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Panic about the Milibands

David & Ed MilibandThe last minute flurry of media columnists giving a lift to David M in a final effort to head off the Ed M threat, just before voting ends this Wednesday, shows how panicky they are that the safe haven of New Labour as an acceptable temporary option to the Tories may be about to end.   To take one example, Will Hutton delivers a rather contrived and shallow endorsement of DM in the Observer which falls well below his usual standards of insight and fair comment – as though he’d been told to make the best job of a slipping candidacy, but found the evidence to do so lacking.   Here are his words.

The party (in the 1990s) had to come to a different accommodation, both with capitalism and the State.   It had to use the State to create vigorous checks and balances within capitalism rather than directly run it.   The market economy had the merit of unleashing entrepreneurship and the fair rewards for hard work and effort.   Fairness, a core Labour value, was a larger idea than just equality of income.   It meant reciprocity, contributing getting one’s just deserts and accepting obligations.   Fairness and belief in the market economy were thus two traditions that could be reconciled”.

Just about every statement here is wrong, false or misleading. These are his reasons for supporting David rather than Ed.   But they don’t add up.   New Labour didn’t use the State to create vigorous checks and balances, but to do precisely the opposite – ‘light-touch’ regulation to diminish whatever checks and balances there were.   The market economy hasn’t (and doesn’t) produce fair rewards for hard work, but rather the opposite – an effort-zapping rise in inequality without any defensible rationale.   Fairness may mean more than just equality of income, but New Labour capitalism has generated the opposite – an income gap between top and bottom that is vast and still growing.   ‘Reciprocity, contributing, getting one’s just deserts and accepting obligations’ sounds fine, but won’t take you very far against the rougher edges of New Labour’s unfettered market fundamentalism.

David has not repented of any of these weasel words in which he fully shared; Ed’s made clear they won’t do.   Hutton says DM ‘wants a moral economy in which British capital is less feckless’.   What’s that supposed to mean, and how is it enforced?   Hutton goes on that DM ‘calls for a good society in which benefits and entitlements are earned’.   But that’s pie-in-the-sky fantasy when the real issues bearing down hard are massive cuts, rising joblessness and a City still out of control.  Hutton then continues that DM ‘wants to devise ways in which public intervention is less statist’.   But that leaves no effective cutting edge against the aggressive power structure and major social injustices of contemporary capitalism.

That’s why the British Establishment is now so terrified of an Ed Miliband victory, and also why the rest of Britain needs that victory so badly.

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