Watching the Milliband speech today, two things struck me.
Firstly, Milliband, despite claiming to be his own man has touches of both his immediate predecessors of him. He delivered his speech in a kind of Blairesque fashion, all tactical pauses and hand gestures. Think of those thumb grasps that Blair used to do all the time and you get the picture. Oh, and like Brown, Milliband is useless at telling gags – no concept of timing at all.
Come to think of it, there were two gags that were genuinely funny – both with Clegg as the target (“You know, the boundary review means his (Clegg’s) seat will be represented by a Tory after the next election. No change there then.” And “But it wouldn't be responsible to make promises I can't keep… that’s Nick Clegg's job.”). They certainly hit the mark better than the nose gag’s.
The other thing was that for a speech supposedly left wing in tone, it was remarkably New Labour-esque. The refusal to scrap Tuition Fees, the refusal to reverse or to amend the governments scorched earth policy, the vow to cut VAT (“To put more money in people’s pockets” – ah so cutting a tax on spending is going to put money in people’s pockets then?) and targeting Benefit cheats (“Where benefits are too easy to come by for those who don't deserve them and too low for those who do.” – true but are benefits cheats worth more of a mention than certain companies who employ tax avoidance schemes) all had a New labour zest to them.
More worryingly, Milliband, like Balls, seems to believe that a lack of growth is not connected to the governments Scorched Earth policy. A cut in VAT - a tax on spending - will not help, while extending the Lib Dem’s policy of raising the tax threshold would be better suited to meeting Milliband’s target of putting more money into people’s pockets. What better way to vanquish the shameful decision of Brown to double taxes for the low paid in 2007. There was also no mention of the not fit for purpose tax-haven policies of Osborne, or the not fit for purpose HMRC and it’s not fit for purpose head Dave Hartnett.
Overall, first impressions are that Milliband has not done enough to stem the negative perceptions of his stewardship. Not the game changer Milliband & Co need.