My praise goes to Ed Miliband for the wisdom and courage to hire a neuro-scientist to help him connect with people.
For the first time in the professional political era, a politician has actually sought some professional help (ie. someone actually expert and versed in their field, rather than a beltway blusterer).
The initial result – a speech – showed that Miliband is still stuck in the narrow-minded formula of the beltway.
The speech itself was okay. He was self-deprecating and less serious. His spinners have claimed he realised he had been too serious and policy-focused.
In the speech he criticised the harshness of politics and hailed his new ‘empathy’ strategy to reach out to people.
But it’s a strange sort of empathy that you feel the need to proclaim in a speech full of scripted jokes about yourself. It’s strange that you would proclaim this as a strategy at all.
If he had really listened and understood the point about empathy, we may not have seen a speech. Miliband would have been out meeting real people and listening.
If he felt compelled to stick to the safety of speeches, he would have changed their language subtly, not completely. He would have spoken about his experiences, or the related experiences of others.
Instead, empathy became a grandstanding symbol about the new “Ed” – a new T-shirt to wear then sit on the shelf along the others he’s tried.