As the newly elected Leader of the Opposition prepares for his first stint at Prime Minister’s questions, will the youngest Labour leader since World War II be the conviction politician that he presented himself to be during the Labour Leadership contest.

During the last four-months, Ed Miliband strategically defined himself against the front-runner of the leadership contest, his brother David.  David Miliband had occupied the centre ground.  So the only place Ed could go and pitch his tent was to the left.    He was bold when he said in an interview with the Guardian, “I think some people in the labour party are stuck in the New Labour comfort zone and think let’s just repeat the formulae of the past and that it’s going to win us the election.”  This certainly incensed militant Blairites.  But what else did they expect from the person they dubbed “the emissary from Planet F***?  New Labour has passed its sell by date: proven on May 6th 2010.

He was right to be humble and acknowledge that his party, in government for thirteen years, made mistakes.  He was right to admit that Labour got it wrong with ID cards, with 90 days, and to say that the Iraq War was a mistake.  It is farcical not to admit these mistakes: labour lost 5 million voters between 1997 and 2010.  However, it is not that simple Mr. Miliband.  You voted for 90 days.  You voted for 42 days detention.  You voted for ID cards.  You voted against an investigation into the Iraq war.  It takes more to be a conviction politician than to just say what sounds right.

He has started well. During the Labour conference, a new member joined every minute after Ed Miliband’s acceptance speech on Saturday 25th September.  For the first time in years, Labour’s ratings in the YouGov voting intentions poll surpassed that of the Conservatives, to 40 per cent.  He looked relaxed and did well in his first TV interview as leader on The Andrew Marr Show, especially when he coolly rejected claims that he was under the thumb of the Unions with, “I’m nobody’s man, I’m my own man.”  He was decisive in the way he replaced Chief Whip Nick Brown almost immediately with Rosie Winterton, demonstrating a fresh start.

But the truth is, the public do not know much about him.  Currently the Tories are painting him as ‘yesterday’s man’, backed by Kinnock and the Unions.  (Come off it.  In fact, he may tack right in order to prove this wrong.)  He was silent during the Conservative party Conference, on a week when it was announced that there will be a capping of benefits, an end to universal Child Benefit and the introduction of a married couples tax break.  This silence looked hesitant, not strategic.  He needs to be vocal and stand up for his values now.

Yet, he has done well to instil a lot of optimism to rally the ‘new generation’ behind him.  Peter Hain explained how, ‘Ed’s the unfinished article’ and ‘that’s great…You’ll see how he grows.’  He has done much to increase awareness of the Living Wage campaign.  He lacks the New Labour instinct for spin and sound bites. This is positive; it makes him seem more genuine and perhaps will facilitate a different kind of politics.  He has the ability to speak passionately, leaving the impression that he sincerely believes what he says.  He takes the time to explain.  When I asked Ed Miliband what he would do to address Labour’s erosion of civil liberties, he genuinely sympathised and explained in length that he will push for policies to protect civil liberties.  When I pressed him further and asked him how people could be certain to trust him and that he really would change things, he said, “You have my word.”  I think he gets it.

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