Ed Miliband has run as the change candidate and that was unquestionably the right stance. Change is what is overwhelmingly needed both by the Labour Party and by Britain. If he wins, that change will come in four key areas.
First there will be alternative policies to redress the deficit which will oppose huge mindless cuts that hit the poorest hardest and decimate public services. The Labour Party’s position on the cuts so far has been timid, rigid, compromising. That will change as much greater focus is put on growth, job creation and taxing the super-rich. When the weight of the cuts over the next 2 years cracks the coalition, a relentless Labour political onslaught on the Tories’ needless destruction of the Welfare State will be backed by sound economic alternatives on the deficit.
Second, the obsessive fixation with the market as the model for all things, warts and all, will be rebalanced. Markets will always remain important in a free economy, so long as they are properly regulated. But there are two caveats. One is that there are several parts of public life where markets do not work well – including health, education, pensions, housing, energy, transport – where a different model has repeatedly been shown to work better. The other is that the unwinding of regulation so often has disastrous results – in unleashing a financial crash, or undermining needed quality standards in the environment, employment conditions and health and safety. Labour will now take a more mature view of markets and oppose the reflex reaction of privatisation dogma.
Third, Britain is now the most unequal country in Europe. Thatcher did it deliberately, New Labour condoned it by vacuous piffle about opportunity, social mobility, and improved personal support. There is a whole range of actions that now need to be taken – a prolonged and relentless crackdown on tax avoidance/evasion by big business and the ultra-rich, a High Pay Commission, ending tax breaks for top incomes, stopping the non-dom tax loophole, a more progressive income tax structure, and a big increase in the minimum wage. Ed M put the latter at the forefront of his campaign – an increase from £5.93 an hour (from 1st October) to around £7.50 an hour. But Labour will move gradually towards these other fronts too in the war for greater fairness.
But there’s one other area too where change is desperately needed, and that’s in the feel and atmosphere of political life in Britain. Both Thatcher and Blair pursued a social authoritarianism and centralisation of power that virtually asphyxiated political activism. That will now begin to change. Labour needs an elected party Chair to represent its members, a resolution-voting party conference whose decisions are respected by the leadership, a party Ombudsman to protect members’ rights and ensure greater transparency, and end to the gross shenanigans that have marred and distorted parliamentary selections.
Ed, you have the chance of a lifetime!