Coffee House

Ed Miliband’s tricky second album

17 January 2014

Ed Miliband has spent the past few months celebrating the success of his conference pledge to freeze energy prices. He was so pleased with the disruption that this caused that he referenced it in his speech on banking reform today.

He is right to be pleased with that pledge. It was a hit. It’s just that today’s speech, built up by the Miliband camp as the sequel to the price freeze, was the political equivalent of a difficult second album.

You could see what he was trying to do. Sections of the speech were straight from the Obama playbook, just as his conference speech was, with appeals such as ‘Britain can do better than this’ and lines such as ‘we believe we can tip the balance away from struggle and towards hope’. But the playbook lines weren’t played very well.


Once he’d finished the speech, he immediately relaxed and performed far better in the question-and-answer session that followed. But the speech itself, delivered in Miliband’s most engaging format of no notes, had a rather too plaintive and pessimistic tone. It had a long lead-in to the main point, and meandered around Miliband pointing at things that he found expensive or annoying, and telling the audience that he was the first to spot how bad things were:

‘For too long politicians acted as if when something wasn’t talked about in politics or wasn’t big on our television screens, somehow it wasn’t happening. The banking crisis. The problems in the eurozone. Ups and downs on the stock market. They are the daily stuff of politics.

‘But all the while something just as important, something even deeper, has been going on. And we have been far too silent about it. That is the cost-of-living crisis.’

There were also bits where you could see the point Miliband was trying to make it, but the way he made it was rather clunky:

‘All the other fragments of what people are saying to me, saying what are my kids going to do when they grow up?’

He was trying to paint a picture of families fearful about the future, but instead he sounded a bit like he was telling a story about the time he was mistaken for a fortune teller at the school fete. Anyway, based on this speech, Miliband’s response would have been ‘sorry, mate, I’m just here to point at the expensive things, not predict the future’.

As for the substance of the speech, perhaps it is significant that his reminder to the audience that Labour would scrap the bedroom tax got a bigger cheer than the central new announcement on banking. Miliband did have a very good line indeed on the purpose of the banks under Labour: ‘Under a Labour government, you will no longer be serving the banks. The banks will be serving you.’ And his assessment of the banking sector has having ‘too much power concentrated in too few hands’ is also one that will appeal to voters. He also moved beyond just making an assessment of the problem to some detailed proposals, such as examining in detail how to create at least two ‘sizeable and competitive’ banks to act as ‘challengers’, and capping existing banks’ share of personal accounts. And he did engage with Mark Carney’s analysis of his proposals in the Q&A too.

But will this have as much purchase as that energy price freeze? A sense that Labour wants to do something about the unpopular bankers is obviously a populist move. But already this morning Labour has been trying to square a possible hit on state-owned banks’ share price with its language about long-time reform. And the speech did not contain any more analysis of where the previous Labour government went wrong on banking than the following:

‘Of course, financial services is an important industry in itself. But for an industry that calls itself a “service”, it has been a poor servant of the real economy. And it has been an incredibly poor servant. Not just since 2010. Or 2008. But for decades in this country. We need a reckoning with our banking system not for retribution but for reform.’

We already know that Miliband has identified a problem that worries hardworking families up and down the country. The question is whether today’s speech will identify him as the man who has the solution too. I’m not convinced it did. ‘Britain can do better than this,’ he said repeatedly. Ed could do a better speech than this too.

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  • RavenRandom

    Ooh look at the price of that says Ed. He’s no idea; a mish-mash of failed 1970s industrial control policies. Prices and incomes anyone? IMF intervention anyone?

  • HookesLaw

    A problem that worries families up and down the country? The problem that families face was caused by Miliband and labour themselves.
    Of course families face problems when we have had a massive recession. Big deal. It was Labour’s recession.

    When Labour were in power and we had some sort of alleged growth – Labour’s idea of One Nation was one nation on benefits, and opening up jobs needlessly to workers from Poland.

    • Alexsandr

      and increasing greenery.
      Oh sorry. the current government still haven’t got rid of the greenery. while pensioners freeze so they can pay for windmills.

      • HookesLaw

        The govt have just cut the subsidy element from the bills.

        • Alexsandr

          and added it to general taxation.

          • HookesLaw

            I see that well known kipper Roger Helmer (their energy spokesman) is displaying a nice sense of post modernist irony (otherwise known as rank hypocrisy) by covering the roof of an ‘outbuilding’ on his property with the solar panels he campaigns against and earning £1000 a year in the process.

  • Hello

    “and capping existing banks’ share of personal accounts”

    And that’s insanity. Firstly, you’re limiting the amount of accounts available at particular banks, so the good banks will be able to charge more — because, in theory, they will be the ones that hit the limit. Secondly, you’re forcing more people to use smaller banks which might be less stable. Northern Rock was not one of the “big banks”.

