It’s Miliband v Miliband….for the moment….
So, while the country is treated to the vomit-inducing David & Nick show Labour has the David & Ed show as the two brothers go head-to-head for the Labour leadership. One of the things you notice about both of their websites is that they are very, very light on policy detail and top-heavy on buzz words and generalities. Hopefully, this is something that will change as the contest develops because it is so vitally important Labour a) gets this right and b) has a leader who is not there purely based on their personality but also who has indicated broadly they are going to take the Party in the policy direction that is wanted.
This is called the ’empty vessel’ approach; where each candidate conveniently tells us as little as possible so that we, those expected to support, can pour all our hopes and dreams into our respective candidate without hope of disappointment the wrong side of the election. Ed Balls, who apparently is going to talk to his local party before deciding whether to stand, eschewed the niceties of offering a positive vision and told us where he thinks it all went wrong:
“We had people saying ‘we work hard, and pay our taxes, but there are people who live near us, and are not working, and get more, where is the fairness in that?’
“In marginal seats people have been saying ‘you have lost touch with us, you are not our side, you are not in it for us’ and we have to understand why they are saying that.”
Apparently Balls feels that ‘unskilled immigration went too far earlier in the decade’ and that Labour was out of step on a host of other issues;
the minimum wage, tax credits, tuition fees, welfare eligibility, the education maintenance allowance – voters felt Labour appeared out of step.
Balls deserves credit for talking about policy but rather less for seemingly being unable to recognise the difference between being ‘in touch’ and being ‘led by the nose by the prejudices of’ voters. Interestingly, immigration made its appearance in Ed Miliband’s speech much to the disdain of Don Paskini on Liberal Conspiracy. Don is right that part of rediscovering our core values is not to pander to peoples prejudices but rather show what leadership is and engage with them but engage with them critically. This election must show a rhetorical as well as practical break from the past and so the hair-shirted dutch auction on immigration has to stop. Hopefully in the coming week’s a clear contender will emerge who can help Labour rediscover it’s ‘radical edge’ both in rhetoric and practice.