Talking to senior Liberal Democrats and Conservatives about Ed Miliband’s speech, it is striking how similar their analyses of it are. Despite coalition, we’re entering into a period of stark government, opposition dividing lines.
Pretty much everyone admits that Miliband has put to bed the question of his leadership of the Labour party and moved himself out of the IDS category. But they argue that he’s not dealt with Labour’s biggest weakness, the public’s belief that it spent and borrowed too much. One influential Liberal Democrat accused Miliband of ducking the generational challenge that is the deficit likening his speech to one in 1942 that didn’t mention there was a war on.
I expect that in Birmingham, David Cameron will echo Nick Clegg’s lines from Brighton about how the world has changed and Britain needs to become more competitive to survive but Labour is still stuck in the past. The two parties are agreed that this is their most potent attack on Labour.
One specific Tory critique is also worth noting. They believe that the ‘one nation’ tag help them as it addresses voters’ concern that they are a devil take the hindmost party. While, as by contrast, people don’t have this worry about Labour so ‘one nation’ does less for it as a label. Set against this, though, is that it does give Miliband a frame for what he is trying to do.
For all these criticisms, one thing is definitely true: Miliband is being treated as a more serious threat now than he was at the beginning of week.