Fabian Fringe at Labour Conference Tuesday: LIVE BLOG

Ed Wallis

1945: It’s amazing how quickly a mood can shift in politics; or perhaps more specifically in the bubble of a political conference. But there’s no doubt the view that Ed’s speech was a triumph is hardening among Labour members and media commentators – even a potential game changer. But it will take the end of conference season and the return of political normality to be able to judge whether it’s helped the public imagine Ed Miliband as their next prime minister.

That’s it for tonight and for the Fabian Fringe in Manchester. Thanks to everyone who’s been to event, been tweeting or been reading this blog. we’ll be posting more reaction and comment here on Fabian Review online over the next few days.

1930: Andy Harrop wraps up by saying public spending questions still need to be addressed by Labour and that is the most serious attack line that the Tories will use against Labour.

1926: Montgomerie makes an interesting observation from his time Manchester: how public sector the Labour party is. This, argues Montgomerie, is why Labour hasn’t faced up to the deficit. “We’re coming to get you” he says; the modern day equivalent of the ‘tax bomshell’ poster is coming.

Jacobs highlights the ‘common life’ line in the speech as very important, and revealing the influence of Jon Cruddas. It picks on very important issues of locality and place and things Labour wants to conserve.

1921: One thing we’ve heard a lot of from panelists and audience alike today is people declaring loudly and proudly that they backed Ed from the start/voted for him. Not something you’d really ever hear before today at fringe meetings – normally references to voting for Ed were much more self-depreciating. I think that tells you a lot about how the mood has changed.

1915: Michael Jacobs says that the one nation concept does not move Labour to the right. It’s post Danny Boyle patriotism. Most people are a bit left wing and a bit right wing and Ed is shining an infra red light on people’s patriotism. He has, post Olympics, been able to tap into a sense of Britishness much more effectively than Gordon Brown.

Someone asks about whether the speech is a sign that Maurice Glasman and Blue Labour won out? Andy Harrop says that Ed is a synthesis of egalitarian, liberalism and yes, Blue Labour instincts. But now in ‘one nation’ there is a phrase to take it out the Labour meeting room and communicate it to the country.

Ashley picks up the Blue Labour theme and says that she found it quite unfeminist and found quite dreamy and male, which put a lot of women off. Although at one point Ed seemed in a Blue Labour trance he seems to have grown up and moved on and Ashley is pleased about that.

1901: If you want more reaction to the speech by the way, the Guardian has lots.

1855: Jackie Ashley says the one nation concept allows Ed to attack Cameron and engage in some class war; although Tim Montgomerie gently points out the difficulty of being one nation and engaging in class war.

Ashley pours some cold water on the positive vibes that there are big risks for Labour ahead, particularly if Boris Johnson becomes Tory leader and there is a referendum on Europe.

Khan says Labour has won permission to be heard tonight but continues the theme of creeping gloom: Labour still has a problem with the Tory attack about ‘Labour’s mess’. He also says Labour has to work out how to do social democracy with limited means.

1854: Michael Jacobs – co-editor of Political Quarterly (and former General Secretary of the Fabians as it goes) – has joined the panel. He says the real task faced by the Labour movement is to win an election and then deal with the very big challenges of the crisis of capitalism that Labour will face in power. The reason Jacobs voted for Ed is that he understands this and is a very deep thinker – now he looks like he can win. That’s what’s encouraging about today.

1850: We’re now into questions from the audience. What resemblance did Ed’s conception of one nation Labour bear to one nation Conservatism? Montgomerie says the Tory conception was a broader thing than just compassion. And Ed was much broader than usual Labour positioning and moved onto Tory territory in quite an interesting way.

He says Tories have to combine a message of social solidarity with more traditional Tory positions on immigration and crime which are very popular. It’s not about shifting right or left, it’s about getting the balance right between positions.

1840: Sadiq Khan says he’s smirking today. But warns Labour needs to keep perspective. Enjoy tonight, but this speech will not deliver the next election.

People like Khan who were involved in Ed’s leadership campaign weren’t surprised by today: they said back then ‘let’ Ed be Ed’.

Khan highlights the section of the speech on vocational education and praises Andy Burnham for putting this on the agenda during the Labour leadership campaign. But the most important part of speech was where he spoke to those who voted Tory in 2010. Labour has to understand why people deserted the party.

