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6 May 2015

Ed Miliband rounds off his campaign with his greatest hits

After a contest that has transformed his standing in the party if not the country, Ed Miliband ended his campaign with Labour's strongest themes.

By Stephen Bush

Ed Miliband delivered a greatest hits style final address to the party faithful as he brought his campaign to a close with a rally in Leeds.

Norman Tebbit described the Conservatives’ 1987 election campaign as finishing “exactly as planned on the ground where Labour was weak and we were strong – defence, taxation, and the economy” and this was Miliband’s attempt to do so for Labour: the NHS, standing up to the rich, understanding the concerns of the little guy.

But he had another brief, to avoid echoes of another rally in Yorkshire that haunts Labour still: Neil Kinnock’s triumphalist display in Sheffield in 1992. That unexpected defeat haunts Labour still – the growing panic in the party that I wrote about yesterday probably has more to do with that defeat than anything that will happen tomorrow.

This was short on triumphalism and long on exhortations to join the campaign’s final push. Labour have hit their target for four million conversations with room to spare – they have now racked up five million and will likely hit six tomorrow on polling day.

It capped off a campaign when Miliband – who many in Labour feared and the Tories hoped would be a drag on the party – at last did what his closest advisors and earliest supporters always hoped he would: present “the real Miliband” to the public at large. His standing is still spooking undecided voters in the marginals – they have gone from “contempt to caution” in the words of one Labour candidate in the battlegrounds – but he has transformed his internal standing within the party and exceeded expectations in the press.

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That may not change the final result. As Neil Kinnock recalled in his recent interview with George: “I got the prize for the campaign and still didn’t win.” But if the worst happens it may well be enough for Miliband to emulate Kinnock not in 1992 but in 1987 – and stay on after an electoral defeat. 

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