David Cameron and Ed Miliband walk through parliament before the Queen's Speech today. Photograph: Getty Images.
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Miliband frames himself as an anti-politician

The Labour leader presented himself as a man with the ambition and imagination to speak for an alienated public.

Labour aides promised in advance that Ed Miliband's response to the Queen's Speech would not be a "traditional" one, and he was true to their word. Rather than delivering a limited and lighthearted reply, Miliband used the occasion to offer a grand and ambitious reflection on the anti-politics mood in the country.

He started with several well-received jokes, including at his own expense. Tory MP Penny Mourdaunt, who opened the debate with a fine and witty speech, "Should try wrestling a bacon sandwich live on national television," he quipped (a line that David Cameron saw fit to recycle in his response). It served as proof that self-deprecation is the modern politician's best form of defence.

In response to the Lib Dems' Annette Brooke, who followed Mourdaunt, he joked: "She voted against tuition fees, has described being in the coalition as 'terrible' and says the Lib Dem record on women MPs is 'dreadful.' By current Lib Dem standards, Mr Speaker, that apparently makes her a staunch loyalist." To further laughter, he added that after the European elections, "She can now boast that 100 per cent of Liberal Democrat MEPs are women."

But the mood soon turned as he warned that the recent elections showed that the Commons faces "A battle for relevance, legitimacy and standing in the eyes of the public." The "zombie parliament" line deployed by Labour this morning was nowhere to be seen; Miliband was striving for higher ground. Rather than addressing his "opponents across the despatch box", he fixed his sights on "an even bigger opponent": the belief among the public that "this House cannot achieve anything at all."

The initial good will towards him dissipated after he seized on interventions by Conservative MPs as exemplars of parliament's failings. He derided the "planted questions" from the government benches - "no wonder people hate politics" - and attacked those "shouting from a sedentary position". After Nigel Farage seized his insurgent crown last month, this was an attempt to claim it back. But if Miliband is to win a hearing, he will need to hold those on his own side to the same standard. Indeed, it took Cameron little time to note in his response that Ed Balls was indulging in exactly the kind of heckling he had denounced. He was also charged with committing the sin that voters loathe most - not giving a straight answer - by refusing to say whether Labour would raise National Insurance.

But the greatest challenge for Miliband is that, to many, he makes a profoundly unconvincing anti-politician. He served in the government expelled by voters just four years ago and has spent his entire career in the confines of Westminster and Whitehall. The rise of Farage has made it even harder for him to avoid being bracketed with Cameron and Clegg as part of the problem, not the solution.

Miliband cannot be accused of not offering answers. After announcing more policy than any opposition leader in recent history, he rattled off the bills that would feature in the first Queen's Speech of a Labour government: a Make Work Pay Bill to restore the link between national growth and family finances; a Banking Bill to increase lending to small businesses; a Community Bill to devolve power from Whitehall; an Immigration Bill "to stop workers being undercut"; a Consumers' Bill to freeze energy prices while the market is reset; a Housing Bill to ease the affordability crisis; and an NHS Bill to halt privatisation and make it easier to see GPs.

Whether he can persuade voters that these promises are no less credible coming from someone who is railing against the system from within, not without, will determine whether he succeeds.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Forget the progressive alliance - it was the voters wot won it in Richmond

The Labour candidate on how voters have acted tactically for decades.

The Richmond Park by-election is both a triumph and a setback for the concept of an anti-Tory progressive alliance. As the Labour candidate, I was bombarded with emails and tweets saying I ought to stand down to prevent Zac Goldsmith being re-elected long after it was technically impossible for me to do so even if I had wanted to. I was harangued at a meeting organised by Compass, at which I found myself the lonely voice defending Labour's decision to put up a candidate.

I was slightly taken aback by the anger of some of those proposing the idea, but I did not stand for office expecting an easy ride. I told the meeting that while I liked the concept of a progressive alliance, I did not think that should mean standing down in favour of a completely unknown and inexperienced Lib Dem candidate, who had been selected without any reference to other parties. 

The Greens, relative newbies to the political scene, had less to lose than Labour, which still wants to be a national political party. Consequently, they told people to support the Lib Dems. This all passed off smoothly for a while, but when Caroline Lucas, the co-leader of the Greens came to Richmond to actively support the Lib Dems, it was more than some of her local party members could stomach. 

They wrote to the Guardian expressing support for my campaign, pointing out that I had a far better, long-established reputation as an environmentalist than the Lib Dem candidate. While clearly that ultimately did little to boost my vote, this episode highlighted one of the key problems about creating a progressive alliance. Keeping the various wings of the Labour party together, especially given the undisciplined approach of the leader who, as a backbencher, voted 428 times during the 13 years of Labour government in the 1990s and 2000s, is hard enough. Then consider trying to unite the left of the Greens with the right of the Lib Dems. That is not to include various others in this rainbow coalition such as nationalists and ultra-left groups. Herding cats seems easy by contrast.

In the end, however, the irony was that the people decided all by themselves. They left Labour in droves to vote out Goldsmith and express their opposition to Brexit. It was very noticeable in the last few days on the doorstep that the Lib Dems' relentless campaign was paying dividends. All credit to them for playing a good hand well. But it will not be easy for them to repeat this trick in other constituencies. 

The Lib Dems, therefore, did not need the progressive alliance. Labour supporters in Richmond have been voting tactically for decades. I lost count of the number of people who said to me that their instincts and values were to support Labour, but "around here it is a wasted vote". The most revealing statistic is that in the mayoral campaign, Sadiq Khan received 24 per cent of first preferences while Caroline Pidgeon, the Lib Dem candidate got just 7 per cent. If one discounts the fact that Khan was higher profile and had some personal support, this does still suggest that Labour’s real support in the area is around 20 per cent, enough to give the party second place in a good year and certainly to get some councillors elected.

There is also a complicating factor in the election process. I campaigned strongly on opposing Brexit and attacked Goldsmith over his support for welfare cuts, the bedroom tax and his outrageous mayoral campaign. By raising those issues, I helped undermine his support. If I had not stood for election, then perhaps a few voters may have kept on supporting him. One of my concerns about the idea of a progressive alliance is that it involves treating voters with disdain. The implication is that they are not clever enough to make up their mind or to understand the restrictions of the first past the post system. They are given less choice and less information, in a way that seems patronising, and smacks of the worst aspects of old-fashioned Fabianism.

Supporters of the progressive alliance will, therefore, have to overcome all these objections - in addition to practical ones such as negotiating the agreement of all the parties - before being able to implement the concept. 

Christian Wolmar is an award winning writer and broadcaster specialising in transport. He was shortlisted as a Labour mayoral candidate in the 2016 London election, and stood as Labour's candidate in the Richmond Park by-election in December 2016.