The Madness of King Ed

June 30, 2011

I love annoying people, because I’m a bit sociopathic like that. However, I do bow down to the efforts of the Labour Party in this regard, who appear to have engaged in a 15 year experiment on how much you can piss people off before they turn around and say, “Fuck you, we’re voting for someone else.”

The whole point of the Labour Party is to represent the interests of working people, working people without capital. Ostensibly a creation of the unions on the back of disappointing representation by the then Liberal Party, that representation remains central to its existence. Blair’s movement of the party away from outright socialism and into social democracy can be seen in this context; whatever else you may say about Tony Blair, it seems pretty clear that this move was intended to indenture capitalism into the service of the working public.

He did this while ignoring the reduction in the power of the unions that took place under the previous Conservative administration, but did actively praise unions as a force for good, only condemning a stupidly provocative RMT strike timed to take place during a General Election. He was never the unions’ man, and so his relationship with them could be construed as constructive, rather than something he was ashamed of.

Contrast that with Ed Milliband, who has condemned today’s strikes out of hand. He’s done this for the very real political reasons of not wanting to appear too close to the unions and to ensure that Labour is not perceived as the party of the public sector. I’m sure he believes he’s demonstrating ‘leadership’, that abstract quality beloved most by politicians who do not possess it.

But ‘leadership’ implies leading people somewhere. Milliband is ostensibly leading his party and the unions to a future in which strikes over significant changes to pay and conditions are not justified. This is not in the interests of working people. This is a trap by a Government which includes my party, to take advantage of public disquiet over union activity in order to restrict it. I don’t doubt that this is driven in main by the Conservatives, but our potential aquiesence to it is something about which I am deeply concerned.

A Labour leader, rather than simply warning of this trap, should actively work to disarm it. The boss of PCS, Mark Serwotka, pointed out this morning that the amount paid out under public sector pensions is actually predicted to decrease in the future as a percentage of GDP. This is something Milliband should be saying, in an effort to lead the public to the side of the people he’s ostensibly meant to represent. He would still be wrong – regardless of the percentage of GDP spent on pensions, public sector employees should be looking after their own future via defined contribution pensions rather than relying on the Government to do it for them post retirement – but it’s still something he should be saying. To not do so is to betray the very people he’s meant to represent, as has been Labour’s strategy for the last fifteen years. When even Blairite Dan Hodges disagrees with Milliband, you might hope he realises his own mistake.

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2 Responses to “The Madness of King Ed”

  1. Adam Gillett said

    From the outset his errors have been so utterly obvious that I’ve been wont to think it’s all part of some clever, mysterious and sporadic strategy that will suddenly unify into a masterwork of political genius.

    Having now seen him trample over both of his credible options, I’m forced to conclude that he’s an idiot.

    As I see it he has/had two options:

    1. He could have gone for the centre ground by trying to outfoot the coalition on policy or with constant but original contrarianism. He hasn’t come up with any policy and his contrarianism is mealy-mouthed and undercut by his failure to offer a flat apology for the last government and then take the upper ground.

    2. He could have tacked Left. This is as much proof as the public will need that he hasn’t. If he plans to move in that direction he will have to back it up with policy and he is clearly afraid of losing option one if he does so.

    He seems to think he can try both and deny both at the same time, without realising that this attitude makes him a failure overall. Whatever good points he has are utterly neutered by this approach. He’s the curate and the Labour party is his egg.

    • Adam Bell said

      You’re absolutely right. It’s a pity that we don’t really have an official opposition any more. I read somewhere that one of those is handy for a democracy.

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