Ed Miliband: He’s not for turning

How will Ed Miliband remake capitalism when there is no money to spend?

Ed Miliband, pictured in the garden of his north London home. Photograph: Kate Peters / Institute

“Economics are the method; the object is to change the soul.”

Margaret Thatcher

Ed Miliband is feeling replenished having returned recently with his wife, Justine, and their two young children from a holiday in Greece, his first extended break since 2009. He left his mobile phone behind in London, read no British newspapers and watched no television news while he was away, in what amounted to a full withdrawal from the hectic trivialities of the Westminster merry-go-round. “It was such a relief and a liberation not having a phone,” he says. If someone needed to contact him, they were told to ring Justine – “which of course they were reluctant to do”.

Marc Stears, the Oxford academic who is an old university friend, had told me that Miliband is feeling “quietly confident” and is in a “deep and reflective space”. “It’s good to see him like that,” he said. “What strikes me is how calm he is. He knows the party is now settled behind him. He has this gift of being able to see the midterm and long term and this helps him through the rough times. I think he feels that people are listening more now and he’s in a different place.”

“I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, Jason,” Miliband says by way of confirmation as he leads me around the side of his imposing house in north London and into the narrow garden. It is one of those rare, luminous September mornings, the light diffuse and all the more beautiful because you know the days are inexorably shortening. The garden is overgrown, the grass damp underfoot in the early-morning sunshine. Tom Baldwin, an all-action and super-watchful media aide, pulls up chairs and brings us coffee. Miliband is wearing a casual, pale grey-blue shirt and a dusting of powder on his face (for the benefit of our photographer, one presumes). His thick, grey-flecked, dark hair is pushed back.

He looks as well as I’ve seen him for some time, and there’s a drifting, dreamy quality to his conversation. He is animated by ideas and grand abstractions. Policy detail can wait for another day.

As he enters the new autumn season, the Labour leader, who is 42, is restless to explain where he feels the party has reached under his stewardship and to warn against complacency. (“We’re not going to get back into government by just saying we’re just going to carry on where we left off,” he says. “Nor are we going to get in just by waiting for the Tories to fail.”) On the morning we meet he is refining and editing a speech on the economy – drafts are scattered across a table – to be delivered later in the week. But he begins by telling me what he has been reading on his new Kindle, the ease of use and convenience of which have delighted him. “I read The Fear Index, you know, by Robert Harris, Skios by Michael Frayn, which is about Greece. And then I read a couple of more serious books – The New Few by Ferdinand Mount, How Much Is Enough? by Robert and Edward Skidelsky and also the [Michael] Sandel” – What Money Can’t Buy: the Moral Limits of Markets.

The last three titles share a family resemblance: deliberative and quasi-philosophical in tone, they seek to question the morality of the market-driven, winner-takes-all model of capitalism that has led to record levels of inequality in Britain and the United States, environmental degradation and a kind of deeper existential malaise.

“We drifted from having a market economy to being a market society,” Sandel writes in What Money Can’t Buy, which can be read as an indictment of the economic and political consensus of the past 30 years. (Miliband tells me excitedly that the Harvard political philosopher will be attending the Labour party conference in Manchester.)

“The way I put it is that there are two tasks I feel that I have, two tasks in particular. One is to fill out the policy agenda of an economy that works for working people; how we want to reform our economy – and that’s everything from banking to skills to short-termism to a whole range of things – how do we change this economy? I set out a position, ‘predators-producers’ [in his speech at last year’s Labour conference in Liverpool], that doesn’t look so daft now. “A lot of people who weren’t that keen on predators-producers at the time now recognise that it had something going for it, so that’s one task. But I think there’s a bigger task as well – I’m not going to come to the Labour party conference this year and just say, ‘Predators-producers: I was right, whatever.’ I’m not interested in doing that. I’m interested in saying, ‘What kind of country can we be?’ I think that’s what people don’t get from [David] Cameron. The government’s not just shambolic, and it’s not just unfair, and it’s not just standing up for the wrong people. It’s also – what is the bigger vision for where Britain goes?”

