Something Old, Something New, something Borrowed from someone Blue. Interbrand's head of verbal identity, Chris Davenport, looks at the reinvention of Ed Miliband...
I saw a pack of Monster Munch today (pickled onion). The word ‘New’ had been crossed out and proudly replaced with the word ‘Old’. I admired its old-fangled traditional values; its contrary recognition that ‘New’ was passé, and ‘Old’ was now distinctive. Then I realised it was a passable, if oblique metaphor for Ed Miliband’s repositioning of the Labour Party. That he would distance himself, both from ‘New’ Labour and the far left was expected. That he aligned himself with ‘Old’ Conservative to claim the centre ground was not.
The concept he used no less than forty four times – ‘One Nation’ – is borrowed from Disraeli, also of Jewish decent, and twice a Prime Minister. Legend has it, Disraeli nailed two bottles of brandy whilst making his speech. Apart from telling me that conference season was more fun in the 19th Century, this suggests that radically new ideas aren’t the way to claim a populist territory, and repetition works. It works I tell you.
Regardless of which side of the House you park your political loyalties, the fact remains – this speech was a deft piece of personal positioning. As a piece of rebranding, it got lots of things right. It laid out a vision by telling a personal story about universal principles. It was warm, humorous, heartfelt, and delivered with poise and humanity. Okay, it was more mood than policy, but there was a commitment to long-termism in the accompanying briefing documents on corporate governance. And let’s face it, people vote with emotion.
This was an incantation about confidence and unity: his confidence as an orator; the UK’s unity as a nation. There’s no doubt it will have boosted his credibility as a leader, and consequentially, Labour’s credibility as a governing party.
A successful presentation then. But whether Miliband will unite and conquer remains to be seen. Beyond this One Nation, the European market dangles on words like confidence and unity, and with it, our own economic future. A certain truth remains: it takes substance to make fine words last longer than the taste of pickled onion.
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