Ed Miliband

Labour, Letters And Clear Water

Both Paul Bernal and Sunny Hundal have written open letters to Rachel Reeves. First, the ex-Labour Party member expresses what many of us feel:

“This is a rare chance for you – I do hope you haven’t already thrown it away. Ed Miliband’s speech at conference was very well received, and seemed to pretty seriously rattle the Tories. They, in response, revealed some of their nastiest aspects at their conference. The Lib Dems are still in chaos. With the departure of Liam Byrne, you had a chance to change the game. It was a chance get onto the front foot, and set the agenda – as Ed Miliband did so well with the energy price freeze policy. Did you notice how well that resonated with people? And how the promise to repeal the Bedroom Tax resonated with people? Did you ask yourself why? One of the key reasons is that it put clear water between Labour and the Tories. It showed that Labour understood peoples’ problems, and actually seemed to care about them. It showed that Labour was no longer going to just be a slightly milder version of the Tories…. or so we thought.
EDM1
Through your interview, you’ve reversed all that. You may well have lost all the goodwill gained by the Party Conference. I do hope that’s not the case, and I hope you’ll be willing to reconsider your approach. Personally, I live in Cambridge, which is a marginal seat, currently held by the Lib Dems, and I would have thought that you want my vote. Right now, with an approach like this, I don’t think I can give it to you. After Ed Miliband’s speech I was even considering rejoining the Labour Party – after a long gap – and putting a good deal of energy into supporting the campaign. I’d still like to do that, but with an approach like this, I really can’t see a way. [My emphasis.] “

Sunny puts it in an more moderate way:

“The conventional wisdom within Labour is that the party is seen as ‘soft’ on people who claim social security and too forgiving of people who abuse the system. You will know that poorer people are usually harsher towards others on benefits and want tough sanctions on abusers of the system. You will have seen polling that suggests Labour needs to neutralise that image or else people may be tempted to vote for the Conservatives in 2015. Hence you wanted to sound tough in your interview with the Observer on Sunday.

This talk of Labour ‘walking into a welfare trap’ set by the Tories has itself become a problem: we keep returning to the safe ground of ‘tough’ rhetoric, without convincing messages or policies that favour Labour in the long term. It is time to bring some fresh thinking to this debate and I hope you won’t shy away from doing so.”

Update 1: George Eaton argues EU study shreds the myth of “benefit tourism”.

Polly Toynbee vs. Ed Balls

Last week I briefly glimpsed an interview with Ed Balls, Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer and major figure in the British Labour Party.

It was a general discussion on the Tories (misnamed) Autumn statement. The interviewer, whose name I forget, tried to pin him down into criticising George Osborne’s measures. However, the ever so cunning Balls was having none of it. He hummed and ahhed, instead of giving pointed answers and making it clear that Labour was stridently oppose the Tory measures, he prevaricated.

And that, for me, is the problem with the Labour leadership, they don’t really know which Tory measures there against, or even if they should oppose them totally, which is bewildering.

But I am not the only one to notice the malaise within the Labour leadership. The hardly radical, Polly Toynbee has some suggestions:

“To turn the public mood, Labour needs to find its voice and tell the stories that counteract Daily Mail scrounger anecdotes. For every cheat claiming disability while running a marathon, there are thousands of tales of the hard-working and the desperate-to-work queuing at food banks. Labour MPs’ surgeries brim with stories that need to be told, of families evicted unable to pay soaring rents, of children trapped in bed-and-breakfast single rooms, of “strivers” sinking through no fault of their own.

Labour needs to say what they see. Forget the polls and the focus groups, let the facts speak for themselves. Ed Miliband’s best instinct is that people are sick of Osborne’s callow politicking. Voters will reward honesty in politicians who speak their minds. If not, why bother at all?

My feeling is, that the useless Balls and Miliband are too wrapped up in the Westminster bubble to take this shrewd advice.

Ed Miliband, Owen Jones And A Poverty Of Ambition

I don’t tend to comment on domestic British politics, much of it is uninspiring and would bore a sloth off of a tree.

Notwithstanding that, I couldn’t let the much heralded Ed Miliband interview in the New Statesman pass without comment.

The British Labour Party cannot, in spite of the obvious unpopularity with the Tories, land a knockout blow, whilst the polling figures are fairly good at CON 33%, LAB 45%, LD 8%, UKIP 6%.

Given everyone’s contempt for the Tories and the open booing at the Paralympics you might, not unreasonably, expect an invigorated Labour, just waiting for the opportunity to take power, however, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

The charismatically challenged, Ed Miliband, could only manage the feeble wonkish soundbite of “predistribution” in his New Statesman interview. All strikingly unimpressive, as Stumbling and Mumbling pointed out.

Even Jonathan Freedland, who is obviously very sympathetic to Miliband, argued, Ed Miliband could learn from Bill Clinton’s masterclass:

“So the transatlantic trade in political ideas is always going to be bumpy. Still, there are some items I assume those returning pols have stashed into their hand luggage. For Labour, item one is surely a DVD of the Clinton speech: Ed Miliband should sit down, pen in hand, right away to watch and learn.

He would conclude, first, that a politician does not have to talk down to an audience. It is possible to talk seriously. Indeed, if you show the voters you respect them, they’ll respect you. Second, it’s wise to deal with the opposition’s arguments, rather than hoping they’ll go away. Clinton went through the Romney-Ryan chargesheet and tore it apart. Labour must do the same with the persistent claim that it cannot be trusted to run the economy because it overspent last time. It takes effort, but it’s worth it.

What’s more, Clinton showed the power of arithmetic. He walked through the Republicans’ numbers, exposing that their sums did not add up: you cannot cut taxes, spend more on defence and cut the deficit. Labour has to persist making the apparently counterintuitive case that austerity in a recession actually adds to, not reduces, the country’s debts because it kills growth. “

Reading the comeback interview at New Statesman with Miliband I can’t help thinking not much will improve his poor grasp of politics and lack of appeal. I hope I am wrong.

The problem would seem to be Miliband is, sensibly, prepared to drop the New Labour nonsense but haven’t thought of a clear-cut alternative.

Owen Jones has a few radical suggestions for Ed and his team and this is an obvious winner:

“Fourthly, we should be calling for a far more progressive tax system. Shortly after reducing the taxes of Britain’s richest 1%, George Osborne expressed his supposed shock that some of the wealthiest people paid no taxes at all. As well as clamping down on the £25 billion lost through tax avoidance, we should be looking at making sure the booming rich pay more. A YouGov poll for Class showed that the majority of Britons – including more than 4 out of 10 Tory voters – would support a 75% tax rate on those earning £1 million or more, a policy suggested by new French President François Hollande. “

Most people are disgusted by casino capitalism and how, no matter the outcome, the rich are rewarded more day by day, so whatever Miliband and the Labour Party does I would suggest being bold, like Clement Attlee!