Labour Gives Up

by George_East on July 24, 2014

806622658-miliband-wants-cameron-targetedIt didn’t get that much publicity but last weekend saw the Labour Party’s National Policy Forum agree the party’s basic policy positions for the next election.  Yes there is the conference to come in the Autumn but it has been a good long while since it mattered a jot.   What came out of that Policy Forum was a remarkable degree of unity within the Labour Party.   The sad thing is that the unity was around the final abandonment of social democracy.

The only policy platform that was put to a vote was Ed Balls proposal to commit Labour not only to the government’s spending plans (involving austerity for as long as the eye can see) but to an economic policy which has at its heart a commitment to balance the budget and run current account surpluses year on year.   This is despite long term interest rates still being rock bottom low and borrowing being possible therefore at historically cheap rates.     Labour is going to concentrate as a priority on the all but irrelevant issue of the deficit.

Labour’s policy chief, Jon Cruddas described it as a ‘turning point in the history of the Labour Party’ as it involved a ‘fundamental rethinking of the basic assumptions around which social democracy is based’.    For which you can read, the Labour Party has adopted wholesale Osbornomics.     Not only is this intellectually and economically wrong headed, but it is politically absurd, as it will enable the Tories to run a campaign based in 2015 essentially saying that everyone, even the two Ed, now accept that austerity is the only credible economic policy.   There will be only one economic policy before the British people in 2015 – the choice will simply be about who bears the brunt of the cuts.

Ed Miliband has at times over the last few years shown signs of a real radicalism and a willingness to take on the political nostrums that have dominated our politics since 1979.  His commitment to take on the big energy companies with his proposal for a price freeze, his preparedness to take on the Murdoch empire head on over phone hacking.  These have garnered praise from us here at allthatsleft and engendered at times a hope that, whatever his weaknesses as  a credible Prime Minister in waiting, the Miliband leadership had the potential to represent a genuine break with the past.

This though has been mixed in with worrying policies such as accepting the government’s benefit cap and public sector pay freeze.

However, the last 6 months as Labour’s lead has been squeezed a little and as the economic news has got better, has seen a retreat into caution that has been truly disappointing.  A recent indication of how things were going was the daftness of the policy on the railways – allowing public sector and third sector bids for rail franchises when they expire, rather than simply taking each of them back into the public sector at the end of their current terms, even though renationalisation of the railways is hugely popular according to polling.

The truly tragic thing though is that Labour appear to have embraced austerity wholesale without there even being much by way of internal opposition.    The fear of losing in 2015  has led to a pitiful timidity.   There is a real risk now that Labour will go into the next election with a manifesto so conservative that it will make that of Tony Blair in 1997 look like 1983.  Although the incoming Blair government in 1997 famously committed itself to matching Tory spending plans (even though Ken Clarke admitted afterwards that he had no intention of keeping to them if the Major government had been re-elected), those spending plans were not predicated on swathing cuts to the public sector.

Labour is now a party so lacking in confidence in it own ideas and traditions that it has in effect given up.  That is a deeply depressing prospect for those of us who want to see real change.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Fionauk512 July 25, 2014 at 6:57 am

A short while ago, on this blog, the question was raised about how likely it would be for us, your readers, to vote for the Green Party. Now there would appear little to lose.

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Mike Killingworth July 25, 2014 at 10:25 am

Quite, Fiona.

What the article lacks is any consideration of why Miliband has taken this view. I think in part it’s because he’s seen what’s happened to Hollande in France, and Merkel’s hegemony in Germany. Seen in another light, it’s because there are no longer enough left-wing voters to matter.

People no longer have free university education (and I wonder for how much longer VIth form will be free), “a good job with a pension” is a memory and the remains of the 1945 settlement won’t last more than ten years tops – the British workforce can’t compete with Africa, Asia and electronica.

It’s full steam ahead to re-feudalization!

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Eddie Kaye July 25, 2014 at 6:03 pm

Unfortuately Ed M is heading for the dustbin of electoral history. Maybe even more spectacularly than Michael Foot IN 1983. Voters will buy the economy is healing bullshit next year and return Cameron. This manifesto will make the longest suicide note in history look like a not for the milkman. It may be the jolt Labour need to start challenging the status quo. Unfortunately it will come at the cost of 5 more years of Cameron.

The spectre of 83 still terrifies the Labour Party. What they should realise is that it was the largest share of the vote an openly socialist manifesto receivdd since 1945. It doesn’t take a genius Milliband sort it out!

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