From his appeal to disaffected Lib Dem voters in yesterday’s Guardian:
Our society is at risk of being reshaped in ways that will devastate the proud legacy of liberalism. We see a free market philosophy being applied to our schools, wasteful top-down reorganisation of our NHS, and the undermining of our green credentials with cuts to investment.
At some point you have to conclude that this is not a mistake here or there, but part of a pattern. The pattern is of a leadership that has sold out and betrayed your traditions, including that of your recent leadership: Steel, Ashdown, Kennedy and Campbell.
Oh dear. Miliband attacks the ConDem government for precisely the neoliberal, free market policies which he freely associated himself with in the New Labour government, and which, if he became party leader, he too would espouse. Where does he think faith schools came from? Where does he think foundation hospitals came from? And it’s rather ironic to see the man responsible for the Vestas fiasco in the Isle of Wight complaining about a government not standing up for investment in green industries. The truth is that all three major parties are equally in support of neoliberal economic policies now as they ever were – would Miliband really say he didn’t care about the housing market? Would Clegg on his own suddenly confess he was against increases in consumer spending, funded by easy credit? It’s appalling for him to suggest to Lib Dem voters that their interests would be best suited by joining a Labour Party helmed by him. But he goes on:
We are proud of our record in government, from the children lifted out of poverty to the transformation of our NHS, but I believe I am winning the argument that we must turn the page on New Labour and the mistakes it led us to. For example, the argument is being won that a graduate tax based on income would be fairer than tuition fees and a market in higher education. The argument is being won that on issues like ID cards and stop-and-search we became too casual about the liberties of individuals. And I believe the argument is being conclusively won that we must recognise the profound mistake of the Iraq war.
Erm what? This was the party which was supremely indifferent to people becoming super rich, so whilst children were lifted out of poverty, the gap between them and the newly super-rich grew unlike any other time before in British history. The government did nothing whatsoever to tackle the problems of tax avoidance and evasion, was at the very least complicit in the American programme of extraordinary rendition and contracted out torture, thought it right to be able to detain people without charge for forty two days, and made up the reasons for the Iraq War. Is that really a record to be proud of? He isn’t even saying sorry for the hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis killed in a war without legality or purpose! He and his party continue to believe in the state curing all problems, and came to believe themselves the ultimate arbiters of risk for everyone. So in order to save everyone from risks which could never be substantiated, they felt they had to subjugate the rights of everyone. Anyone remember the Independent Safeguarding Authority? How liberal is it really to suggest that everyone be considered a paedophile in the workplace unless they can prove otherwise?
Miliband hasn’t argued for an improvement in the voting system. He hasn’t articulated any ideas about how better people could be attracted to the political classes, nor how to devolve power away from the Whitehall mandarins who thought arresting the (then) Shadow Immigration Minister was a good idea. Someone more liberal would suggest no longer destituting asylum seekers, or allowing the police to construct a vast, unaccountable database of protesters. It’s an appeal of the vilest cynicism, promising just as little substantial reform from the nightmare of New Labour as his brother. If Miliband wants Labour to become the home of progressive politics he needs to realign his party fundamentally, not just try to steal other parties’ votes, and certainly not preach about other parties betraying their traditions.
It’s an intriguing question. George Eaton at the New Statesman offers a perspective:
David Miliband has a noteworthy piece in today’s Guardian, arguing for a series of left-wing, progressive policies as an alternative to dramatic spending cuts. It should lay to rest the misleading and unfair claim that Miliband is a “Blairite”.
Here’s a breakdown of the policies he advocates:
- Ending charitable status for private schools.
- Extending the bankers’ bonus tax rather than raising VAT.
- Supporting the mansion tax on £2m houses
- The introduction of a international transaction tax – the so-calledRobin Hood Tax.
- Reducing the deficit through a 2:1 ratio of spending cuts to tax rises. The Tories propose a 4:1 split.
Diane Abbott’s presence in the Labour leadership race has shifted the contest to the left and Miliband’s piece must be interpreted as a response to that. He is keenly aware that in order to win and to unite the party he must win over many of the centre-left members who currently favour alternative candidates, not least his brother.
Very very interesting. I completely agree with him on ending charitable status for public schools, and have long supported a Robin Hood tax. Would the man whose Foreign Office appeared to defend the use of torture actually put these policies into practice and manage to shift the party back from its nasty, authoritarian recent past? In his Guardian article he says:
The Tories are learning the wrong lessons. The task for Labour over the coming months is to show that we have learnt the correct ones.
Yet they’ve learned that despite other failings they must abide by the rule of law, can’t keep infringing human rights, and should prioritise civil liberties instead of inflaming the public’s paranoia about security for narrow political gain. I’m well aware that the ConDemNation coalition hasn’t budged on control orders, but they have made progress on ID cards, have appeared to understand how iniquitous the ISA is, and are reviewing Labour’s increase to 28 days detention without charge. Miliband in turn hasn’t even acknowledged that the Iraq War was wrong. Some good moves in his article, but it looks frighteningly like he’s still triangulating in a quintessentially New Labour manner…