He mentions the London Olympic Games and the euphoria that many of us felt during those days of August, when it seemed at times as if the whole country was in the grip of a kind of ecstatic sociality, as if we couldn’t quite believe that everything was going as well as it was. There was joy and there was relief – as well as a renewed understanding of what kind of country Britain is and has the potential to be. “That’s why the Olympics was such a big moment for my generation,” he says. “There’s a guy – the commercial director for one of the sports teams – who I just happened to meet when I went to an event, and he said to me, ‘For the first time, I had a sense of Britain’s future which made sense to me.’ That was after Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony. And I don’t think it was just Danny Boyle, I think it’s the sense we had of a country coming together, something really important for a nation.”

How do politicians capture that sense of thrilling possibility and make of it something of lasting value? How do you make the restructuring of capitalism a collaborative, patriotic, nation-building project? “I think that’s exactly the right way to put it,” Miliband says, tilting forward in his chair. “I think the Olympics is a very important moment for me – it was very important for the country most of all, but important for me because I think, for the first time in my life, I got a sense of what my dad [the Marxist academic Ralph Miliband] used to talk to me about, about the wartime spirit, his time in the navy. You can’t have a permanent Olympic Games, but I think there’s something about ‘what kind of country do we feel like’. Do we feel a sense of obligation to each other? Do people feel the benefits and burdens of life are fairly distributed? Those things are partly economic but they go deeper than that.”

He pauses, as if his thoughts are not quite yet becoming the words he wants. “What are the institutions that we have in common – the NHS, the BBC? Very interesting that the Olym­pics was only what it was – or one of the reasons the Olympics was what it was – because we had a free-to-air broadcaster which was able to promote the national conversation . . .

“I think one of the biggest policy agendas for us is the future of mental health. We are a stressed-out country. That’s everything from depression to general stress – and there’s a great taboo about mental health . . . What kind of economy you have shapes what kind of society you are. If you’re a country where people need to work two or three jobs, 50/60 hours a week, don’t get a chance to see their kids, all of that – then you’re not a country that is at ease with itself and you’re not a country where people have the well-being that they need.”

Miliband outlines three immediate self-imposed challenges. “One, you’ve got to have a country where everyone feels that they have a stake. You can’t have a country that feels a sense of shared project when there are people left out . . . young people who have got no work, got no chance of work, you know. So that’s the first thing.

“Secondly, people have got to feel that this country moves together, this country shares the benefits and burdens fairly. When you get CEOs paying themselves a thousand, two thousand times what their lowest-paid employee [gets], that’s not a country that’s together. And what is so interesting is that the right is saying that as well.”

You mean the more thoughtful, cerebral right . . . “Yes, the more thoughtful right. Now, Cameron is cut off from that political project. It might have been Cameron in 2006, 2007, but it’s just not Cameron now.”

But Cameron speaks of the iniquities of “crony capitalism”. He has his own reformist position on the crisis and its aftermath.

“I know, but he doesn’t believe it, does he?”

Ferdy Mount thinks he believes it.

Tom Baldwin interjects: “They are cousins [Mount and Cameron].”

Miliband: “Well, anyway, look, if Cameron really believes it, you don’t cut taxes for millionaires and then raise taxes for everybody else and say a country is coming together. So that’s the second thing. And thirdly, I think it’s our areas of common life. The NHS, our local school, the local high street, the BBC – all of these are things you nurture, and I don’t think you have to be a Conservative to believe this. That’s where Blue Labour had an important grain of truth in it. Which is this: there are things we seek to conserve and things we seek to change. And that’s my project.”

Miliband speaks broadly but without precision; he is fluent but not always articulate. He knows what he thinks but not always how to say what he thinks, hence his fondness for vague generalities and gnomic utterances. Part of the problem is that he is trying to find a new way of speaking about the present and near future, to find a convincing language of economic and political reform. The economic ideas with which he is grappling are necessarily complex; he seeks nothing less, Stears says, than “to create a new paradigm”. Miliband has an instinct for change and understands fundamentally what ought to be done. Ought implies can. He knows also that there can be no returning to the old Labour ways, even if they were styled as New Labour ways: tax and spend, with the centralised state as the engine of (re)distribution and control. Yet the danger for his “responsible capitalism” agenda is that it could go the same way as the Tories’ utopian “big society” – an opportunity squandered for not being properly thought through, or explained, or widely understood. The rhetoric of the “big society” did not play well on the doorsteps, it was said, during the last election campaign. Would the new responsible capitalism do any better?

In The New Few, a disquisition on the rise of a rapacious oligarchy which is of British society but operates in selfish disregard of it, Ferdinand Mount quotes from a speech Miliband gave in June 2011, in which he spoke of the corrosive effects of inequality and of how a culture of corporate irresponsibility had damaged us all.

