What’s the number one rule in British politics?
According to Ed Miliband, it’s “don’t mess with Rupert Murdoch”.
And what’s “the oldest truth in politics”?
“You can’t trust the Tories on the NHS,” replies Ed.
I’m not sure how many would agree with Miliband’s Politics 101 analysis today. Especially if he thinks the oldest truth in his profession came about in the 1940s.
The Labour leader’s second conference speech focused on vested interests.
It was intended to plant Labour firmly on the side of “decent people”.
“There’s a quiet crisis which doesn’t get the headlines,” he told the room.
“It’s the people who don’t make a fuss, who don’t hack phones, loot shops, fiddle their expenses, or earn telephone number salaries at the banks.
“It’s the grafters, the hard-working majority who do the right thing.
“It’s a crisis which is happening in your town, your street and maybe even in your home.”
It was meant to be a prescient speech, full of passion and ambition and NOW-ness, a world where a quiet crisis is imminent.
But Miliband’s delivery did not reflect this. He was restrained, contained and almost clinical.
He didn’t visibly emote like Nick Clegg last week. No one thought he was on the verge of tears or about to wipe the spittle of frustration from his chin.
His attempts to redefine the centre might fit perfectly on the pages of The Purple Book.
They were less successful in front of a conference audience eager to hear how Miliband would rebuild trust, improve his own fortunes and reshape their party.
It felt like the work of a focus group – where 12 people Miliband likes sat in a room and came up with a considered thesis on how to regain power.
It didn’t feel like him alone, a single voice that speaks for Labour and the nation.
Labour Politics 101 for Ed might start with Murdoch or the NHS.
But maybe Labour Politics 101 needs to start with Ed.