Josephine, Ziamra, Elizabeth, Colin and of course, Gareth. Ed Miliband peppered his conference speech today with references to the 'real people' he had met recently and how their life stories informed his policy decisions.
The technique of weaving a cast of characters through a political speech, or in a debate, is a well worn one. Sometimes it works. But it can also look forced and more that slightly convenient.
Blair McDougall, the campaign director of the victorious pro-union Better Together campaign, is not a fan. He told a fringe meeting at Labour's hosted by the Fabian society yesterday, before Miliband's speech, that it had the opposite affect than desired. He said the habit of dropping "real voices" in to speeches made "you sound less authentic" rather than "more authentic".
Asked why the technique was not deployed by Alistair Darling during the TV debates with Alex Salmond, McDougall, who ran David Miliband's Labour leadership campaign, said: "The honest answer on 'real voices' is there was a bit of hesitancy on it, because it sounded like 'I met a black sailor', or whatever the example was from the prime ministerial debates".
During the 2010 TV debates, David Cameron famously referred to having met a "40-year-old black man". Cameron was also later embarrassed when the man, Neal Forde, accused the Tories of having "forgotten the British people".
Luckily for Miliband, Gareth, who found his name trending on Twitter after the Labour leader's speech, is more of a fan. Sort of. "Well, last time I voted Lib Dem. I wouldn't again. I couldn't vote Tory so I guess I am. [Miliband] impressed me. Didn't know him well beforehand. Some very sincere stuff," he told Channel 4 News.Suggest a correction