I asked Mount how he thought Miliband was shaping up as a leader. He replied, in an email, saying that he had not been following his recent speeches. “I do not have much of an opinion to offer re E Miliband, having not got much further than still thinking of him as the man who shafted his brother,” he wrote to me. “As for my book being taken up by the left, most of my fan mail, such as it is, comes from former directors of FTSE-100 companies, saying that, alas, yes, that’s pretty much how it is these days. The truth is, or ought to be, that a campaign to restore transparency and accountability to business ought to be an all-party thing. After all, it was D Cameron, I think, who coined the best phrase for it, ‘crony capitalism’. More importantly perhaps, much of the reform is going to have to be self-generating (eg, the shareholder spring), rather than led by government of whatever party, although govt must play a energetic supporting role.”

Miliband has been working on early drafts of his forthcoming conference speech, which will elaborate on and develop the defining theme of his leadership – how does a party of the centre left achieve social justice when the old statist tax-and-transfer model of redistribution is no longer affordable, if it ever really was, when the tax base has proved to be less than resilient and excessively dependent on financial services and house-price inflation?

He believes that last year’s conference speech – in which he contrasted “responsible” with “predatory” capitalism, but then struggled to explain afterwards what he meant – was misunderstood because “it was ahead of its time”. Some of those closest to him feel that, even though it had a powerful central message that continues to resonate, the speech was poorly written, paced and delivered, and tonally wrong. “Too many people were involved in the speech,” an insider told me. “This year, Ed is working on the speech and talking to Marc [Stears] to avoid those mistakes.”

I asked Stears about this and his role in Miliband’s intellectual and political development. “I act as a kind of sounding board,” he says. “It’s all about understanding. Last year’s speech came out without much preparation. And now he feels some mild form of vindication. First he had to outline what kind of capitalism he wants to see . . . the core pieces of policy detail come later.

“He’s establishing a new paradigm – something different from where the coalition is and where New Labour was. But he has to explain the project first.”

Although he doesn’t use these words, Mili­band sees his as a counter-hegemonic project, something comparable in ambition to how the Thatcherite new right came from the margins to seize control of the Conservative Party at the end of the 1970s and remake the nation in the process. Margaret Thatcher once said: “The Old Testament prophets did not say, ‘Brothers, I want a consensus.’ They said, ‘This is my faith. This is what I passionately believe. If you believe it, too, then come with me.’”

Milibandism, like Thatcherism, aspires to be something profoundly disruptive, something consensus-breaking. But is his project properly understood? Does he have a coherent set of ideas? What are its main texts and who are its outriders and public intellectuals? “This is what we believe,” Thatcher used to say, brandishing a copy of Friedrich Hayek’s Consti­tution of Liberty. Would Miliband have the confidence to use the first-person plural in the same way, to speak of an inclusive we-ness? Does Milibandism as an ideology amount to much beyond an instinct for fairness, some solid rhetorical positioning and a desire to reform capitalism?

In a recent essay for the New Statesman, Neil O’Brien, the director of Policy Exchange and one of the most interesting of the younger thinkers on the right, suggested that Miliband was torn between “pragmatism and radicalism” and this accounted for his overall lack of clarity and coherence. Meanwhile, he wrote, Labour shadow ministers were “racking up spending commitments” on child benefit, tax credits, the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA), tuition fees, the Disability Living Allowance, and so on.

But that’s not how Miliband sees it. First of all, he accepts that fiscal conservatism is and will be the order of the day and that Labour will have no spare money to spend if it wins the general election in 2015. In January, Ed Balls, the shadow chancellor, with whom Miliband has a fractious relationship, said: “My starting point is, I’m afraid, we are going to have to keep all these [Tory] cuts.” In a speech a few days later, Miliband reiterated the position.

This angered Labour’s union paymasters and many commentators on the left who believe it is Labour’s mission to mitigate the worst excesses of capitalism and to keep on taxing and spending to protect the poorest and most vulnerable. Len McCluskey, head of the Unite union, wrote: “Ed Balls’s sudden embrace of austerity and the public-sector pay squeeze represents a victory for discredited Blairism at the expense of the party’s core supporters. It also challenges the whole course Ed Miliband has set for the party, and perhaps his leadership itself.”

