winning elections - who calls the shots?

The Conference Speech and Winning Elections

Ed Miliband’s conference speech actually had an impact. Speeches are supposed to do that and they very seldom do. So I stand and salute. But will it help him win the next election?

Let us pretend for a minute that  our Pseudo-Dem, Nick Clegg, hadn’t turned his pouty back on an actual electoral reform – making sure that every parliamentary constituency had the same number of voters.

Politicians have a range of audiences to appease, engage, convince. The most basic difference, the one that tripped up Mitt (47%) Romney and still threatens the Republicans, is appealing to the selectorate and the electorate.

But a Party Leader’s conference speech at conference, when people actually half-listen, has multiple audiences. The selectorate; the electorate (i.e. the general public); the leader’s ambitious colleagues; the donors; the media and the increasingly important commentators; business and ” interested” third sector groups.

Let us assume there was a “focus on winning elections” thought process in The Labour Leader’s Office and that the content of the speech was the result of a strategic decision. What about Ed’s poor speechwriter if Ed had actually tried to appeal to all? Ed had a 3-way split selectorate of Brownites and Blairites and the Unions – who, annoyingly for him, also inhabit the major donor category. Plus the standard stuff – ambitious colleagues; normal donors, the media and the business community and third sector groups.

The Blairites who campaigned and voted for Blair don’t seem very happy. Owners of shares that lost value yesterday following the speech can’t be delighted.

Owen Jones and others, like Kinnock, seem very happy. But who else were the comrades going to vote for? Are there enough of them to win an election?

I know someone here in Sussex who has voted Labour all their lives who popped around and told me that now they would rather have Cameron in Downing Street. Whether they will bother to vote is, of course, another question. But that’s definitely one vote lost for Ed.

But there is a long time to go still, we still have Clegg’s “unfairer votes” constituency legacy to factor in, and Lord Ashcroft’s current polling says Ed will be PM.

Ed’s speech made  more headline than most conference speeches because his choices were tougher than normal and, at last, he made a call. Which will always please some and lose others. He has definitely helped frame the question. I quite like him as Leader of the Opposition.

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