David Miliband is having a strong anti-Tory campaign

Join the dots, and a distinct, coherent attack emerges from the Foreign Secretary.

David Miliband, who has his own campaign blog, which I referred to last week, had an eye-catching line in his speech at Labour HQ dismantling the Tories' "big society" rhetoric yesterday, when he said:

The words may be John F Kennedy but the policies are pure George W Bush.

Yet Miliband is about much more than one-liners. In fact, if you join the dots, his latest speech was part of a series of powerful attacks on the Tory party that show the Foreign Secretary has been paying close attention to his Conservative opponents over recent months.

The New Labour moderniser has apparently come firmly to the view that the Conservatives have not, in fact, put in changes equivalent to the ones that began in his own party with Neil Kinnock's 1985 expulsion of Militant and continued under Tony Blair, who symbolically abolished Clause Four.

Yesterday, Miliband rallied the Labour faithful, saying:

The Tory head and the Tory heart are at odds. The head tells them that the world has changed, that they have been rejected at three elections because they were seen as the Nasty Party. The heart tells them something different: that government is always the problem not the solution, that Europe is a threat not an opportunity, that the environment is an add-on at best and a distraction at worst.

When you peel away the rhetoric of the Big Society, what do you find? The message is about self-service, not government at your service; on your bike, not by your side. They say they're empowering you. The truth is they are abandoning you. Why else would they block commitments to 1:1 tuition in schools, offer gambles not guarantees for those needing cancer treatment, retrenchment not reform when it comes to public services?

Their manifesto says they oppose big government but that they support the NHS, the biggest employer in the world; they can believe either but not both.

It's not the Big Society but the Big Gamble.

The major Tory attacks from Miliband began at last year's party conference, when he delighted activists by saying, among other things, that the party's positioning in Europe made him "sick".

And in February he gave a speech to the think tank Demos, about which I blogged at the time here and which you can read in full here, in which he said:

New Labour said the values never change but that the means need to be updated. The Tories want it the other way around. They say the values have changed, but, miraculously, the policies should stay the same

I recognise the Tory difficulty. We faced it after 1994. You need to reassure people you are not a risk; and you need to offer change. But while we promised evolution not revolution in the short term, like sticking to Tory spending limits, we offered a platform for radical change in the medium to long term, from the minimum wage to school investment.

Cameron's got himself facing the other way round. The heart insisted on radical change in the short term -- cuts in inheritance tax for the richest states, a marriage tax allowance, immediate cuts in public spending, bring back fox-hunting. But after that, the head gives the impression that it really doesn't know what to do, other than press pause on reform, offer a £1m internet prize for the best policy ideas, and then go off and play with the Wii.

They have managed the unique feat of being so determined to advertise pragmatism that they have completely obliterated any medium-term vision to their politics, while cleaving to short-term commitments that leave the impression they are ideological zealots. It's the precise opposite of the New Labour approach in the 1990s.

The result is that today's Conservatism looks more and more like a toxic cocktail of Tory traditions. The government on offer from David Cameron would be as meritocratic as Macmillan, as compassionate as Thatcher, and as decisive as Major.

There is a distinct theme here. The Foreign Secretary, who described Cameron's "camera on, camera off" approach to politics in front of millions on BBC1's Question Time last week, is emerging as a considerable force against a Conservative Party he well understands.

James Macintyre is political correspondent for the New Statesman.
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What David Hockney has to tell us about football

Why the sudden glut of blond footballers? A conversation I had with the artist back in 1966 gave me a clue. . .

In 1966, I went to interview David Hockney at a rather run-down flat in Bayswater, central London. He was 28 and had just won a gold medal at the Royal College of Art.

In his lavatory, I noticed a cut-out photograph from a newspaper of Denis Law scoring a goal. I asked if he was a football fan. He said no, he just liked Denis Law’s thighs.

The sub-editors cut that remark out of the story, to save any gossip or legal problems. In 1966 homosexual activity could still be an offence.

Hockney and a friend had recently been in the United States and had been watching an advert on TV that said “Blondes have more fun”. At two o’clock in the morning, slightly drunk, they both went out, bought some hair dye and became blond. Hockney decided to remain blond from then on, though he has naturally dark hair.

Is it true that blonds have more fun? Lionel Messi presumably thinks so, otherwise why has he greeted this brand-new season with that weird blond hair? We look at his face, his figure, his posture and we know it’s him – then we blink, thinking what the heck, does he realise some joker has been pouring stuff on his head?

He has always been such a staid, old-fashioned-looking lad, never messing around with his hair till now. Neymar, beside him, has gone even blonder, but somehow we expect it of him. He had foony hair even before he left Brazil.

Over here, blonds are popping up all over the shop. Most teams now have a born-again blondie. It must take a fortune for Marouane Fellaini of Man United to brighten up his hair, as he has so much. But it’s already fading. Cheapskate.

Mesut Özil of Arsenal held back, not going the full head, just bits of it, which I suspect is a clue to his wavering, hesitant personality. His colleague Aaron Ramsey has almost the full blond monty. Paul Pogba of Man United has a sort of blond streak, more like a marker pen than a makeover. His colleague Phil Jones has appeared blond, but he seems to have disappeared from the team sheet. Samir Nasri of Man City went startlingly blond, but is on loan to Seville, so we’re not able to enjoy his locks. And Didier Ndong of Sunderland is a striking blond, thanks to gallons of bleach.

Remember the Romanians in the 1998 World Cup? They suddenly appeared blond, every one of them. God, that was brilliant. One of my all-time best World Cup moments, and I was at Wembley in 1966.

So, why do they do it? Well, Hockney was right, in a sense. Not to have more fun – meaning more sex – because top footballers are more than well supplied, but because their normal working lives are on the whole devoid of fun.

They can’t stuff their faces with fast food, drink themselves stupid, stay up all night, take a few silly pills – which is what many of our healthy 25-year-old lads consider a reasonably fun evening. Nor can they spend all their millions on fun hols, such as skiing in the winter, a safari in the spring, or hang-gliding at the weekend. Prem players have to be so boringly sensible these days, or their foreign managers will be screaming at them in their funny foreign accents.

While not on the pitch, or training, which takes up only a few hours a day, the boredom is appalling, endlessly on planes or coaches or in some hotel that could be anywhere.

The only bright spot in the long days is to look in the mirror and think: “Hmm, I wonder what highlights would look like? I’ve done the beard and the tattoos. Now let’s go for blond. Wow, gorgeous.”

They influence each other, being simple souls, so when one dyes his hair, depending on where he is in the macho pecking order, others follow. They put in the day by looking at themselves. Harmless fun. Bless ’em.

But I expect all the faux blonds to have gone by Christmas. Along with Mourinho. I said that to myself the moment he arrived in Manchester, smirking away. Pep will see him off. OK then, let’s say Easter at the latest . . . 

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 22 September 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The New Times