Uniting His Party (and the Left) Ed Must Now Turn to Policy

03/10/2012 14:32 BST | Updated 03/12/2012 10:12 GMT

"Our Ed" was the phrase heard across lips last night. But it wasn't just EdM 2010 supporters -rather it was Balls, Burnham and, yes even Mili-D backers too. And that's a remarkable change two years on from a nail bitingly close leadership election because now Ed has given a performance that has won all the Party to his banner.

Because even after substantive successes on Murdoch and banking Ed was having a tough time proving to elite SW1 opinion that his was a leadership that mattered.

But it should be understood that his tour d'force was not an isolated incident that has suddenly magic'ed unity out of thin air. Rather it was the culmination and public unveiling of two years of painstaking work to avoid the traditional Labour-disunity-in-Opposition effect to make the Tories the first one term government in nearly 40 years.

Even after the media bounce fades, the Party unity will remain for Ed is now in that most enviable of positions: a leader secure in his job, confident of his own leadership and willing to take risks to claim ever more support from the nation at large. Confidence breeds success and Ed can be ever more confident in his judgement and his chance of victory.

With a united Labour Party behind him and a united Leftish/Liberal vote giving him a solid base of 35% in the polls Ed can now turn his sights to the heights of the electoral prize ahead: a clear majority with a mandate from the whole country to pursue a radical programme. And what better proof of that then the approval of both Conservative Home's Tim Montgomerie and Unite's Len McCluskey.

That praise is so widespread is further proof of one of the big gambles Ed has made both with his speech and his leadership at large. He has eschewed the easy option of Union-bashing and Party self-hate that the press traditionally demands of a Labour Leader to prove they are "credible". Instead Ed has made the positive case for Labour values expressed through a rich tapestry of intellectual thought.

And that's where Ed's next big challenge lies: for the speech represented a synthesis both delicate and elegant of so many strands of Labour thought: from Blue Labour's argument for faith, flag and family (although faith here was secular and political!) to Fabian faith in Keynesianism and (whisper it) pre-distribution through action on housing, skills, wages and bills.

But more important then the policy wonk tensions of these matters is the strategic tension that now needs to be resolved between Ed Miliband and policy supremo Jon Cruddas. Both vie for the title of Labour's Intellectual-in-Chief but the two differ on what the politics of this moment allows. Cruddas tours the fringe decrying "small target" policies fearing that that would allow Labour's opponents to define the Party in negative terms. He cites the Australian Labour Party's example where their no-risks, small-bore approach spectacularly backfired under withering attack.

Ed on the other hand has until now worried that the crisis in politics allows only the smallest of promises for the most micro of politics - hence VAT cuts on home insulation etc. Anything more may not be believable. But the logic of his speech and his new found confidence in making the case for politics itself may mean that he yet relents and Cruddas paints policy in the bright and bold primary colours that his appointment first heralded.

This tension must be resolved in the year ahead for the outcome will determine the very nature of Ed Miliband's first term.