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What Ed Miliband needs to spell out in 2013

Ed Miliband’s commitment today to set out concrete policy steps in this next year is certainly needed. But the really essential point is that they must deal with the fundamentals, given how dire and precarious the state of Britain has now descended into.

The worry is that both the main parties are now fixated on symbols which, though important in themselves, are not central to the current pressing concerns of most of the general public. The Tory party has impaled itself once again on the EU question, as though withdrawal from Europe were somehow a panacea for the cure of Britain’s woes – an idea so fanciful, whatever one thinks about the EU, as to be risible.

The Labour party has adopted the theme of ‘One Nation Britain’ which certainly draws on the injustice and hurt of profound inequality, but gives very little sense of the huge structural transformation that is needed if both national and individual prosperity is to be restored. Above all, sheltering beneath a popular and heart-warming slogan cannot be a substitute for confronting the profound failures that are daily pulling down Britain.

The single most important point for Labour to make, and one for which the whole country is waiting, is that prolonged austerity is self-defeating; even the government’s own OBR has recently predicted that on current policies the structural deficit will still be £99bn in 2015, only £10bn less than it was in 2010 – a policy of ruthless attrition with virtually no reward whatever.

Labour should commit instead to create a million jobs within 2 years, funded either by diverting QE into direct public investment in infrastructure or housing, or by taxing the 1-2% super-rich, or by borrowing a very modest £0.15bn at ultra-low interest rates to raise £30bn to turn the economy around.

Second, the drastically hollowed-out UK economy (with a deficit in traded goods this year of some £110bn, or 7.5% of GDP) should be repaired by switching from over-dependence on financial services, which produced the epic crash of 2008-9, to a massive programme to reinvigorate British manufacturing. There is no other way to safeguard British living standards and to restore a full-employment economy.

Third, Labour should commit to radical reform of the banks to ensure they serve the real interests of British industry, not their own self-interest through wasteful and destructive financial speculation and tax avoidance.

Fourth, Labour should make clear its commitment to re-draw the boundaries between state and markets by ensuring that the objective of market efficiency is properly balanced by the ethos of public service and community interest, either through regulation, taxation or public ownership as most appropriate.

Fifth, the yawning inequality of income, wealth, power and opportunity must be addressed by whole company pay bargaining, tax on extreme wealth, a new charter of employment rights in the workplace, and a classless and open education system.

10 Comments

  1. Dave says:

    “prolonged austerity is self-defeating”

    Well said, Michael.

    I’m baffled as to why Labour’s right-wing ‘think’ the only route to credibility is in mimicking failed Tory policy.

  2. Jon Moorcroft says:

    I agree with all of what Michael proposes above, but lets be honest, the Tories will not implement any of the suggested ideas and even if there is a Labour victory in 2015, the strong element of “Red Tories” within the party, who continue grasp on to the coat tails of failed Neo-liberalism policies, will make most if not any of the above nigh on impossible to implement.

    To change society into a fairer, more equal society for all, with full employment in decent, well paid jobs, decent social housing, good public services that work for the needs of the service user and not in the interests of profit, we need a sweeping change in the Labour Party its self. We need MP’s who are representative of their constituencies; working class people who know what its like to struggle to pay the utility bills, not Oxbridge careerists jettisoned into safe seats, who are so far removed from the struggles of ordinary people its untrue. I’m afraid until this happens, nothing will change for working class people and Labour will remain as unconvincing as the other two (thats the Tories & UKIP as I think the Lib-Dems are finished).

    Good luck convincing the party Michael especially the “New Labour cuckoos” as Len McCluskey correctly described them.

    I’m certainly not holding my breath.

  3. Jon Williams says:

    @Dave – might be someting to do with Tony Blair winning three elections! But as Jon mentioned a majority of MPs are from the middle – upper classes and not the working classes.

  4. treborc says:

    It’s been a long time coming because I do not think many will know what Miliband stands for we all know he likes people in work, hard working and the middle class who are squeezed.

    Being disabled to me, both Labour and the Tories are equality idiotic, but we will see.

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  6. Peter Rowlands says:

    Yes, an excellent summary by Michael of what should be Labour’s priorities. However, the left has not been very active in putting forward its ideas on the Labour Party ‘Your Britain’ online policy hub, where a number of documents inviting comment have received little response. It is essential that we spell out what policies we think the party should adopt, and not to do so in this situation could invite accusations that we are not serious. I hope that Left Futures can encourage its readers and writers to make submissions, so that at least we are on record in doing so.

  7. Dave says:

    Jon W: “might be something to do with Tony Blair winning three elections!”

    Not sure what you mean but the 1997 high-point was achieved on Blair’s promise of a ‘stakeholder economy’. As we all know, Blair didn’t deliver and lost nearly 3 million votes between the ’97 and ’01 elections (while also jettisoning as many manufacturing jobs as Thatcher disposed of during her heyday).
    To me it seemed the electorate began to tire of New Labour’s version of Thatcherism quite early on.

  8. Jon Williams says:

    Hi Dave, Yes agree TB over promised on many issues and lost many working class voters. With reference to election wins I believe he was able to convince a broad coalition of supporters in all parts of the country, especially in the South where right wing Labour policies appeal more. Some people might call it the Centre ground of politics! Perhaps New Labour has become One Nation?

  9. Dave says:

    Hi Jon. New Labour may well have become One Nation Labour. Certainly New Labour’s feverish privatisers are well represented in the shadow cabinet – how on earth can Andy Burnham be expected to oppose Tory privatisation of the NHS when, with NHS Global, Burnham took the first step toward integrating the NHS within a global health market?

    But surely there can be no return to the New Labour approach. If One Nation Labour – perhaps less able to convince due to Blair’s deceitful ‘stakeholder’ rhetoric – reproduces the declining voter turn-out achieved by New Labour then the PLP will have very little to look forward.

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