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21 May 2011

Preview: Ed Miliband’s speech today

The Labour leader will call for his party to be optimistic again, and to embrace ex-Lib Dem voters.

By New Statesman

Later today, Ed Miliband will give the keynote address to party faithful at the Progress annual conference in London. His speech, we are told, will address the “scale of the challenge and scale of change” required.

The Labour Party cannot simply wait for the Tories to make mistakes, he will say, but must instead project a positive vision of the future. In a clear bid to regalvanise the party after the local election results, which emboldened the Tories, he will argue that Labour is already beginning to prove itself in opposition – successfully challenging the government on important issues.

But Labour has won elections only when it has been optimistic and dynamic, he will say, and this attitude is particularly important as a counter to the Tories’ austerity government. He will then outline areas which, he argues, it is critical that Labour address as part of its vision of the future:

  • The “new inequality” – the gulf between the squeezed middle and the wealthy elite.
  • Generational decline – the concern that today’s young people face huge challenges in terms of education and employment.
  • Strain on community – economic and social pressures damaging and splintering community relations.

Finally, the party leader will challenge those who have been “snooty” about Labour’s victories on the 5 May elections coming from ex-Lib Dem votes, rather than the Tories. Those votes might not be sufficient, he will say, but they are necessary and shouldn’t be taken for granted. Miiband will say that Labour should be doing all it can to reach out to disaffected Lib Dems.

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Besides Angela Eagle’s speech, which we previewed on yesterday, senior Labour figures appear to be urging the party to move on from the internal wrangling and questions that have dogged the early stages of Miliband’s leadership.

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Whether the membership will be convinced is another matter.

Miliband delivers his speech at 1.30pm today.