What, if anything, does Labour now stand for?

It goes without saying that Labour needs to overhaul its policies and the review they’re undergoing is right and proper.

But meantime Ed Miliband needs to be taking the opportunity to offer considered and reflective responses to the coalition’s actions, challenging gaps, voicing the concerns of those likely to be affected. His recent use of the MacMillan Trust’s concerns for cancer victims loss of benefits is a good example of bringing the voice of an unheard minority to the government’s attention.

It’s felt to me that thus far into his leadership he’s spent his time bouncing like a demented moth off David Cameron’s light, whacking his head against into what he thinks is the moon, and spouting evermore vacuous soundbites in response, never seeming to learn that each time he damages himself a bit more.

Meanwhile Cameron just bats him off like a whiney insect. Can you seriously see Ed Miliband as the next prime minister? If you can then I have to either applaud the power of your imagination or dread the monumental cock-ups the coalition will have to make to allow him into power.

Seen by some as his relaunch as Labour leader, Miliband’s speech about responsibility last week was a huge disappointment. It left me still unable to work out what he and the Labour party are for.

He used an example of a man who has been on incapacity benefit for 10 years, describing him as an ‘obviously good man’ but claimed he felt there was other work this man could be helped to do stating that ‘those who can work have a responsibility to take the opportunities’. Isn’t this exactly what the coalition’s overhaul of the benefit system claims to be doing?

He used Southern Cross care homes as an example of how the rich exploit society as well as the poor, accusing their greedy shareholders of making commodities of vulnerable elderly people in a way which ‘shames our country’. However he offered no alternative to the state contracting out care services to the private sector whereby service users are, by the very nature of the system, commodities.

Given the country’s current concerns over private sector delivery of health and social care services, he might have at least offered some discussion on whether for-profit companies should be allowed to deliver social care, instead of unquestioningly supporting the current system.

For a sense of responsibility and patriotism he points to ‘the unsung heroes who make such a difference to the lives of others’ with a clichéd list of volunteering activities that create this in society.

Oops I almost said in the Big Society there, because isn’t that what that what he’s describing? And to further rally the unsung heroes he got misty-eyed and nostalgic over WW2 and the national sense of community that ensued, ignoring the fact that to create that kind of solidarity you have to put a population under an intense threat from a fearsome common enemy; it’s just a shame for him the coalition will never be as scary as Hitler.

He claims pay disparity causes division and resentment, but says it’s not for governments to set pay ratios. Instead he suggests companies have an employee on the pay-setting committee believing, I assume, that one lone worker in the boardroom can do what whole governments can’t achieve. And, worst of all, he resurrected notions of the deserving and undeserving poor in deciding how social housing should be allocated. So only the ‘good’ will be housed? What next? The return of the workhouse?

He claims in this speech that the Labour party must change, but I don’t see how making it a watered down facsimile of the coalition helps anyone. Miliband reminds me of Rik Mayall’s character from the Young Ones (Rick, spelt with a silent P according to Vyvyan): sneeringly snidey, leaping (sometimes mid-sentence) from one ideology to another, always out to impress the wrong people and completely deluded about his own popularity.


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12 years ago

A couple of problems from these recounts of Mr.Milliband’s speeches. One is that people on disability benefits may have health insurance income which may be compromised if they start work. Being disabled is expensive. Wheelchairs need servicing, equipment costs, some types of therapy cost (the NHS is inadequate in its response to people with MS for example) and such conditions do not allow for a reliable and attractive employee. Work would really need to pay and Mr.Milliband needs to observe such points instead of copying Mr.Cameron.

Secondly, getting misty eyed about the Dunkirk spirit is pretty pointless as the war is increasingly beyond living memory.

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