Is Ed Miliband saying that the mixed economy is back on centre stage?

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I noted this morning the importance of the word 'nuance'. I wrote that before seeing Ed Miliband's speech this morning, which I now have.

If you'd have believed the headlines you'd have thought this was a speech to appease big business. And there is no doubt that some of the rhetoric makes clear that Labour does just that. This is an example:

Labour will build a prosperity in which all can share fairly, right across Britain.  And, in so doing, we can rebuild faith in business and in politics in Britain for the future.

That is the central mission for the government I want to lead in ten months' time. We cannot succeed by carrying on as we are or with big spending by government. But with reform - reform of the way governments work and reform of the way markets work. It is the way people will succeed. It is the way business will succeed.  It is the way Britain succeeds.

And the only way we can realise this mission is through your success. The great, dynamic businesses of our country being enabled to build the wealth, create the jobs and make the profits that will help them succeed. A clear mission for the country, a mission we can share, a One Nation mission which can tackle the big problems we face.

Would I have put things like that? Probably not. For a start I am not quite sure what the big spending by government is. And what I do know is that government spending is not going to change much, whatever is said. I have explained why on this blog, but I equally know that the Labour Party is not convinced on that point, and has not convinced the electorate of it either.

But then get beyond that, and this is not about keeping big business happy. It is actually saying it is as tainted as politics is, which may well be true. And that it also needs to change as much as politics does - and maybe even more so.

So this is definitely not about business as usual, although of course, to succeed business must make profits and no one - not least me given my past business career - is going to say otherwise. This speech does not, and it's right to do so.

But it is saying that reform will happen in markets - and business had better expect it, just as it has said reform will happen in tax, and markets had better expect that too. Temper the flattery - or plain straightforward statements of fact, which is what they are - with these comments and this is not an appeasing speech at all.

Nor is it when it comes to what needs to be done where I think the key elements look something like this:

Nowhere is the failure of the ability to plan for the long-term clearer than in our infrastructure where Britain lags far behind other countries.

[T]he UK needs affordable clean energy, modern communication systems, flood defences that can cope with the effects of climate change and a transport system that can cope with ever growing demand and which links business with markets and people with families, leisure and job opportunities. If we fail to meet these challenges, we will fail to grow our economy and fail to provide the quality of life that we would want for our children and our grandchildren.

Today I am accepting Sir John [Armitt]'s recommendation that we establish an independent National Infrastructure Commission to identify the UK's long-term infrastructure needs and hold governments to account.

And I am calling on the other political parties to join us in accepting his recommendation because agreement is vital to delivering the long-term infrastructure business needs to succeed.

Now, that's open to interpretation. But it may be that's not far from adopting, if house building is thrown into the mix, the prescription of the Green New Deal group, of which I am a part. The willingness to be creative to fund this will, of course, be key. I believe such creativity is possible. It's there I have to hope for the nuance.

And there's quite a lot else in the speech that appears welcome, like training, bank reform and energy market reform (both of which link back to past announcements) that appear to be on the right track.

If this is appeasement then it is well dressed up. If so, that's successful. But the reality is that the narrative Labour has so long needed is beginning to come into place with this speech. Of course, as with tax, I'd like more detail and a greater depth to the message but the basis for policy debate is, once again, being laid and on this occasion it is being done with open recognition that business is fundamental to Britain but is not all Britain is and that it cannot deliver solutions alone and that government has a role to play in its success, and vice versa. If that means this is a statement in support of the mixed economy, then that's very welcome, at least to me. That is, after all, what I argued for in The Courageous State.