POLITICS

Mehdi's Morning Memo: 'Right Hates It. Left Likes It. Public Will Get It.'

25/09/2013 08:25 BST
PA
Labour leader Ed Miliband making his keynote speech to delegates during his Party's annual conference at The Brighton Centre, Brighton.

The five things you need to know on Wednesday 25 September 2013...

1) ED MILIBAND

"The right hates it. The left likes it. The public well get it. Most importantly, you can't ignore it."

That's the verdict of a senior aide to Ed Miliband, speaking to me off the record, on his leader's big speech in Brighton yesterday.

He's spot on - it certainly hasn't been ignored by the papers, which do indeed divide on left-right lines.

First, the right:

"Back to the bad old days... Red Ed revives 70s socialism," screams the Mail on its front page.

"Red Ed power cut fear," is the Sun's headline.

"Blackout threat over Miliband's fuel pledge," is the Times splash.

The latter reports:

"A promise by Ed Miliband to freeze gas and electricity bills provoked warnings last night of blackouts, job losses and a threat by one leading energy company to leave Britain... The Confederation of British Industry said that Labour had damaged its 'pro-enterprise credentials'. Mr Miliband's signature policy, a 20-month freeze on gas and electricity prices, provoked fury from the energy companies. The proposal, which Labour claims would save households £120 and businesses £1,800 but cost the energy firms about £4.5 billion in lost revenue, was welcomed by consumer groups... Centrica, one of the big six energy companies, said that it was prepared to leave the country if it was forced to hold retail prices at a set level while the wholesale cost rose. Sir Roger Carr, its chairman, said that the policy threatened economic ruin."

The City AM editor, Allister Heath, writing in the Telegraph, says "Ed Miliband's extraordinary assault on the energy market is the final, depressing confirmation that Labour has returned to its collectivist, anti–capitalist comfort zone."

The left, however, is delighted. The Guardian's leader declares:

"[I]t is a thoroughly healthy political move to confront energy market manipulation. If the opposition leader has sparked an electoral bidding war on utility costs, then so much the better... this was a tough and engaged speech, warmly received. Mr Miliband can be well pleased with a good day's work."

The Mirror's editorial proclaims:

"Street-fighting Ed Miliband improved enormously his chances of being the next Prime Minister of our country. He passed yesterday's audition with flying colours, adding substance to the style of last year's party conference speech with a string of bread-and-butter policies, particularly on energy prices and housing... The Coalition's ministers' and MPs' defence of rip-off gas and electricity companies revealed the gulf between Labour and the ConDems... [Miliband] is cleverly picking confrontations on behalf of the national interest when he goes after energy giants and developers hoarding land, preventing the building of much-needed houses."

And the Independent's Donald Macintyre says "we were invited to join him in an hour-long transformation from geek to Terminator".

Hasta la vista, baby!

An exhausted (and blocked-up?) Miliband - who has written to the Big Six energy firms, urging them to support his price proposal - appeared on the Today programme this morning, and dismissed "scare stories" about blackouts and job losses.

"I'm confident we can sort out the market [by January 2017]," he told Today's Justin Webb, adding: "I happen to believe we have an obligation to stand up for the British consumer."

Despite attempts by the right to tag the Labour leader as a crazy, far-left, 70s-style socialist, the truth is that his energy price proposal will go down very well on the doorstep. His astonishing, notes-free speech, filled with self-deprecating jokes and passionate declarations, was welcomed by the Blairites, too - Lord Falconer, Tony Blair's former justice secretary, told Huffington Post UK: "Ed was optimistic about the future, he defended the past and he sent the party home from conference with a spring in its step."

Speaking at the HuffPost UK's fringe in Brighton, 'Ed Or Dead: How Does Miliband Win in 2015', the former culture secretary Tessa Jowell called it a "compelling and moving" speech: "It is as if Ed has found his voice again. When I was listening I felt that was the Ed of before the leadership election. He has been through a period where his passion became rather blocked. It was absolutely unplugged.

But Jowell also deployed a rather unfortunate turn of phrase as she handed out free advice to the Labour leader:

"I think Ed should just go on travelling around the country, exposing himself to many people."

Whoops. Wouldn't such a move by Miliband, incidentally, violate one of the first concrete pledges that he made in his speech yesterday? "If I become Prime Minister I won’t take my shirt off," he announced to a cheering audience.

2) WE CAN DO BETTER

So, how does Ed Miliband sell his speech to the public? Last year too, he gave a good, strong, noteless performance but there was little follow-up and little support from his shadow cabinet. Will Labour frontbenchers raise their game this time round and go out and defend and promote their under-fire leader and his radical policies on energy and land?

My colleague Ned Simons reports:

"Labour frontbencher Sadiq Khan has admitted that Ed Miliband's top team has not performed as well as it should done have over the past year - while former frontbencher Tessa Jowell urged Miliband not to "read the papers".

