NOT a geek, not a nerd, not a wonk.

No longer Red Ed. No more the baffling talk of producers, predators and predistribution. Gone was the awkwardness, the gawkiness, the nasal whine. Gone even that strange white badger streak in his black hair that once hogged the limelight.

It had been combed away like so many of the other failings that have caused the British public to doubt whether Ed Miliband was fit for purpose as leader of the Opposition.

Yesterday, he was polished and confident, fluent and fluid, and as relaxed as Denis Norden, with his left hand jingling blithely in his trouser pocket. He appeared to enjoy his 65 minutes on stage without a note and without a mistake.

We shouldn’t fall for a gimmick. Mr Miliband’s memory man impersonation does not qualify him for Downing Street any more than his ability to complete a Rubik’s Cube.

The Echo’s comment on Saturday noted that Mr Miliband seemed to have dropped out of politics during the summer, and was headlined: “Where’s Ed Miliband?” The answer now is clear: he’s spent months in front of his mirror, practising his lines.

Even so, his flawless speech was an impressive gimmick. He out-acted Tony Blair. His audience gave him a spontaneous standing ovation when he attacked the Tories for being an “incompetent, out-of-touch, pledge-breaking, make-it-up-as-you-go-along, miserable shower...”

It was difficult to say, though, whether they were applauding his sentiments or his ability, like one of those lip-smacking thirstquenching adverts, to reach the end of his sentence without tying his tongue in a knot.

For all its gimmickry, the speech did reveal Mr Miliband to be warm, human and humourous.

His joke about his three-year-old son telling him what he wanted him to say – “I want flying dinosaurs that eat people, daddy”

– was endearing, and his put-down was selfdeprecating.

“We tried predators last year,” he said, referring to one of the wooden philosophical concepts of 12 months ago that went over the nation’s head.

The speech was well-judged. He wanted to portray himself as the son of war refugees who attended a comprehensive school to differentiate himself from the posh Eton boys of the Conservative Party.

It could have been embarrassing or toecurlingly cheesy (remember when John Major went to his humble birthplace and became all dewy-eyed for the camera about it still being there), but it wasn’t.

Although one swallow doesn’t make a summer, this one speech could makeover Mr Miliband’s image. The wonk is on the way out.

BUT that is all about style. Was there any substance? He mentioned the phrase “one nation” 46 times, as his way of showing how he wanted to unite the country, to govern in everybody’s name, in contrast to the divisive policies of the coalition Government which gives “millionaires tax cuts”.

He admitted that he stole the concept from Benjamin Disraeli, the Victorian Conservative Prime Minister.

On the face of it, this seems strange. It took many observers by surprise. In his day, Disraeli was detested by those on the left – the Echo comment of 140 years ago described his right-wing government as being full of “witlings, cynics and a whole tribe of moral eunuchs”.

But Mr Blair also tried to claim the one nation concept for the Labour Party in 1995 to show how fledgling New Labour was moving onto the centre ground. Now Ed is trying the same trick in an attempt to rid himself of the “Red” tag which has dogged him.

He also hopes his grab for the centre will highlight how far right the Tories have shifted.

His most effective dig at David Cameron was: “You can’t be a ‘one nation’ Prime Minister if your Chief Whip insults the great police officers of this country by calling them ‘plebs’.”

MR Miliband’s sternest critics will point out that yesterday there were no specific policies about how he would unite the nation, and even his softest friends must be concerned at the lack of realism he showed about the extent of Britain’s financial problems.

But 30 months from an election is probably not the right time for a leader of the Opposition to talk about specifics – your best ideas will be stolen by the government and your worst ones will come back to haunt you in unforeseeable ways.

Instead, Mr Miliband went for a broad-brush approach: he promised to introduce more vocational learning and he promised that he would undo the current NHS reforms. He wasn’t able to say, though, what the education timetable would look like if his technical baccalaureate were introduced, and he wasn’t able to say what management model his newlook NHS would adopt.

But he was able to articulate in simple, nonwonkish terms, that feeling of unfairness and powerlessness that people increasingly feel.

He said: “They ask, why is it that when the oil price goes up, the petrol price goes up, but when oil price comes down, the petrol price just stays the same? They ask, why is that the gas and electricity bills just go up and up and up? And they ask, why is it that the privatised railways can make hundreds of millions of pounds in profit at the same time as train fares are going up by ten per cent a year? They think the system just doesn’t work for them. And, you know what? They’re right – it doesn’t.”

Ed Miliband yesterday threw off the tags that have held him back in the polls. He made a connection with the British people. Now he must find an answer to their conundrum.