Can Ed Miliband get public on side as he takes on the fat cats?
The Mail says 'Red Ed' is taking Labour back to the 70s. Wrong - he's reaching further back, to the days of Attlee
ED MILIBAND insisted this morning he will impose a freeze on energy prices for two years if Labour wins the election in 2015, regardless of threats that it will lead to Britain being blacked out, or attract legal challenges from the big energy companies.
Shares in Centrica - British Gas's parent company - fell by a modest 3.7 per cent as the markets opened this morning suggesting that the City is taking a more relaxed view than the energy companies of the Labour leader's energy price freeze bombshell, delivered in his speech to the party conference yesterday.
Miliband brushed aside dire warnings that the energy companies would go bust and switch off supplies as "scare stories" as he toured the broadcasting studios this morning, basking in the glowing reviews for his speech in most newspapers, despite the Tory-supporting Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph saying it marked a return of Old Labour.
Miliband wrote to the energy companies this morning, warning: "There is a crisis of confidence. We face a stark choice. We can work together on the basis of this price freeze to make the market work in the future. Or you can reinforce in the public mind that you are part of the problem not the solution."
Some of the energy companies are threatening a legal challenge if Labour wins power, but Miliband told Justin Webb on Radio 4's Today programme that he is convinced the plan is legally water-tight. "We have thought about it. We will pass legislation straight after the election to be absolutely clear the Secretary of State has the power to have this price freeze to the beginning of 2017."
Web asked: "The legal advice is that you can do this?"
He also warned the companies off seeking to protect their shareholders by inflating prices before the 2015 general election. He could be helped by the fact that Angela Knight, a former mouthpiece for the banks, is now speaking for the energy association. The public know her for having defended the indefensible in the City; how will they feel about her speaking up for the likes of British Gas?
The Mole agrees with Nick Robinson, the BBC's political editor, that 'Red Ed' has redefined the centre-ground of British politics and shifted it to the left. This produced the predictable headlines in the Daily Mail that Ed had taken Labour back to the bad old days of the 1970s.
In the Mole's view, they have picked the wrong decade. They compared Miliband's plans to Labour in the 1970s because it raises the damaging spectre of Labour's Winter of Discontent, and the bodies that went unburied. Miliband explicitly is not going back to the 1970s - he's reaching further back for inspiration to the great reforming Labour Government of Clem Attlee in 1945.
Nick Robinson said there is no doubt that Miliband has selected popular targets with his own supporters. "Every single one will have been market-tested, focus-grouped and dial-tested," said Robinson.
But will more voters be swayed by Ed's 'One Nation' agenda, or by the general wash from the right-wing media portraying him as anti-big business? As Robinson said, the trouble with defining yourself, is that "you also define yourself for your enemies... They are coming for him."
In his Sunday morning BBC interview with Andrew Marr, Miliband said he had never been seen as a "macho man". The Guardian cartoonist Steve Bell has jumped on the theme this morning, depicting Miliband transformed, as in the 1950s Charles Atlas ads, from the thin kid who gets bullied on the beach into a muscle-bound hulk. In the background, his wife, Justine, shouts: "What a man!"
In his present mood, Macho Miliband appears to relish kicking sand in the faces of the fat cats. His pals will be watching anxiously for the first set of polls to see whether the voters find it convincing. ·