Labour: Now is not the time for faint hearts

by Ray_North on March 25, 2014

Unknown-5I’ve said it before on these pages and I’m happy to say it again – I like Ed Miliband. Unlike many others I do not find him robotic and tedious and I am not put off by his looks. In fact I find intelligent and shrewd and remain convinced that he would be a good Prime Minister.

But, sadly, if he and his party continue in the current vein he will never be given that opportunity.

Ed Miliband’s response to the budget was predictable and hackneyed – and the great shame of that, is that this wasn’t a particularly good budget – politically it was all a bit of a con, because unless you are a pensioner with fairly substantial savings the budget offered you nothing at all.

But, what it did was to allow George Osborne to reinforce his message that his government are more competent on the economy than Labour and that any change of driver would be a disaster; and it allowed the Tories to put in place aspirational policies – we may not be a pensioner with fifteen grand in the bank or a saver in general, but many of us wouldn’t mind, one day, being in that position, so, instinctively we don’t rile against Osborne’s plans.

Labour’s inability to respond to that rests on the two problems that it currently has – first, is the fact that it has signed up to austerity, which means any quibbling over the cuts doesn’t come across as particularly genuine; and second, it has failed to articulate a consistent message about who and what post Blair Labour represents.

And the annoying thing about this is that, last Autumn, they were close to doing this. In his speech to the Labour Party Conference – Miliband unveiled One Nation Labour, which seemed to be a politics in which the state played a role to bring capitalism to heel to ensure that the essential elements of life: work, healthcare, education, social services etc were properly provided. The first tranche appeared to be the call for the energy providers to freeze their prices. It worked. I listened to that speech, and, as a public servant with children in a state school, I felt for the first time in a long time that Labour was really talking to me.

So where has that gone? Why has that not been persevered with? Surely,the budget gave Labour and Ed Miiband the ideal opportunity to reinforce this message.

He could have welcomed the Chancellor’s initiatives to help those who are aged 55-65 who have its of spare cash and savings and then gone on to ask what assistance there was for, say, the nation’s youth, who are unemployed or who are facing a future where university places are going to be astronomically expensive and well paid jobs increasingly hard to come by – because there were no specific initiatives for young people in the budget whilst the changes in rules concerning annuities may well impact upon their generation as they are forced to bail out pensioners who have failed to make provisions for their dotage; or he could have asked what help the Chancellor was going to give to those people who were earning less than £40k, because there was absolutely nothing to assist in the reduction of cost of living; or what assistance he was going to give to those who are employed in the public sector and have found life difficult because of the strict adherence to pay restraint and austerity.

He could have asked the Chancellor all of these questions and placed Labour in a position where he could genuinely say that they are on the party that is best supporting those who are working hard and trying to get by and are trying to improve society not break it down.

But Labour didn’t, instead Ed Miliband simply trumpeted the argument that it is utterly unfair that millionaires are getting tax breaks whilst the rest of us suffer – now don’t get me wrong, that really bloody resonates with me, but it is hardly the positive message that Labour needs to convey if it is going to win the next general election.

Of course, Labour’s problem is that because they have signed up to the austerity measures – there is actually very little that Ed Miliband can say. And, that is the faintness of heart that will see the Tories re-elected in 2015. Now, I understand Labour’s reticence about appearing to be profligate about the economy, and I’m not suggesting that Labour should go into the next election espousing a massive programme of state intervention and huge spending, because clearly the electorate are wary of that – but, I am suggesting that Labour can still properly say to the electorate that in the time of fragile economic growth, what is needed is further impetus, and, in a time when so many people are finding it difficult to cope with the cost of living and the untrammelled effects of global capitalism, measures need to be taken to create a fairer economy where everyone has a chance to thrive.

At the moment Labour are in danger of entering the next election with little to say to the electorate other than – the Tories: what a bunch of wankers they are – and that, though true, isn’t going to rid us of them.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Eddie Kaye March 25, 2014 at 5:17 pm

There is another way Ray. Labour bite the bullet, and release themselves from, the shackles of Blairism once and for all. Put clear daylight between them and the Tories – otherwise they are heading for a one termer at best if they get that far. The spectre of 1983 should not worry them – Tony Benn pointed out that an oft forgotten fact is that it was the first time since 1945 that 8.5million voters voted for an openly left wing manifesto. They also have nothing to fear from the Lib Dems who will be blown out of the water (and hence unable to do what the Alliance did to Labour in ’83). UKIP would not be a problem as they would dilute the Tory vote as well.

Even if they did not gain power (and believe me there is nothing I would rather see than the back of this lot), it could be a building block for a foothold in Parliament of a clear anti-austerity force.

Undfortunately, I just don’t think they will risk the chance they obviously think they have as it is!

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