Little has been heard on this subject from either Balls or Miliband since then. “But our position hasn’t changed,” Miliband says now. “Look, we absolutely hold to everything we said at the beginning of the year, and what Ed and I said was that the next Labour government is going to take over in very different circumstances and is going to have to have a very different prospectus than the last. And if we came along and said, ‘Look, we can just carry on like the last Labour government did’ – I mean it’s politically crackers to do that, because we wouldn’t win the election and we wouldn’t deserve to win the election.

“We can’t say: ‘Look, we just want to sort of carry on where we left off, you know, the electorate was wrong, we were right, thanks very much . . .’ It’s not realistic. Ed Balls is not going to go to the Labour party conference and say, ‘It’s going to be the old model where we have economic growth and then we’ll use lots of that money to spend . . . billions of pounds.’ It’s not realistic and it’s not credible.”

Aren’t you worried that there will be another push back from the unions and that you will be forced into retreat again?

“Look, we are setting out in a different dir­ection. We’ve learned that tax and benefit policy is important as an instrument of fairness but it’s not sufficient, and it’s going to be much less open to the next Labour government . . . which is why the rules of the economy are incredibly important.”

So is fiscal conservatism the new Labour orthodoxy? “Hang on,” he says, “I don’t like the [phrase] ‘fiscal conservatism’, because people sort of think, ‘Well, what does that mean?’ Let me put it in my own terms: what I say is the next Labour government will be far more constrained in terms of what it is able to spend. And therefore the new agenda about how we change our economy is necessary . . . it’s accepting an absolute reality, which is a much more constrained fiscal environment.”

So great will be these constraints that Labour would be unlikely to reintroduce the EMA, he says, which will enrage many younger supporters. “I can’t make a promise on EMA. You can’t say to me there’s less money to spend and are you realistic about the economic circumstances and then I spray around lots of promises. That’s why Ed’s speech [on fiscal discipline] in January and my speech were important.”

He says that relations between him and the shadow chancellor are, contrary to reports, “good”. Balls is said to be sceptical of Miliband’s lofty rhetoric on responsible capitalism and is a soft rather than hard reformer: he does not believe the economic model is broken, as such. Fix the alternator, change the oil, replace the spark plugs and the vehicle will be on its way again. Miliband would scrap the entire vehicle. “It’s total nonsense [what is said about him and Balls].”

But you didn’t trust him enough, for whatever reason, to appoint him shadow chancellor when you first had the chance.

“Look, you make the decisions you make. We’ve been working together now for 18 months. Everybody said at the time that it would be a repeat of Blair and Brown and all that. But it’s total nonsense, honestly. He’s been proved right about austerity.”

People say that Balls is an intimidating presence physically and intellectually, that you’re wary of him? He shakes his head. “To the Tory opponents he is, yes, and that’s a jolly good thing.”

Miliband accepts that the old Labour model of deciding targets for public services cannot be replicated. “There’s one way that says you just set lots of targets centrally and that’s the way you make public services work. That’s the Brown model, slightly caricatured. The second model is – if it doesn’t work, tender it out. Outsource it. That has its problems of fragmentation. Take what [Michael] Gove is doing in education. He’s a great centraliser, actually. He’s trying to run 1,500 academies from central government. The Labour response should not be simply to say that all academies’ powers should be sucked back to local authorities. I want to devolve more power to all schools – about the curriculum, about the way they work, but at the same time we’ve got to have some local co-ordination.”

As for the new free schools, “We’ll judge each one by what it does. But the problem with free schools is that you’re robbing Peter to pay Paul, so there are kids in my constituency who aren’t getting the [school] buildings rebuilt. The Tories and Gove don’t seem to see schools as an instrument of the local community . . . it’s just let’s have schools popping up all over like supermarkets and through this competitive alchemy it will make the school system better. I just don’t buy that argument.”

If Labour would be seeking to redistribute less in government, one aim would be to predistribute more through the spread of the living wage and through keeping more people in work so that they would become less of a burden on the welfare state; through improved training and skills, having an industrial policy and encouraging responsibility from top to bottom in society. “The redistribution of the last Labour government relied on revenue which the next Labour government will not enjoy,” he planned to say in his speech on 6 September. “The option of simply increasing tax credits in the way we did before will not be open to us.”