"Speaking at the Huffington Post UK's fringe event at the Labour Party conference in Brighton on Tuesday evening, Khan, the shadow justice secretary, said the criticism of the current shadow cabinet was "legitimate"

"One of the things we have lacked is message discipline. We've got to do better," he said. "It's a criticism from journalists of shadow cabinet members in the last 12 months which are legitimate. We lack message discipline and we have to be coherent and laser-like."

A senior Labour figure suggested to me yesterday that much of the shadow cabinet will be "decimated" in the forthcoming reshuffle.

3) IRAN TO AMERICA: 'LET'S TALK'

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad used to grab lots of attention at UN General Assembly meetings in New York for all the wrong reasons; yesterday, his successor as Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, managed to do so for the right reason.

From the BBC report:

"President Rouhani said the 'so called Iranian threat' was imaginary.

"Iran poses absolutely no threat to the world or the region," he said. 'Nuclear weapon and other weapons of mass destruction have no place in Iran's security and defence doctrine, and contradict our fundamental religious and ethical convictions. Our national interests make it imperative that we remove any and all reasonable concerns about Iran's peaceful nuclear programme.'

"To this end he said Tehran was prepared to engage 'immediately in time-bound and result-oriented talks to build mutual confidence and removal of mutual uncertainties with full transparency'."

Earlier, in his address to the UNGA, President Obama gave a cautious welcome to new diplomatic relations between Iran and the United States but the two leaders didn't manage to pull of a historic handshake, although a report by AFP suggested they "came agonizingly close":

"'It got so close that they had chosen the room and ordered some water,' said a diplomat with knowledge of talks between the two sides on holding a breakthrough encounter... The two sides discussed a possible meeting, but in the end it was 'too complicated,' for Iran, said a senior US official."

Damn.

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR...

Watch this video of Biteback publisher Iain Dale tussling with a protester who tried to disrupt his author Damian McBride's interview on ITV1's Daybreak yesterday morning.

4) AIRPORT BULLIES

Shameful stuff going on at our borders, according to the Guardian:

"A leading UK human rights charity has claimed there is a campaign of intimidation of human rights workers going on at UK borders after the Terrorism Act was used to detain a Yemeni activist at Gatwick.

"Baraa Shiban, a respected human rights activist who works in Yemen as a project co-ordinator for the London-based legal charity Reprieve and was travelling to London to speak at an event, said he was held for an hour on Monday night and questioned about his work and political views.

"He was detained under schedule 7 to the Terrorism Act, the same legislation used last month at Heathrow to detain David Miranda, the partner of Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian journalist who has written about mass internet surveillance by the US National Security Agency and Britain's GCHQ."

Can an official inquiry into 'schedule 7' powers happen quick enough?

5) CAN REPUBLICANS COUNT?

If you want to a glimpse of how vitriolic and unhinged the Republicans' hatred for, and obsession with, Barack Obama is these days, check out what happened on Twitter yesterday.

The US president's official Twitter account produced this fairly mundane tweet:

@BarackObama "Not only are premiums lower than they were, they're lower than the most optimistic predictions." —President Obama on Obamacare #CGI2013

To which an angry Ari Fleischer, former spokesman for George W. Bush, responded by tweeting at Twitter's government and politics (@gov) team:

@AriFleischer Question to @gov: how come @BarackObama 's last tweet was more than 140 characters? Does he play by different rules???

Erm, there were only 136 characters in Obama's tweet. What's up, Ari? Thirty minutes later, Dubya's former spinner issued the following, apologetic tweet:

@AriFleischer @gov I retract my tweet. When I copy and pasted, it included the @BarackObama.

D'oh!

PUBLIC OPINION WATCH

From the Sun/YouGov poll:

Labour 39

Conservatives 34

Ukip 10

Lib Dems 10

That would give Labour a majority of 60.

140 CHARACTERS OR LESS

@PeterHain Brilliant barnstorming virtuoso speech @Ed_Miliband no other UK politician capable of speaking noteless to such powerful effect PM Designate

@sajidjavid Militant trade union leaders will be pleased: price controls, land confiscation & higher taxes. Not a bad return on 80% Labour Party funding

@timothy_stanley Ed Miliband memorised this speech so that you don't have to #labconf

900 WORDS OR MORE

Jonathan Freedland, writing in the Guardian, says: "Behold, Ed Miliband's new populism of the left."

Mary Riddell, writing in the Telegraph, says: "Ed Miliband unveils his route map to power."

Daniel Finkelstein, writing in the Times, says: "You can’t tinker with a party’s image. It takes years, if not longer, to change the way people think."

Got something you want to share? Please send any stories/tips/quotes/pix/plugs/gossip to Mehdi Hasan (mehdi.hasan@huffingtonpost.com) or Ned Simons (ned.simons@huffingtonpost.com). You can also follow us on Twitter: @mehdirhasan, @nedsimons and @huffpostukpol