Ed Miliband set the agenda this conference season

If Miliband's analysis was so powerful, why is he not being spoken of as Britain's next Prime Minist

Generating responsibility in society, from top to bottom; crafting a something-for-something culture; battling vested interests in the name of the public good; building a British capitalism that is less dependent on financial services; ensuring that wealth is less concentrated in the South of England; demanding that business leaders offer new apprenticeships to our young people to deliver real skills; making it possible for each generation to enjoy a better quality of life than their predecessors.

These were the key themes in Ed Miliband's speech to the Labour Party conference last week. And each of them, every single one of them, was
repeated by David Cameron yesterday.

It happens very rarely that a Conservative Prime Minister directly echoes his Labour opponent. But Ed Miliband's speech explained the unique challenges that face Britain in a way that no other politician had yet done. A week on from Liverpool, even his severest of critics must now admit that Ed set the agenda this conference season.

The question remains, then, why, if Miliband's analysis was so powerful, is he not now being spoken of as Britain's next Prime Minister?

One of the reasons is Miliband's occasionally stilted speaking style. Another is the entrenched media scepticism about his leadership that has undermined him from the start. But most of all it results from the fact that although he has identified the challenges that Britain faces, he has not provided a persuasive account of how we should overcome them. More than that, when he has proposed a solution, it has too often involved the central state.

Writing in response to the Conservative conference this week, Miliband argued that the difference between the Tories and Labour lay in the fact that Labour was willing to use the power of government when the Tories were not. "All the time in the rules it sets --such as on tax and procurement-- governments make judgements", he argued, "encouraging one type of behaviour compared to another."

This is true. But it is not a powerful enough rallying-call for the British people in a time of political trouble. The answer to the challenges that Britain faces cannot be more government alone. The answer has also to involve you and me. The crisis requires changes in the way that we do business, the way we relate to each other in our communities, the way that we bring up our children. Not just changes in government action.

The Labour leader might not like the "can do optimism" that David Cameron offers. He might not relate to its vision of "get-up-and-go". But the British people do. They don't want just to have things done for them by someone else, least alone by those in Westminster and Whitehall. They want to be part of the solution to Britain's troubles, not just part of their cause.

Ed Miliband knows this. But at the moment the British people don't know that he does. In the months ahead, he must put this right. He must showhow we can come together in our own lives to help overcome the current crisis, even while the Conservatives are still in office. If he does that then he might well succeed not only in shaping the agenda of British politics but in helping to bring about the new political era of which he dreams.

Marc Stears is Visiting Fellow at IPPR and Professor of Political Theory at Oxford.

Marc Stears is fellow in politics, University College, Oxford and visiting fellow at IPPR.

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Is the French Left having its Jeremy Corbyn moment?

Benoit Hamon won the first round of the Socialist party's presidential primaries. 

Has the French Left taken a Corbynite turn? That's certainly the verdict of many after the first round of the French Socialist Party's primary.

In first place is Benoit Hamon, who quit Francois Hollande's government over its right turn in 2014, and counts the adoption of a universal basic income, the legalisation of cannabis and the right to die among his policy proposals, with 36 per cent of the vote.

In second place and facing an uphill battle to secure the nomination is Manuel Valls, the minister who more than any other symbolized the rightward lurch of Hollande's presidency, with 31 per cent. That of the five eliminated candidates - under the French system, if no candidate secures more than half of the vote, the top two go through to a run-off round - only one could even arguably be said to be closer to Valls than Hamon shows the struggle he will have to close the gap next weekend. And for a variety of reasons, even supporters of his close ally Sylvia Pinel may struggle to put a tick in his box. 

Still, Valls clearly believes that electability is his best card, and he's compared Hamon to Corbyn, who "chose to remain in opposition". Also making the Hamon-Corbyn comparison is most of the British press and several high-profile activists in the French Republican Party.

Is it merited? The differences are probably more important than the similarities: not least that Hamon served as a minister until 2014, and came up through the backrooms. In terms of the centre of gravity and the traditions of his party, he is much closer in analogue to Yvette Cooper and Andy Burnham than he is to Jeremy Corbyn, though Corbynistas and Hamonites bear a closer resemblance to one another than their leaders to.

What will give heart to the leader's office is that Hamon surged in the polls after each debate, when his ideas were given a bigger platform. But what will alarm everyone in Labour is the French Socialists' poll ratings - they are expected to get just 6 per cent in the elections. (And before you scoff at the polls, it's worth noting that they have, so far, performed admirably in the French electoral cycle, picking up on the lightning rise of both Hamon and Francois Fillon.)

That attests to something it's easy to forget in Westminster, where we tend to obsess over the United States and ignore politics on the Continent, despite the greater commonalities: throughout Europe, social democratic parties are in a fight for their lives, no matter if they turn to the left or the right.

The Democrats, in contrast, won the presidential election by close to three million votes and lost due to the electoral college. They have good prospects in the midterm elections and their greatest threat is gerrymandering and electoral malfeasance. But absent foul play, you'd have to be very, very brave to bet on them going extinct.

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.