Miliband is vulnerable to the criticism that while he is comfortable speaking about the need for a new political economy, he is unconvincing on the subject of public-service reform. Equally, if he wishes to remake British capitalism as radically as he says, this will not be achieved through class struggle and mere conviction from the left. He will have to build alliances with civil society groups, greens, the unions and, especially, business.

I ask him whether Labour would legislate to force firms to pay the living wage. “You can use government procurement,” he says. “I’m interested in that. Labour councils are starting to do it. We’re going to be saying more about that in the next few weeks, about the way the Labour councils are working with us, working with London Citizens to start paying the living wage. There are definitely things you can do on that.”

A long-standing Liberal aspiration has been to switch the tax burden from earned to unearned income, from wages to wealth. In an age when capital is so mobile and the very rich so adept at avoiding taxation, when the international plutocracy live happily in London oblivious to the struggles of the poor around them while contributing so little to society, surely it is Labour that should be thinking more ambitiously about taxing wealth and static assets – those things that cannot move, such as land and mansions and mobile-phone masts.

Miliband’s disappointing reply is to say that he will not “freewheel on tax policy”. Nor does he support Nick Clegg’s recent call for a one-off wealth tax. During the Labour leadership contest in the summer of 2010, in an interview with me, he said that he “could never work with Clegg”. Does that remain his position? “I’m not going to get into that poker game,” he says. “I want a Labour majority at the next election. But I’ve always said that wisdom doesn’t reside in one party, that’s why I’ve talked about Beveridge, Keynes . . .”

And Cable?

“I don’t think Vince would put himself in the same category as Beveridge and Keynes. Matthew Oakeshott [the Lib Dem peer] might, though.” He laughs. What of Cable sending you a text of support after your conference speech last year? “I don’t think the text was quite as eulogistic as that. But take the issue of Murdoch or the boundary changes. If the Liberal Democrats have the same position as us then that’s important and we’ll work with them.

“What’s happened to them is very bad for the country. I feel they made a terrible, tragic mistake [in entering the coalition]. I remember sitting in the coalition negotiations, the unsuccessful ones, and saying to them: ‘Do you realise what supporting the Tory deficit plan would mean? They all looked at me slightly blank. They hadn’t really thought it through.”

‘‘The leadership of hopeless opposition is a gloomy affair,” wrote Disraeli, “and there is little distinction when your course is not associated with the possibility of future power.” Miliband knows that the public feels no love for the coalition government or for its senior ministers and has begun to doubt its basic competence, but nor is there much fondness for any politician, beyond the maverick Mayor of London, Boris Johnson. Miliband would have been encouraged by how the crowd booed George Osborne during a Paralympic medal presentation ceremony on the evening of 3 September. For him, at present, opposition feels neither hopeless nor gloomy. He is enthralled by the prospect of future power and what might be achieved with it.

“The truth about modern politics is that the only way in which you can feel long in the future that you’ve done the right thing is by doing what you believe,” he says. “What have I learned most in the job? Follow my instincts.”

Is that what has sustained you when things have got rough?

“Justine, plus my instincts. My family is the most important thing in my life and therefore that’s always what you fall back on.”

Because it can be brutal, can’t it?

“Yeah, but I think what you learn most of all is, er – is it Zen? I’m not sure Zen is quite right, but I’m a pretty stoical guy. You know it’s not a walk in the park . . . but I’m sanguine. I know that conventional wisdom can swing one way, it can swing the other. I think I’ve just got to keep doing what I think is right and setting out my agenda. I think it’s the right agenda for the country. We’re going to expand it and broaden it in the months ahead.”

Apart from Justine, who are Miliband’s closest allies? Who does he trust and confide in? “He’s unusual in that I don’t think he’s that close to anyone,” said Neal Lawson of Compass, who has regular policy discussions with the leader and his team. “He’s quite close to Stewart [Lord Wood, who sits in the shadow cabinet as minister without portfolio] and Marc [Stears], but there’s no Mandelson, Campbell or Gould. What he has is great belief in himself. And he has this ability to manage people and situations – which is what got him the leadership. But is it enough? He’s as good as we’ve got and we have to support him, but I’d like to see a more coherent, strategic, long-term style of leadership.

“You’ve got to credit him for [the way he confronted] Murdoch and the responsible capitalism stuff – this and the Tory omnishambles have bought him some space; he’s no longer just surviving the day. But he needs to build organising forces in the party, through the unions, in civil society, a progressive alliance of forces for a bigger political push . . . Plus, I’m not sure he’s got a theory of political change.”

