THE NEWSDESK: Miliband's energy price hike policy is a master-stroke
2:12pm Sunday 29th September 2013 in News
SO NOW we have a choice.
Ed Miliband's speech to the Labour Party conference last week, and his announcement of a two-year energy price freeze under any Labour government, drew a clear line between Labour and the Coalition. At last.
For so long many people have been asking Miliband to spell out what Labour stands for under his leadership.
And now he has. He has cast Labour in the role of the party which speaks up for the ordinary person against vested interests.
He has drawn the analogy that while the tide of the economy may be turning, the 'yachts' seem to be rising faster than any other vessel.
He is quite rightly highlighting the fact that ordinary people are facing pinned down salaries, rising prices, and while there may be signs of recovery we are simply not feeling it in our pockets.
So the policy of freezing energy prices - which drive up inflation because they are not just paid by ordinary citizens, they are paid by businesses which end up passing on that hike to their customers in the form of their own price rises - is a definite vote-winner.
This is going to play very well on the doorstep for Miliband. And with small firms facing big increases in their energy bills.
There will be those who worry about the energy policy's impact on business, but they will be far outnumbered by those who back it.
At last, at last. That open goal of the economy has been there for so long. The Coalition had become blase about it, underestimated the opposition.
But this week, he shoots, he scores.
And they didn't see it coming.
Now, given the fact some energy firms are already talking about introducing voluntary price freezes in the wake of the speech, it seems Miliband can't lose out.
If they do, he claims the credit. If they hike prices or threaten to pull out of the UK, or raise the spectre of blackouts, energy companies look like fat cat bullies.
And the Coalition looks caught on the hop. It looks too invested in toadying to big business to fight the corner of the little man and woman.
If the coalition partners, now, try to jump on the bandwagon, they look cynical and scared. And Miliband claims the credit anyway.
I suspect Miliband will also be rubbing his hands in glee that Lord Mandelson has waded into this situation.
It's exactly what he needs - something which will put clear, red water between him and New Labour. Something which will help exorcise the ghosts of Blair and Brown, and distance him and his party from the time when Labour became just as much the party defending vested business interests as the Conservatives.
If I was a cynic, I would wonder whether Mandelson was using another of his dark arts to help Labour do just that right now. So clothed is he in the New Labour project, with its smiley 1997 Things Can Only Get Better vibe descending into spiralling deficit, that just speaking out against Miliband's stance gives more credibility to the man dubbed Red Ed by The Spectator's Fraser Nelson.
Nelson launched his own attack on Miliband last week. Suddenly, he said, he realised this man was a real threat.
How much more could the Labour leader desire?
To be attacked by the right wing media for standing up for ordinary folk.
The other master-stroke was to make this speech at the time Chancellor George Osborne was going into bat for bankers' bonus payments.
The difference in focus could not be more stark.
This is a rich political seam for Labour. I have no doubt they will hammer away at it constantly until 2015.
David Cameron looks out of touch, yammering on about austerity when most of us are sick to the back teeth of it.
Osborne was booed at the Olympics, and the Liberal Democrats? Already positioning themselves on the rail ready to jump ship if needs be.
There is still some way to go to persuade people that Labour has a safe pair of hands when it comes to the economy, and Miliband has some way to go to convince people he is Prime Minister material.
But it has taken a major step forward.
The party which will come out best in the next general election will surely be the one which has a vision for the future, not one which says "more of the same".
I predict a mad scramble for a reboot in the other parties once the penny drops.
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