Labour figures believe David Cameron was onto something when he started talking about “ethical capitalism” in 2009. They feel he then abandoned such talk when he became prime minister, and reckon that Ed Miliband now has the opportunity to capture that ground.
That is why his speech was so heavy on words many in New Labour would have hated: words like “values”, “right” and “wrong”. Take this passage for example:
You believe in the values of the long term. But in our economy, you’ve been told the fast buck is ok. And what’s happened? We’ve ended up with a financial crisis and you’ve ended up footing the bill.
One member of the shadow cabinet described the strategy to me as like putting up a (morality) tree from which you could hang various attacks, whether on nefarious bankers, feckless benefits cheats or asset-stripping corporate vultures.
The worry will be, however, that moralising starts looking like hectoring. Already commentators are starting to question the value of lines like “You know what your values are.” People don’t want to hear that, they want to hear what Miliband’s values are.