Wanted: One leader’s speech that appeals on the doorstep, to unions, and catapults the leader of the opposition into the public’s imagination as a prime minister in waiting.
Two years ago Ed Miliband had that famous blank sheet of paper. This conference, it’s about filling it in with some indication of what Labour would do in government.
But the trick is not giving away too much. As one Labour aide told The Huffington Post UK, the party is “drifting” during this conference.
It would be insanity for them to outline too many of their policy ideas two-and-a-half years away from an election. But they also need to give a flavour of what's on offer to keep their activist base engaged - and show the media what Labour’s alternative would be. It's a tight line to walk - we'll see how they, and Ed, does.
Miliband is expected to deliver a speech in Manchester today described by aides as highly "personal", drawing on his immigrant roots and comprehensive education to outline reforms to the school system that will target the “forgotten 50%" who do not go to university.
We’ve assembled an ad-hoc panel of five leading figures in the Labour movement to say what they want from his speech.
Anthony Painter: Labour activist and think tanker
"People are worried about their jobs, standards of living, security in old age and real opportunities for the young. Ed Miliband will need to avoid vague and aloof language. Instead the test of the leader's speech will be the degree to which he can emotionally connect with these anxieties while offering real solutions."
Ellie Mae O'Hagan, organiser for Unite and Guardian columnist
"I would like to see Ed Miliband pledge to reverse the suffocating anti-trade union laws passed by Margaret Thatcher and I would like to see him mount a proper defence of vulnerable people who are currently being demonised. I don't think he can maintain his progressive label just by complaining about bankers' bonuses or criticising Rupert Murdoch.
"I don't expect him to do any of this, but it's what I want. He needs to defend the right to strike, because it's a human right and it's the only tool the workers' have to address the balance of power between them and their employers and it's an important human right. He needs to acknowledge the rights that unions have won for people and the difference they make as a society and they make us more equal."
Will Straw, Associate Director, IPPR
"Ed needs to project leadership as Britain's PM in waiting. He must show he is willing to be tough on banks, energy firms and other powerful elites as well as being clear that there are no eay answers in addressing Britain's persistent deficit."
Rowenna Davis, writer and Labour councillor
"Ed's speech has to chime with a country that is struggling. He must be on the side of hard work and responsibility to family and friends. He needs to convince people that he can lead. Ed has always been good at the philosophy behind his vision but he needs emotion and experience to cut through with a public that is badly hurting and deeply sceptical of all politicians.
"He won't achieve everything in one speech partly because too many people are involved in writing it - but he'll take another small but important step forward."
Mark Ferguson, editor of Labourlist
"Whilst Miliband's personal leadership ratings aren't great, it's important to remember that to a certain extent his leadership is "factored in" to Labour's polling. You don't jump from the high twenties to the low forties with a leader who's a total dud - regardless of what some hardened cynics might argue. Yes, he's a credible PM. He may not look like one, but Cameron is an archetypal British PM - and he's making a pretty poor fist of it. It's probably time for someone who is capable of consensus building.
"There is an argument to be made that Ed Miliband is an arch opportunist. When an opportunity presents itself to change politics, he grabs it. I just hope he remembers that as well as shaping the debate he needs to get the credit too. Because that might be the difference between winning an election, and a long stint in opposition.
"As for the speech? Ed needs something that dominates the news cycle on Wednesday. We need a "doorstep policy" that cuts through."
So, a doorstep policy which emphasises responsibility and real solutions. Our panel will be back later on Tuesday to assess how he did.
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