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Expert Comment: Ed Miliband - from “zero-zero” to hero?

General Election 2015 Friday 14 November 2014

Dr Michael Holmes, Senior Lecturer in Politics, discusses Ed Miliband's latest speech and asks whether this is the start of a new era for the Labour leader.

Ed Miliband’s big speech in University College London this week (13 November) represents an interesting new approach by the Labour Party. The speech suggested a shift to the left – but whether it is enough to manage the delicate balancing act of attracting voters who have drifted away from the party, disillusioned with their centrist policies, while not alienating less radical voters remains to be seen.

In his speech, Miliband criticised what he termed the ‘zero-zero’ policies of the current government: zero taxes for the very rich while the very poor suffer from zero-hours contracts. If he manages to deliver on policies that address both poverty and excessive wealth, he will contribute to quite some achievement in making Britain a better and fairer place.

However, he still faces two big challenges. First of all, politics is increasingly being presented as about personality rather than policies, and Miliband is generally seen as less effective in this regard. Secondly, there are two big forces standing in his way. Neither the main business groups nor the media, which has a strong right-wing bias, are going to welcome his new approach.

But there is one important cause for optimism. The experience of the Scottish referendum, where 85% of the electorate came out to vote and where an alternative vision of how society could be run was a central focus of both the Yes and No campaigns, suggests that voters are not always swayed by personality, and that radical alternatives can find a receptive audience.

The next general election is scheduled to take place in May next year, so in about six months’ time, we will find out if Miliband’s brave new approach has succeeded.


Michael Holmes - SeminarDr Michael Holmes is a Senior Lecturer in Politics in the Department of History and Politics. View his profile.

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