Welcome to Milibandism

by Charlie_East_West on September 25, 2013

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Well, how was it for you?

Ed Miliband’s speech to the Labour Conference was a hugely significant moment. It was the moment that he set the battle lines of difference between the tried and failed ideology of Thatcherism and a new way in which to shape politics – though the birth of Milibandism.

Ed Miliband was on good form yesterday. He spoke fluently, was at ease with himself, and looked the part – with a decent suit and tie (rather than his usual look of a gauche oversized schoolboy who had been hastily dressed by his mother). He also spoke at length and without notes. The whole package seemed to work. But, more importantly (and I have to admit, rather surprisingly) Ed Miliband proved his worth as a Labour leader who had a well thought out ideological vision.

Miliband went into yesterday’s keynote speech under huge pressure. There is a perception that David Cameron looks like he has more gravitas – probably because he has that deep rooted establishment arrogance and Flashman swagger, and, by the virtue of currently residing in 10 Downing Street and being called Prime Minister. There is also a perception that hardly anyone knows what Ed Miliband really stands for – What is his vision? Can we really elect a geek?

Currently, political ideology is being framed by the continuing dark arts of divide and rule Thatcherism. Millions of people are continuing to be hoodwinked by the right wing into believing that the state is to blame for the financial mess. This ploy feeds off the ignorance. It appeals to those (and there are many) who think that their whole way of life is somehow threatened by outside forces such as immigrants, Europe and state “scroungers” etc. The more that this narrative is developed, the more in which people become insular and start seeking retribution in all the wrong places – and therefore the Tories are allowed to create packages of austerity against the poor and vulnerable, whilst covertly opening up a series of privatisation opportunities right under our noses by dismantling the public sector for private sector tendering opportunities.

This ploy sets a lair of traps for Labour. They can either buy into this argument and desperately scratch around for a few scraps of policy differences – but without really upsetting the status quo and the way of doing things (which has existed since 1979). Or, they can try and reshape the whole political framework by offering up something radical, progressive and whisper it – appealing to the many.

So, Miliband could have played it safe – like last year’s widely praised yet largely safe bet rhetorical speech. Instead, he decided to adopt the death or glory route, and reshape the Labour party towards a 21st century version social democracy. Miliband has now set the wheels in motion towards an ideological battleground. He should be applauded for this. In just one speech, he has given the electorate a choice – The Tories – with the wrong values presiding over a corporate-first society OR Labour – with the right values presiding over a people-first society.

Miliband has now cleverly identified that the majority of people are facing unfair pressures from a rising cost of living that is not helped by the unethical profiteering from corporates against the public. Even more cleverly, Miliband framed David Cameron and George Osborne as culpable by association – by arguing that inequality and injustice were a deliberate cause and effect of the Conservative economic strategy, not just unfortunate function and form side-effects. He justified this by stating that Cameron’s “global race” is really a race to the bottom, low wages and limited employment rights. In effect, he framed “we are all in this together” in terms of unfairness – caused by Tories and big business. So, rather than focus on the deficit, Miliband decided to focus on poor living standards, unfairness and inequality – and rather pleasingly, shaped it all around and easy to understand framework against big business and for individual fairness.

And then came the policies. Having first established a vivid account of why the Tories have forfeited their right to lead the country through their slavish love of unethical business, Miliband then proceeded to set out a number of consistent policies that backed up his initial speech themes of inequality and injustice – through – lower energy bills, more homes, hints at re-nationalisation, scrapping the bedroom tax, apprenticeships, and a better NHS.

This is a clever strategy – blame the motives of a morally bankrupt government ideology seen through the prism of big business, show the impact of this in terms of unfairness, and then set out a number of policies that address this issue.

Yesterday marked a pivotal moment in British politics. It marked the moment that Labour and Miliband ideologically ended the Blair era, and had enough confidence to shape their own ideological framework for Britain today. It has caused an almighty shit-storm of vitriol from the right wing media, and also many of the Blairites. Miliband has pressed all the right buttons.

But, now comes the tricky bit – to do this day after day after day – right up until May 2015.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Eddie Kaye September 25, 2013 at 1:15 pm

Excellent points Charlie. I am excited about the direction Labour is taking. The quarters calling for commitment for renationalisation etc are premature. I would love for example to see a first Parliament promise to allow the rail franchises to come back under tax payer control as they lapse – however I think Labour and Ed M have to be realistic, and present a package that the electorate can buy into. After all, as Tony Benn reminded us, they can do nothing in opposition.

Right now Labour have one job – ridding this country of the festering rancid Thatcherite led Coalition, and replacing it with a new narrative. The Blairites will do what they know how – become ‘Tory-lite’ to gain power. It is past that point. It is time for a shift in the centre ground and a new consensus to emerge – one where the emphasis is back on the common good, and where those who caused the crisis are made to pay for it – THROUGH THE FUCKING NOSE!

That will not come about overnight. Labour must win power in 2015, and use its first term to cement its place in Government. If the energy companies play hard ball during that time, reverse the narrative of the 3 day week in the 1970’s – ask seriously who runs the country!

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Charlie_East_West September 25, 2013 at 1:20 pm

Miliband’s comments and challenge to the energy companies today bodes well. He is standing up to them.

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Eddie Kaye September 25, 2013 at 1:37 pm

I actually hope the energy companies do put up a fight. My rationale is simple. It will destroy the myth about the so called ‘union gang boss’ arguement that Thatcherites have used. Can anyone continue to use the 3 day week, or winter of discontent as a stick to beat the left with when effectively the energy companies would be doing the same? Ironically an all out war with the energy companies could have the same effect as the miners strike in reverse – destroying the darlings of market forces and the ideology behind them!

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Charlie_East_West September 25, 2013 at 1:41 pm

Good point, Eddie – Miliband can shape an anti-corporate message with much more justification than Thatcher did with her anti-union message. But, like Thatcher – this message has huge potential to resonate with millions of people.

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Geoff Elliott September 25, 2013 at 1:37 pm

Very promising, building again on the speeches of the past 2 years. The pressure was on, Labour have had an awful year, conceding ground on nearly every front and Milliband needed to come out fighting. The Tory press is in a funk this morning with headlines like ‘Labour declares war on business’ and ‘Stalinist land grab’, so he must be doing something right.

Momentum needs to be maintained. In London there is visible evidence of a recovery which will be heralded by the right wing press as a result of all the hard decisions taken by the coalition and risking it by giving power back to Labour as senseless. We know how it’s going to play out this next couple of years.

But, corporates care little for people, regardless of the sincerity of their CSR and environmental agendas. This ‘people first’ initiative may just catch on if the widespread torpor of the general public can be shifted.

We’ll see.

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Charlie_East_West September 25, 2013 at 1:40 pm

In fact – Miliband should use my phrase of “people first” – over and over and over again. A simple message. Easily understood.

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George_East September 25, 2013 at 1:43 pm

Try to conceive of how the Tory Press would be reacting now if the unions in the energy companies were threatening strikes and blackouts loomed as a result. The Mail and the Telegraph would be talking about sending the Army in.
We have the exact same situation now, except it is the energy companies themselves doing it and the right wing press is printing the energy companies’ press releases as news (see today’s Times, for example which appears literally to be doing that), without any criticism. Centrica alone made a £1.4Bn profit last year.

If Miliband holds his nerve on this, he has the ability to put and then keep the Tories and the right on the wrong side of the public on this. Ordinary hard pressed members of the public against the 6 giant energy companies. I know politically which side of that argument I’d like to be on.

So far so good.

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