Whatever he has or hasn’t got, a big chance awaits Miliband. Boldness and an unbreakable self-belief have carried him a long way and those who once traduced and ridiculed him have been forced to pause and reflect and even to start listening to what he has to say. Disaffected social-liberal supporters of the Lib Dems have begun realigning behind Labour. He has held his party together when many expected it to fragment, even if the coalition of forces in and around the party remains fragile – witness how the unions and the left mobilised against Balls and Miliband in January.

As a manager of people, he is pragmatic and flexible. He has good practical, or emotional, intelligence, so important in a politician. And his thinking is becoming increasingly heterodox. He is forming surprising links and he remains intellectually open, as he demonstrated by asking Jon Cruddas to lead the party’s policy review.

On welfare and benefits, he insists that some form of contribution from the recipients must replace what Liam Byrne, the former head of Labour’s policy review, called, in a contentious intervention, “unearned support”. (It was said that Byrne received a “punishment beating” for speaking out on the ills of welfare dependency, but Miliband scoffs at this, and says: “I have a lot of time for Liam.”)

“I do think we need a society where people make a contribution,” he tells me. “You build a successful society out of people showing responsibility. That’s an important principle at the top; it’s an important principle elsewhere. But people at the top have a particular respon­sibility because they help define the ethic of the country.” Later he says: “The majority of people in business are doing the right thing. But there are some people in business who are doing the wrong thing and I’m not going to shrink from saying it. At the same time, I think it’s important we talk the same way about people on benefits.”

Miliband understands the depth of our crisis and accepts the Gramscian analysis that we are suspended uneasily between the old order that is dying and the new one that is struggling to be born. What flows into the interregnum? “It’s deep what’s happened with the Tories,” he says. “Honestly, it’s deep. There’s the incompetence, there’s the plan having failed and there’s also who they stand up for. I could see it in Cameron’s eyes when I was challenging him after the Budget [after the announcement of the cut in the top rate of income tax]. He was suddenly thinking to himself: ‘Why did I do this?’”

He does not want Milibandism to be defined as a state-based project: “People are out of love with an uncontrolled market but they’re certainly not in love with a remote state.” He speaks about mutualism, localism, devolution and the decentralisation of power. He wants to invest in the green economy because “actually the future of the economy is green”. For this reason, he remains “sceptical” about building a third runway at Heathrow. “We have a cross-party consensus that we must cut our carbon emissions by 80 per cent by 2050. What does that mean for our aviation emissions? You can’t just have unlimited expansion. The coalition is rocking like a drunken sailor on this issue of runways and airports. But where is the debate about the environment in this?”

What is clear is that Miliband has a direction of travel but his ideas remain far from fully formed. He has an instinct for change but not a plan. Policy is in the process of being remade and rethought. Everything is in flux, as it must be in the midterm of a fixed five-year parliament and after a profound election defeat. And after his holiday, he has the enthusiasm of a young headmaster, high on the thin air of his own ambition, excited by the books he’s read, preparing for the start of the new school year.

Once red, Ed is now wrapping himself in the blue robes of fiscal conservatism (sorry, responsibility). He is pulling the leading Blue Labour thinkers into a tight embrace: Cruddas, Stears, Jon­athan Rutherford. Of the old-band members, only Maurice Glasman, whom he ennobled, is missing, presumably still under house arrest after his attack on Miliband’s leadership style in the New Statesman in January.

But can Ed be both blue and red? Can he, as O’Brien asks, be both a pragmatist and a radical? The paradox is this: he believes he can remake capitalism at precisely the moment when there is no money to spend, not through redistribution but through predistribution and procurement, not through the tried and tested state-based method of tax and transfer but through . . . what, exactly? That remains the Big Unanswerable.

“I think this is a centre-left moment,” he says optimistically, as I prepare to leave. “Why might you think it’s a centre-right moment? Well, because of issues of fiscal responsibility, which is why we must be strong on that. But for me it’s a centre-left moment because people think there’s something unfair and unjust about our society. You’ve got to bring the vested interest to heel; you’ve got to change the way the economy works. That’s our opportunity.”

Miliband has told us what his faith is and what he passionately believes. Economics are the method: the object is to change the culture, even the soul of the nation. But can he reform capitalism in one country while globalisation prevails? A better and final question – will enough of the people come with him?