Sketch: Miliband's "one nation"

How many nations?

Ed Miliband staged a smash and grab raid on the Tory Party last night leaving David Cameron checking whether he still had his trousers.

He certainly had the Prime Minister's shirt off his back as he announced a take-over bid for "one nation" politics and declared himself the new Disraeli.

Using a former Conservative Prime Minister as a role model was certainly a novel way of catching the attention of a post-lunch Labour Party conference but then so was the surprise appearance of Max Bygraves in the place of Mr Bean.

There had been some clues earlier in the week with the disappearance from the backdrop to the conference speakers of any mention of the Labour Party.Instead proceedings were dominated by the colour blue so beloved of the natural party of Government and a handily placed 20 foot photo of a Union Jack.

Just to add to the confusion delegates took some time out before lunch to give a standing ovation to a Tory peer Seb Coe who took time out from backing his mate Dave to thank Labour for their part in backing the Olympics.

And so it was suddenly natural that the Leader of the Labour Party should turn up declaring it was all for one and one for all.

The ease by which he to into is message might be explained by the confusion which followed his sudden appearance before the audience he adressed as friends--no comrades here,

Those used to gawky movements of the leader formerly known as Ed M  were thrown by the arrival of a self-confident jokester who dropped geek-speak and announced "I wanna tell you a story".

And what a story it was involving not spending 500 years under an oak tree which was an apparent reference to Dave and is a description now used twice in speeches  without meaning anything to its listeners.

It did involve references to his time at a North London comp and the further revelation that he was-and may still be-a fan of Dallas now, hopefully like Ed ,making a come-back on Channel 5.

We also learned that is three year old son Daniel had helped dad think out his speech by declaring he wanted dinosaurs in it--but none of those in the new Ed partyad no naughty cut-aways of post-prandial trade union chiefs.

But it was a self-confident Ed who had them chuckling in the aisles as he prowled the stage note-less and sans auto cue proudly flashing his patrician purple tie and waving his hands as if looking for a neck to stretch.

He made do instead with a pantomime performance involving the wicked witch of the west aka Michael Gove who will be delighted to have had his leadership ambitions aided by being roundly boo-ed by Ed's friends.

Having told them that Old Labour was out as well as New Labour Ed confirmed that the way ahead had been discovered by old Disraeli and then re-enforced in 1945 by Clement Attlee--to be fair another Labour leader not best known for his charisma.

With an eye on the clock if not the election he took a few minutes to promise tough times ahead even if Labour gets back in 2015-after all it was applause he was after.

And applause is whart he got. Disraeli took three hours to make his One Nation speech, fortified by two bottles of brandy said Ed as he took only one fortified only by water. (You can take Ed out of the geek…..)

Earlier in the day a opinion poll said that only one person in five believes he has what it takes to be an effective Prime Minister as against two in five for Dave.

After today he may just have stolen that as well.

Ed Miliband. Photograph: Getty Images

Peter McHugh is the former Director of Programmes at GMTV and Chief Executive Officer of Quiddity Productions

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Cabinet audit: what does the appointment of Andrea Leadsom as Environment Secretary mean for policy?

The political and policy-based implications of the new Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

A little over a week into Andrea Leadsom’s new role as Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), and senior industry figures are already questioning her credentials. A growing list of campaigners have called for her resignation, and even the Cabinet Office implied that her department's responsibilities will be downgraded.

So far, so bad.

The appointment would appear to be something of a consolation prize, coming just days after Leadsom pulled out of the Conservative leadership race and allowed Theresa May to enter No 10 unopposed.

Yet while Leadsom may have been able to twist the truth on her CV in the City, no amount of tampering will improve the agriculture-related side to her record: one barely exists. In fact, recent statements made on the subject have only added to her reputation for vacuous opinion: “It would make so much more sense if those with the big fields do the sheep, and those with the hill farms do the butterflies,” she told an audience assembled for a referendum debate. No matter the livelihoods of thousands of the UK’s hilltop sheep farmers, then? No need for butterflies outside of national parks?

Normally such a lack of experience is unsurprising. The department has gained a reputation as something of a ministerial backwater; a useful place to send problematic colleagues for some sobering time-out.

But these are not normal times.

As Brexit negotiations unfold, Defra will be central to establishing new, domestic policies for UK food and farming; sectors worth around £108bn to the economy and responsible for employing one in eight of the population.

In this context, Leadsom’s appointment seems, at best, a misguided attempt to make the architects of Brexit either live up to their promises or be seen to fail in the attempt.

At worst, May might actually think she is a good fit for the job. Leadsom’s one, water-tight credential – her commitment to opposing restraints on industry – certainly has its upsides for a Prime Minister in need of an alternative to the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP); a policy responsible for around 40 per cent the entire EU budget.

Why not leave such a daunting task in the hands of someone with an instinct for “abolishing” subsidies  thus freeing up money to spend elsewhere?

As with most things to do with the EU, CAP has some major cons and some equally compelling pros. Take the fact that 80 per cent of CAP aid is paid out to the richest 25 per cent of farmers (most of whom are either landed gentry or vast, industrialised, mega-farmers). But then offset this against the provision of vital lifelines for some of the UK’s most conscientious, local and insecure of food producers.

The NFU told the New Statesman that there are many issues in need of urgent attention; from an improved Basic Payment Scheme, to guarantees for agri-environment funding, and a commitment to the 25-year TB eradication strategy. But that they also hope, above all, “that Mrs Leadsom will champion British food and farming. Our industry has a great story to tell”.

The construction of a new domestic agricultural policy is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for Britain to truly decide where its priorities for food and environment lie, as well as to which kind of farmers (as well as which countries) it wants to delegate their delivery.

In the context of so much uncertainty and such great opportunity, Leadsom has a tough job ahead of her. And no amount of “speaking as a mother” will change that.

India Bourke is the New Statesman's editorial assistant.