He agrees with Harrop that most people won’t watch the speech, but it may have changed attitudes among the messengers: there is suddenly deference and respect from the media towards our great leader.

1830: ’One nation’ is a fantastic piece of political positioning for Ed and for Labour says Andrew Harrop. It’s seizing something from the Tories just as they are destroying it, as they shift to the right. It was not Labour moving to a mushy centre, it was a landgrab: making the centre ground social democratic. He’s found a non-sectional language to communicate social democratic arguments.

There is a slight concern about making the big point about his comprehesive edcuation. Outside Westminster, he looks a lot like Cameron: a white, mid 40s ex Oxbridge politician. He needs to differentiate himself on values.

And there is still a lot of heavy lifting to do on policy – the public finances in particular we not really discussed. Ed’s speech has bought him a year to develop policy.

1825: Tim Montgomerie from Conservative Home says it was a very good speech and way above his expectations. What Ed Miliband had to do today he did. Montgomerie agrees with Mehdi Hasan that Ed Miliband’s weakness has been central to Tory election strategy and he had long argued this was a gamble. Ed is still a weak link for Labour but maybe not as a weak a link as the Tories thought. What’s more Ed Miliband doesn’t have to be very good to win in 2015: the Tories have a huge number of hurdles, in particular the boundary change defeat. The Tories have been relying too much on Labour weakness – David Cameron will have to make a response.

Interestingly Montgomerie says that if Cameron does not improve then the leadership of the Conservatives is very much an open question.

1822: Ashley says the unknown is how it will play with the public. The journalist loved it, will the public? Ashley says she doesn’t know. But it gives him a big window to move forward.

1820: Jackie Ashley agrees that we have our Ed back. She’d previously seen Ed speak comfortably without notes with ease to stunning effect but that man had gone. He seemed prime ministerial and played the crowd well. The substance was important too. He had to prove he’s not ‘red Ed’ and today was very much a move to the centre ground to include everyone. He made it clear Labour is the party for the whole country. Cameron is going to have to shift back towards the centre pretty quickly says Ashley.

1815: Mehdi Hasan says just over 3 years ago he was at a Progressive London conference where Ed Miliband was speaking to a packed fringe as climate secretary and wowed a sceptical crowd of greens, giving a passionate speech with no notes. During his leadership campaign he was the same – enthusing young people and being compared to Bobby Kennedy. But as leader, that Ed disappeared. But today he was back. On the delivery, he killed the Tories main line of attack in 2015: that he is a geeky weirdo. He proved he can engage with the nation and make people see him as prime ministerial. One of his closest advisers said that was the Ed of the leadership campaign, with added stardust. The big worry, says Hasan, is that this will be it and he won’t follow this up. He must not retreat into the bunker. The phrase ‘Ed speaks human’ has acquired a whole new ring.

1810: Pippa Crerar in the chair says Ed Miliband’s strategy was to win over the party, then win over the unions, then win over the public. How far down the track is he?

1805: Straight after our Spin Alley fringe is @FabianWomen’s ‘Two speed Europe: are women being left behind?’ in the Lord Mayor’s Parlour #FabLab

1755: Spinning Ed’s speech feels somewhat superfluous in Manchester right now: the quick consensus is that he hit it out the park. The ‘look mum no hands’ delivery gave it an ease and authenticity that’s been missing from recent set piece Miliband occasions. And whilst last year’s predators v producers had a staying power on the ideas level, there was a coherence and simplicity to the ‘one nation’ message that seemed to bring together some disparate strands into a potentially compelling story. Will our panelists burst Ed’s bubble or join in the chorus of approval?  We’ll find out in 5 minutes or so.

1730: It’s the grand finale of the Fabian Fringe tonight at 6pm. Our panel of top politicos give their spin on the Ed’s speech: the only place on the fringe to get the inside track.

Speakers:

Pippa Crerar, Evening Standard, Chair

Sadiq Khan MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Justice

Mehdi Hasan, Huffington Post

Jackie Ashley, The Guardian

Tim Montgomerie, Conservative Home

Andrew Harrop, General Secretary, the Fabian Society

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