Ed Miliband’s recent talk on ‘Englishness’ was the garbled lip service the electorate has come to expect at a time when a very real crisis of identity, damaging to democracy, is at the heart of British politics.
Ed Miliband’s typically unlettered sermon concerning Englishness and the left’s abandonment of England was the usual mixture of vapid mediocrity, ill-conceived policy and tawdry cliché (yes, he did mention ‘the spirit of the Blitz’).  Not content with this confused imbroglio of rhetoric and inarticulacy, he followed it up with a car-crash of an interview  where the Labour leader was so entangled in the wreckage of his idea that not even pneumatic tools would be able to prize him free. As a leader of a major political party, he remains embarrassing and an embarrassment to any thinking person.
For such an unskilled public speaker, it is a wonder he chose a subject so bound up in the newspeak of political correctness. For indeed, it is Mr Miliband and others of his contemptible party who are responsible for having destroyed a sense of English identity by tying it up in miles of verbal red tape. When it is finally articulated, it is treated as an article of shame, division or else as a slight. It is little wonder, then, that Mr Miliband struggled to deliver a memorable point among his milieu of ideas and scripted jokes.
Yet this tongue-tied speech faced an even greater challenge: mastering the gaping credibility gulf between Mr Miliband’s word and deed. On the independent website theyworkforyou.com, Mr Miliband is listed as having ‘voted very strongly for more EU integration’. His voting patterns consistently present a figure who is not only willing to cede powers to Europe (fig.1), but also that he voted against a referendum on the Lisbon treaty (fig.2). This is hardly a surprise, but the cumulative effect of his votes for greater EU political union simply eclipse any assertions he wishes to make about kindling a discussion (primarily on the left) of English identity.
Aside from brazen hypocrisy, what did Mr Miliband actually offer in terms of policy on this issue? Nothing. No, really, nothing. In fact, the single biggest matters of policy that he could have offered, that could have defined his leadership (a referendum on the EU and an English Parliament), were precisely the things he rejected.
Mr Miliband: talk and debate are not the same as policy. Wanting to talk about an issue,wishing to open up a debate is simply not the same as actually taking on an issue and delivering on a debate.
The Labour leader is no stranger to unsubstantial politics. The ‘ongoing policy review’ is the least effective ruse the Labour party have in disguising the fact that, nearly two years into the job, Mr Miliband still has not delivered a single sustained or substantial policy. This is certainly no thanks to the coalition either, whose u-turns and tokenism consistently backfire. In this regard, Mr Miliband can take no credit for his party’s rise in the polls; why fight this self-destructive force? 
Yet, Mr Miliband he has not been lazy in attacking the coalition – weekly his teenage cries of indignation are issued across the dispatch boxes at PMQs – but most of the matters he addresses are topical rather than substantial, emotional rather than intellectual. Remember his whimsy concerning ‘hope vs. fear’? the unworkable good vs. bad companies idea? his wilfully simplistic suggestion that a desire for growth is all one needs to cast off the shackles of austerity? Alarming but hardly surprising that all his memorable policies are the most forgettable ones.
Politics cannot hope to compete with the instant gratification emotions offer; it is little wonder that Mr Miliband has prospered off the back of a disaffected and disengaged electorate. His attempts to win over what he patronisingly terms ‘ordinary people/families’ or his fatuous term ‘real people/families’ (what is the alternative to ‘real people’?) represents the pitiful demagoguery of his tenure as Labour leader. Once again investing heavily in emotional capital, he attacks Cameron, Osborne and the Conservatives as out of touch, largely on account of their privileged background and education – this from a man who graduated from Corpus Christi College and the London School of Economics, this from the man who has taught Economics at Harvard. When he talks of the aggrieved ‘squeezed middle’ (which his party burdened by footing them with the bills for huge benefit overspends and debts) he probably forgets that, given the opportunity, they would be very keen to see their children receive the best education possible at the country’s most exclusive schools. The electorate do not nor should they care about where their leaders went to school; they care about delivering on the promises and showing the leadership entrusted to them. Mr Miliband has yet to pledge meaningful promises, the prospect of delivering upon such promises and, of course, leadership.
The Labour party are currently using as their slogan ‘with you in tough times’ – insofar as they are unemployed on the wrong side of the house and besieged by debt, I’d say they represent a good proportion of the population, whom they saddled with unemployment and debt. In truth, this is about as close as the Labour party come to the reality of the people they claim to represent.
Mr Miliband’s speech on Englishness continued his perpetual trend of practising the worst kind of politics, worse than slurs and sleaze, the real scourge of democracy: political tokenism and the politics of gesture. Like most of his policies, his speech on reclaiming English identity will not be mentioned of heard of again. It is a shame the same cannot be said for Mr Miliband himself.
© thepanopticonblog, 2012
|Commons||3 Mar 2008||Lisbon Treaty — Increase of powers of European Parliament||Majority||Majority (strong)|
Fig.1: Source: www.theyworkforyou.com 
|Commons||5 Mar 2008||Lisbon Treaty — Referendum (No. 2) — rejected||Majority||Majority|
Fig.2: Source: www.theyworkforyou.com 
- 1. ‘Ed Miliband on Englishness’ part1/2 (07Jun12) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J0OIBHWVfpg
- 2. Ed Miliband interview with Krishnan Guru-Murthy. Channel 4 News. 7 June 2012. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V0dWij4sNXU
- 3. When this blog suggested on Twitter that dissatisfaction with the ConDems means that ‘Labour can just kick back – they don’t need policies – which is a good job – since they have none’, the response of one left-leaning individual replied that no policy is just ‘Better than having fascist policies’. In the pantheon of miscalculated comparisons, this riposte must score pretty highly.
- 4. ‘Lisbon Treaty – Increase of powers of European Parliament – 3 March 2008 at 22:30′theyworkforyou.com.<http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/division.php?date=2008-03-03&number=111&mpn=Edward_Miliband&mpc=Doncaster_North&house=commons> 11 June 2012.
- 5. ‘Lisbon Treaty – Referendum (No.2) – rejected – 5 March 2008 at 18:30′theyworkforyou.com. <http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/division.php?date=2008-03-05&number=118&mpn=Edward_Miliband&mpc=Doncaster_North&house=commons> 11 June 2012.