Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Ed Miliband steps out of his brother's shadow

There's a joke going around the TUC conference about union leader Dave Prentice giving a confused greeting to Ed Miliband this morning. The Unison boss slapped the Climate Change Minister on the shoulder and said: "David, sorry I confused you with Ed earlier on."

Well, after his passionate address to the conference today no trade unionist will be confusing Miliband the Younger with his "no cojones" sibling any longer.

It's hard to evoke the class war when talking about loft insulation but Ed Miliband managed to get applause out of that in what was the best political speech of the conference.

Half way through it looked as if his address would be hi-jacked by the sacked Vestas windfarm workers from the Isle of Wight, who received a standing ovation when he acknowledged their presence in the hall and their problems.

He recovered well from that though. Why, he asked, did Vestas not have enough orders for windfarms in the UK? Because Tory councils turn down 60% of windfarm applications on their patch.

He continued on his theme of how climate change presented a great opportunity for jobs not just a challenge for old industries.

It was political speaking a la mode - that means Cameron style, pacing around the stage in shirt sleeves although the text has been thoroughly memorised beforehand. He had an effective and engaging style that made yestersday's Brown look like Brezhnev.

"It's not green to put a windfarm on your roof when time after time, wind farm applications are turned down by Tory councils," said Miliband tearing into David Cameron. "It's not green to visit the Arctic circle, but when you're in Europe to pal around the fringes with climate change deniers. it's not green to ride your bike to the House of Commons to vote against investment in green industries."

It all went down well, especially when he compared the Tory idea of public services to the Ryanair model - lots of queuing and the many making do on the bare minimum, the few paying extra for a better service. "It works for an airline but it's no way to run a care home or a hospital."

Since becoming Climate Change Minister Miliband has made decisions he didn't necessarily have to take if he wanted a quieter life. He brought forward the 2050 targets for carbon reduction and included air travel in the equation, for example. He seems capable of making a bold decision and that distinguishes him from his brother in the eyes of some trade union leaders.

As this December's Copenhagen Environment Summit approaches his public profile will increase and so will his chances of one day becoming Labour leader.

Labour high command might be decapitated at the election but it's unlikely that Doncaster North will change hands. Ed and David Miliband may be among the last men standing to compete for the leadership. On today's performance young Ed has pushed himself ahead as one of the men most likely to.

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