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Published on October 1st, 2011 | by David Christie
Image © [caption id="" align="alignleft" width="240" caption="Ed Miliband - does he have any fresh ideas to win over the voters? Image from Ed Miliband's photostream"]Ed Miliband - does he have any fresh ideas to win over the voters?  Image from Ed Miliband's photostream[/caption] Labour’s strategy at this year’s conference appeared to be based on the belief that they are walking a tightrope between two groups of voters with conflicting views.  Ed Miliband put some left-leaning rhetoric (such as his attack on 'predatory' corporate behaviour) into his conference speech in order to please Labour’s working class base, but there was very little in terms of concrete left-wing policy proposals, presumably so that middle class voters would not be scared off.  But will this strategy work? The first problem with it is that Miliband could be missing an opportunity by refusing to move left on some issues.  This is because of the way in which public opinion has shifted since the financial crisis.  Although there are still some subjects where moving left is likely to alienate voters (on trade unions and public sector strikes, for example), on others it could be an advantage: demanding that wealthy companies and individuals pay their fair share of tax, that the government gets tough with the bankers, and that the banks should pay for the crisis which they caused, are likely to resonate with a wide audience across both the middle and working classes (particularly if he can come up with some clear policies to express these demands).  The phone hacking scandal and the subsequent removal of the Murdoch empire’s political influence have also weakened the potential opposition that Miliband could face from sections of the right-wing tabloid press, in the event of a clear leftward policy move. The second problem is that those voters who do hold right-wing views are unlikely to be convinced by Miliband’s current stance, as a lot of them have probably been scared off by his rhetoric (some Tories have already taken fright at what they see as his ‘backward-looking socialist’ views).  The overall effect of this is that Miliband cannot gain any more votes by staying where he is.  If he wants to win the next election, he needs to move somewhere (whether left or right) and define a clearer sense of what he stands for. The arguments between the various factions within Labour (Blue, Purple and Red) could have led to a new sense of direction and urgency, by kick-starting a debate over where the party should be going.  However, there was little sign of this at this year’s conference.  All that Labour seemed to offer was more of the same: vague platitudes (such as being against the ‘something for nothing’ society) with very little content in terms of policy. Without a clearer sense of direction, Labour could have many years in the wilderness ahead of them.

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Ed Miliband’s speech: did he succeed in attracting more voters?

Ed Miliband - does he have any fresh ideas to win over the voters?  Image from Ed Miliband's photostream

Ed Miliband – does he have any fresh ideas to win over the voters? Image from Ed Miliband's photostream

Labour’s strategy at this year’s conference appeared to be based on the belief that they are walking a tightrope between two groups of voters with conflicting views.  Ed Miliband put some left-leaning rhetoric (such as his attack on ‘predatory’ corporate behaviour) into his conference speech in order to please Labour’s working class base, but there was very little in terms of concrete left-wing policy proposals, presumably so that middle class voters would not be scared off.  But will this strategy work?

The first problem with it is that Miliband could be missing an opportunity by refusing to move left on some issues.  This is because of the way in which public opinion has shifted since the financial crisis.  Although there are still some subjects where moving left is likely to alienate voters (on trade unions and public sector strikes, for example), on others it could be an advantage: demanding that wealthy companies and individuals pay their fair share of tax, that the government gets tough with the bankers, and that the banks should pay for the crisis which they caused, are likely to resonate with a wide audience across both the middle and working classes (particularly if he can come up with some clear policies to express these demands).  The phone hacking scandal and the subsequent removal of the Murdoch empire’s political influence have also weakened the potential opposition that Miliband could face from sections of the right-wing tabloid press, in the event of a clear leftward policy move.

The second problem is that those voters who do hold right-wing views are unlikely to be convinced by Miliband’s current stance, as a lot of them have probably been scared off by his rhetoric (some Tories have already taken fright at what they see as his ‘backward-looking socialist’ views).  The overall effect of this is that Miliband cannot gain any more votes by staying where he is.  If he wants to win the next election, he needs to move somewhere (whether left or right) and define a clearer sense of what he stands for.

The arguments between the various factions within Labour (Blue, Purple and Red) could have led to a new sense of direction and urgency, by kick-starting a debate over where the party should be going.  However, there was little sign of this at this year’s conference.  All that Labour seemed to offer was more of the same: vague platitudes (such as being against the ‘something for nothing’ society) with very little content in terms of policy. Without a clearer sense of direction, Labour could have many years in the wilderness ahead of them.

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