Yesterday saw a seismic shift in the way that the leaders of our two biggest parties talked about the riots. The focus up until now has been on stopping them and dealing with the aftermath, but good old political confrontation has now restarted.
Yesterday’s speeches by David Cameron and Ed Miliband gave the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition the opportunity to go head to head with their competing interpretations of the riots and ‘what should be done’.
At the speech I attended, Ed Miliband’s measured rhetoric and determination to avoid political point scoring over the emotive issue of the Government’s cuts to youth services (even when tempted to do so by loaded questions) went down predictably well with the audience at his former school. David Cameron was similarly well received when speaking in his Witney constituency. It is interesting to note the message that the choice of locations convey – Haverstock school was in the heart of one of the areas worst affected by the riots, whilst Witney is very much a part of Middle England that has been so outraged with them.
But perhaps the most telling difference between the two speeches was how Ed Miliband and David Cameron dealt with each other. Cameron’s speech made no mention of Miliband; a clear attempt to sideline the Labour leader in the hope that he will become an increasingly irrelevant figure. Contrastingly, Miliband made no bones about making outright attack on Cameron, his party, and what he sees as their ‘gimmicks’, and attempted to portray the Government’s response as reactionary and superficial. So how has this gone down with the public?
A Sky News poll in the aftermath of the speeches on who viewers believed to be handling the crisis best showed Cameron beating Miliband, 68 to 32 percent. However, Miliband will be hoping that his more nuanced approach achieves more long term gains when the public’s initial anger has dissipated, and the search for answers begins in earnest.