    • AB

      The share of accounts which the cap would be set at would have to be higher than the share held by any of the banks after the challenger banks had been set up. If any bank was close to the cap it would be sensible for it to stop bothering to compete for new customers or indeed to make much effort to keep all but the most lucrative customers.

      The nature of competition in a market designed to dissuade competitors from growing their share of the market organically rather than by acquisition would be, to say the least, disfunctional.

    • HookesLaw

      Its called socialist tinkering with the economy. And we all know how that usually works out.
      I think the last time socialist tinkered with the banking system was to allow banks to develop their ‘casino’ operations.

  • anyfool

    Is this man for real, he reopens the debate on banking control, the lack of which, did for the last Labour government, the very thing that the public trust them least on, they decide to put politically motivated change on the menu.
    They truly have no ideas, no policies of any worth, floundering around for another fuel cap type of temporary boost, pathetic is a mild word for these witless curs.

  • MikeBrighton

    This policy literally is “The man who burned your house down complaining about the size of the house and suggesting it is split into semi’s, without actually commenting on the burining torch in his hand and can of petrol at his feet”

  • Makroon

    You really don’t need to worry Isabel. Our esteemed “public service broadcaster” will edit and remix, and by this evening you will be convinced that Martin Luther King made the speech.

    • Nicholas chuzzlewit

      Now that hit the nail firmly on the head! Oh, the BBC will also edit any Conservative spokesperson’s contribution to make him or her sound like an advocate for King Herod’s approach to birth control.

  • alabenn

    Idiot boy says,
    For too long politicians acted as if when something wasn’t talked about in politics or wasn’t big on our television screens, somehow it wasn’t happening.
    They still are not talking about it, it is called non EU immigration, the ones they can stop, the flood from the third world continues unabated, not talking is what this silly boy wants, he hopes people will not notice before 2015 and that the Euro elections will cloud the real immigration issue, Polish plumber or dirt farmer from Asia.

  • toco10

    Red Ed’s ideas on banking are akin to the dysfunctional Gordon Brown’s decision to sell all our gold at 20% of its current value.Our state owned banks would lose billions in taxpayer value if this failed student and his trades union minders ever took office.In any event the whole movement in banking is towards fewer branches and as the attempted Lloyds sale proved there are very few buyers at any price.

    • Chris lancashire

      He hasn’t actually explained how is hare brained plan will increase competition. More banks does not necessarily equal more (or better) competition. Five large ones plus a host of building and mutual societies is enough to create a healthy competitive environment – which by the way I believe already exists.

      • HookesLaw

        Presumably his scheme has already hit shareholder value.

        Shareholders need not worry as long as they vote Conservative. Would any shareholder in his or her right mind vote UKIP and thus let in this marauding idiot to govern the country.
        Is that what sane people actually want??

        • Chris lancashire

          It has and it hasn’t, – he’s certainly knocked the taxpayers’ banks but happily HSBC is up 5p today and StanChart is down a couple (due to non-Miliband reasons)so he’s basically shot the taxpayer in the foot.

    • Nicholas chuzzlewit

      Excellent points. What potential insurgent into the UK banking market would want to saddle themselves with the costs associated with expensive town and city centre branches currently burdening the likes of Lloyd’s, RBS, Barclays etc. they might prefer to locate themselves at out of town sites next to a large Tesco or Sainsbury’s etc. they might also prefer to develop internet platforms etc for selling their services. As usual, the Miliband idiot has displayed his complete ignorance of banking and business.

  • Alexsandr

    Sorry CM, but…
    Well this is going to help
    Mr climate change who added money to everyones bills is now going to muck about with the banks. Already this will affect their share price. and the cost of banking will rise leading to more branch contraction.
    And branches? when do people use branches? Seems its just shops paying in cash.

  • Geronimo von Huxley

    Has anyone had the time and the will to picture this? A hung Parliament in 2015 will in all likelihood lead to a LabCon coalition – why this is the most probable outcome ought to be obvious. So a PM Miliband would find himself working in tandem with a Chancellor George (let’s have another go at doubling the debt again) Osborne?
    OH MY GOD!

    • Hexhamgeezer

      Don’t you mean a LibLabCon coalition?

      • AB

        And the people will rise up behind the new Cromwell, Nigel Farage.

      • Makroon

        Hows about a LibDem/UKIP/Scottish Nationalist coalition, that has a certain ring to it ? The Cleggster, Farage and Salmond working in harmony for the greater good.

  • Colonel Mustard

    This space reserved for telemachus to write tedious and predictable tripe.

    • Chris lancashire

      I bring glad tidings Colonel. Apparently the aforesaid is too busy commuting between his small business in the North of England and his job at Cadburys filling Turkish Delight to be able to contribute.

      • Nicholas chuzzlewit

        Sadly untrue. Filling Turkish delight requires an intellectual capacity that Telemachus could only dream of possessing.

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