IN Manchester 2010 we walked away thinking that Labour had elected the wrong Miliband as leader. Then in Liverpool 2011 we left the hall scratching our heads wondering what the man was talking about. But back in Manchester in 2012, Ed Miliband did not just sound like a leader but a prime minister in waiting.
It took two years and three attempts at a leader’s speech to nail it, but yesterday could prove to be a watershed moment in terms of the result of the next election and Labour’s hopes for a speedy return to power. As of yesterday the geek with an odd fascination for Rubik’s cubes was gone and the human being who could one day lead the UK had arrived.
Mr Miliband did something few if any political commentators would have thought him capable of, and brought a passion and narrative to his speech which electrified his audience.
Brandishing his faith in British values he took us on a journey from the Polish village his grandmother was born in, through the flight from the Nazis of his parents, through his schooling and on to why he wanted to be a politician. The audience of Labour members, who had in previous years struggled to warm to him, lapped it up.
He spoke of his “faith” in One Nation politics. There was a brief moment of silence in the hall as delegates began to digest the thought that their Labour leader was resurrecting an idea dreamed up by a Tory leader Benjamin Disraeli almost exactly 140 years before across the road from where they were sitting.
But as he developed the concept of One Nation standing for the NHS, social justice and keeping the UK together, the idea was sold.
When Disraeli gave his famous speech it took him three hours and two bottles of brandy. Mr Miliband was relatively brief at one hour and five minutes and stuck to water. But his audience left the hall with the smiles of people drunk on the idea that at last they had just sat through a speech that could see them back in power again.