In the words of Andrew Marr, that was an extraordinary interview. Ed Miliband kicked off Labour’s conference today with an interview one can only assume was meant to show his personal side. Instead, I imagine it will reinforce the perception he is a tad weird.
In the absence of offering much detail on the policy front, Miliband obfuscated questions around general ideas. His big announcement was on Labour’s plan for immigration:
‘In our first year in office we will legislate for an immigration bill which has secure control of our borders, cracks down on exploitation of workers coming here undercutting workers already here and says to big companies brining people from outside the EU that they can do within a cap, but they’ve got to train the next generation, I think that’s the right approach’
‘Think that’s the right approach’? He returned to safer territory on minimum wage, yet he failed to offer an actual plan beyond wanting it to rise:
‘I want to see the minimum wage go up over time, I want to see the minimum wage go up over time but if I was going to come on this programme and saying I’m just going to pluck out of the air a figure of how much the minimum wage would go up by you’d say ‘is that really responsible?’. We’re
Of course, Damian McBride came up. Miliband was keen to make sure everyone knows he always suspected he was a bad ‘un:
‘I went to the Leveson Inquiry and was asked about this and I said that it’s matter of public record, I was concerned about the activities of Damian McBride and, indeed, I complained to Gordon Brown about it’
And on the Sunday Times‘ story about the black hole in Labour’s spending plans, he did little to clear up the notion they haven’t got a robust plan:
‘Let me first deal with the nonsense story that you mentioned. Let me be clear, we’ve said in 2015-16 that Labour won’t be borrowing more for day-to-day spending, we’ve been absolutely clear about that’
Note the qualification ‘day to day spending’ — leaving open the prospect that Labour will borrow massively, as Brown did, for what it categorises as ‘investment’.
Aside from the content, Miliband’s performance was rather bizarre. We’re all used to his nasally twang but as Benedict Brogan describes in his morning briefing, he was speaking lower than usual and didn’t look very comfortable.
By avoiding Marr’s questions, he didn’t offer anything much new and he certainly didn’t come across as confident and assured. Not an assured start to Labour’s conference. It wasn’t, as James suggests, the big moment Miliband needed.