. A coincidence that it happens to be made by a production company owned by Labour peer Lord Ali. Or maybe this was another attempt by Mr Miliband to make himself sound ordinary?

But how will this speech be remembered, certainly not as one of the greats. The Labour Leader failed to give a clear vision of what Britain under a Government led by him would look like. Worse still he abandoned the clever one nation platform in a shameless pursuit of a core vote strategy.

This might well be the right approach, but with an economy that is off life support, an outbreak of unity in the Conservative Party and with his personal poll rating well below that of David Cameron it is a high risk course of action. And in the end the Country might well decide that Britain can do better than this, better than a lack lustre labour Leader who is more Captain Mainwaring than Captain Barnacles.

22 comments for: Alistair Thompson: Ed Miliband shows he is more Captain Mainwaring than Captain Barnacles

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