There was only one really substantial announcement in Ed Miliband's speech today - on freezing energy prices - and, whilst it wouldn't immediately cost his government anything if he were in a position to impose it, it would represent a pretty substantial intervention in the energy market and it is unlikely that this would be without consequence.
His speech was good, though, and for the second year running. Here's why:
- Speaking well without notes always makes a good impression and he has really turned it into an art form. He never seems to lose his way or stumble and he manages to weave in some evidently pre-prepared phrases (like "they used to say a rising tide lifted all boats, now it just seems to lift the yachts") whilst preserving a sense of spontaneity. Say what you like about him; it's an impressive feat.
- He has managed to find a style that really suits him. It is folksy and there are times when it feels like a religious revivalist meeting (it reminded me today of a Billy Graham event I once went to years ago) but it appears authentic and thus works well.
- It was focused. It didn't try to cover every subject in politics, but rather developed a few crisp messages.
- He didn't talk too much about himself. It felt like it was more about us and the country he would like to see, rather than him.
- He came across as passionate and decent.
- He dealt head on with the question of leadership and made a virtue of those areas where his stance has proved most in touch with voters, such as on Murdoch and Syria. The line about it being easy to stand up to the weak, but much harder to do so to the strong was telling and will have played well.
- Labour is likely to fare best if it can make the election about who benefits most from the recovery. He pitched this well today, both in terms of the main announcement and his broader rhetoric.
There were weaknesses, too, of course. He didn't really deal with the question of Labour's record on the public finances and he acted as if the eurozone crisis had never happened and the economic problems of the last three years had been entirely manufactured by the Tories.
I am not sure how much it will really have shifted the argument on the economy, which has definitely been drifting away from him.
But all that said, it was a good speech. This time, he has to make it count.