Much has been said and written about Ed’s magnificent performance yesterday. He was eloquent, passionate and utterly convincing. Just one thing though, Ed. Many of us in the business were stunned to see you speak for over an hour without notes. How do you do it? Perhaps you can let us into your secret at some convenient time.
“One nation” was an inspired theme. It’s not too surprising that Ed has an affinity with Disraeli (pictured right), the originator of the idea. Disraeli was a convert from Judaism, who, while a Tory, also believed in a version of equality in tune with his times. It was, after all, Disraeli who introduced the 1867 Reform Act, extending the franchise beyond that laid down in 1832.
Mercifully for his audience Ed, while recognising the universal nature of Disraeli’s call for one nation, did not attempt a Disraeli style delivery. One hour was just right; three in the Disraeli tradition may have had even the most ardent Ed supporter collapsing in the aisles. What is more, Ed told us Disraeli drank two bottles of brandy during his famous “one nation” speech in Manchester’s Free Trade Hall. You have to hand it to these nineteenth century gentlemen – their capacity knew few bounds.
The promises Ed gave the country were pitched just right. As Culture and Education spokesperson in the European Parliament I was particularly pleased when Ed promised greater recognition for vocational qualifications. The Committee has been looking in depth at vocational qualifications, which are often better delivered in other EU countries. We in this country should now concentrate on the 50 per cent who do not go to university.
Ed has shifted the debate. He has grown into his role as Leader of the Opposition and taken Labour a gigantic step forward on the road to government.