Ed Miliband “gets” social democracy

Look beyond the presentation skills.

That Ed Miliband is an impressive and accessible orator with a human touch is a much-voiced argument. I buy that. But what enthuses me about his campaign for the Labour leadership is that his language is more than just eloquent; it reveals an independent mind, a willingness to challenge orthodoxy, and above all a consummately social-democratic philosophy, free of the triangulating tendencies of the previous generation of party leaders.

Perhaps this is a product of Ed's spell as energy and climate change secretary, a portfolio predicated on the use of state intervention to tame and harness the chaotic effects of globalisation. It is to his credit that he flourished in a role defined by such a peculiar mixture of the generationally long-term and the precipitously immediate.

The Climate Change Bill, in particular, represented a triumph of his ambitious, responsive dirigisme. It lifted the target for 2050 emissions cuts from 60 per cent to 80 per cent and heeded calls to curb aviation and shipping emissions. The director of Friends of the Earth admitted that "the government has listened", and the lead scientist at Greenpeace claimed: "In a decade in power, Labour has never adopted a target so ambitious, far-reaching and internationally significant as this."

Moreover, at the Copenhagen summit last year, Ed was widely praised for his role in rallying international governments around an amendment that, according to the environmentalist Franny Armstrong, "prevented the talks from collapsing". As climate secretary, he also introduced a more interventionist approach to cutting domestic energy use: obliging energy companies to meet 60 per cent of insulation costs, offering loans for energy-saving technologies and introducing grants for small-scale energy generation.

Ed is putting this commitment to the active state at the heart of his leadership campaign, offering a break from that desiccated managerialism whose stated raison d'être was (in the words of Alan Milburn) to help people "earn and own". It is a break that can be found in his call to "take on the power of the markets", in his communitarian support for a national network of Post Banks, and in his willingness, rare among former ministers, to talk not just about equality of opportunity, but about equality of outcome.

"The connection between our sense and the people's sense of fairness frayed and we need to acknowledge that," he has said. "It frayed over excesses at the top. And it frayed over the people at the other end of society as well."

On Friday, he will launch a campaign for a National Living Wage. This is an encouraging sign of things to come. Imagine it on the 2015 pledge card: three words telling a powerful story about Labour's vision for the good society.

But beyond the policy's social merits, a debate on the living wage could also give the party the chance to discuss issues that in the past have been swept under the carpet: the distribution of wealth, the work-life balance, the impact of globalisation on wages, housing and public services. Ed is going the right way about putting these back on the agenda.

So, solely to foreground the younger Miliband's personal skills, his rhetorical style and ability to "talk human" does the man a disservice. Both as a cabinet member and now as a leadership candidate, he has been distinguished by what he says, more than how he says it.

Where others use "aspiration" as an empty buzzword, he explains that it must mean more than prosperity. Where others talk about "making work pay", he adds that work must also be dignified. Where others discuss "fairness" in the abstract, he talks about the need to address the gap between rich and poor. As such, I believe that he would make an excellent leader of the Labour Party.

Jeremy Cliffe is a a convenor for Compass and a student at Oxford University.

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The joy of only winning once: why England should be proud of 1966

We feel the glory of that triumphant moment, 50 years ago, all the more because of all the other occasions when we have failed to win.

There’s a phrase in football that I really hate. It used to be “Thirty years of hurt”. Each time the England team crashes out of a major tournament it gets regurgitated with extra years added. Rather predictably, when England lost to Iceland in Euro 2016, it became “Fifty years of hurt”. We’ve never won the European Championship and in 17 attempts to win the World Cup we have only won once. I’m going to tell you why that’s a record to cherish.

I was seven in 1966. Our telly was broken so I had to watch the World Cup final with a neighbour. I sat squeezed on my friend Colin’s settee as his dad cheered on England with phrases like “Sock it to them Bobby”, as old fashioned now as a football rattle. When England took the lead for the second time I remember thinking, what will it feel like, when we English are actually Champions of the World. Not long after I knew. It felt good.

Wembley Stadium, 30 July 1966, was our only ever World Cup win. But let’s imagine what it would be like if, as with our rivals, we’d won it many times? Brazil have been World Champions on five occasions, Germany four, and Italy four. Most England fans would be “over the moon” if they could boast a similarly glorious record. They’re wrong. I believe it’s wonderful that we’ve only triumphed once. We all share that one single powerful memory. Sometimes in life less is definitely more.

Something extraordinary has happened. Few of us are even old enough to remember, but somehow, we all know everything that happened that day. Even if you care little about the beautiful game, I’m going to bet that you can recall as many as five iconic moments from 50 years ago. You will have clearly in your mind the BBC commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme’s famous lines, as Geoff Hurst tore down the pitch to score his hat-trick: “Some people are on the pitch. They think it’s all over. It is now”. And it was. 4 - 2 to England against West Germany. Thirty minutes earlier the Germans had equalised in the dying moments of the second half to take the game to extra time.

More drama we all share: Geoff Hurst’s second goal. Or the goal that wasn’t, as technology has since, I think, conclusively proved. The shot that crashed off the cross bar and did or didn’t cross the line. Of course, even if you weren’t alive at the time, you will know that the linesman, one Tofiq Bakhramov, from Azerbaijan (often incorrectly referred to as “Russian”) could speak not a word of English, signalled it as a goal.

Then there’s the England Captain, the oh-so-young and handsome Bobby Moore. The very embodiment of the era. You can picture him now wiping his muddy hands on his white shorts before he shakes hands with a youthful Queen Elizabeth. Later you see him lifted aloft by his team mates holding the small golden Jules Rimet trophy.

How incredible, how simply marvellous that as a nation we share such golden memories. How sad for the Brazilians and Germans. Their more numerous triumphs are dissipated through the generations. In those countries each generation will remember each victory but not with the intensity with which we English still celebrate 1966. It’s as if sex was best the first time. The first cut is the deepest.

On Colin’s dad’s TV the pictures were black and white and so were the flags. Recently I looked at the full colour Pathe newsreel of the game. It’s the red, white and blue of the Union Jack that dominates. The red cross of Saint George didn’t really come into prominence until the Nineties. The left don’t like flags much, unless they’re “deepest red”. Certainly not the Union Flag. It smacks of imperialism perhaps. In 1966 we didn’t seem to know if we were English or British. Maybe there was, and still is, something admirable and casual about not knowing who we are or what is our proper flag. 

Twelve years later I’m in Cuba at the “World Festival of Youth” – the only occasion I’ve represented my country. It was my chance to march into a stadium under my nation’s flag. Sadly, it never happened as my fellow delegates argued for hours over what, if any, flag we British should walk behind. The delegation leaders – you will have heard of them now, but they were young and unknown then – Peter Mandelson, Trevor Phillips and Charles Clarke, had to find a way out of this impasse. In the end, each delegation walked into the stadium behind their flag, except the British. Poor Mandelson stood alone for hours holding Union Jack, sweltering in the tropical sun. No other country seemed to have a problem with their flag. I guess theirs speak of revolution; ours of colonialism.

On Saturday 30 July BBC Radio 2 will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1966 World Cup Final, live from Wembley Arena. Such a celebration is only possible because on 16 occasions we failed to win that trophy. Let’s banish this idea of “Fifty years of hurt” once and for all and embrace the joy of only winning once.

Phil Jones edits the Jeremy Vine Show on BBC Radio 2. On Saturday 30 July the station celebrates the 50th anniversary of the 1966 World Cup Final live from Wembley Arena, telling the story of football’s most famous match, minute by minuteTickets are available from: www.wc66.org