Ed Miliband said he was going to be his own man, and follow his own instincts and his own values, which is surely the right approach for a leader. He was at his best today when he was passionate about where those instincts and values lay.
He had a core argument – that the political, financial, welfare and other systems had let good, decent people down, and needed to be changed.
He had a good line on himself – the outsider who is also an insider determined to break open the circles of power which all too often, and especially with Tories in government, narrow down to the few not the many.
To that extent it reminded me at times of Tony Blair’s ‘forces of conservatism’ speech, which was one of his best in my view, but from which we retreated somewhat after allowing our opponents to portray it as a criticism of anything pre-Blair.
Ed was alive to the possibility of a similar attack with regard to his section on business, which is why he was keen to emphasise a pro-business stance.
The right will feel he has opened up considerable ground for them to attack next week. He will feel that he is speaking to and for millions of people who genuinely do feel ‘the system’ is helping people at the top a lot more than everyone else. The argument will be an interesting one, and the impact both of the austerity package and the continuing economic turmoil mean it could easily find Ed on the right side, and David Cameron on the wrong side.
What his speech does is put out the framework of an argument that his opponents can attack and on which he can elaborate as the detailed policy positions for the next election are developed. I heard one commentator saying that he had not set out a prospectus for government. Nor did he need to. What he did was set out an argument with which he feels totally comfortable, and which he believes many people will support as it is played out across a Parliament.