Ed Miliband’s stance is the opposite of pragmatism…….
I, for one, never really quite expected to live to see the day when a strike could command 61% support in an opinion poll. However, today ComRes found exactly that for the Day of Action on November 30th over pensions. Naysayers will say its only one poll, which is true but it follows other polls which show a similar pattern of broad sympathy for the unions position. This follows hot-on-the-heels of polls showing public sympathy for the ‘Occupy’ movement.
Clearly something is afoot. With regard to the strike on Wednesday it should be quite clear to everybody that we no longer live in the 1980’s (though you would hope not to have to point this out) – trade unions are not viewed as negatively as they were during this period and the public are clearly more willing to hear their case. Despite this, the Government is continuing to address themselves to the unions as if this was the 1980’s and Ed Miliband continues to fear association with their aims and objectives. As always, the political class are behind the times.
I think it’s also quite clear that people know what isn’t working – and that includes the way they are represented at Westminster – but they don’t quite know what they want in its place and finally, the support for the strikes show that the government is far more unpopular than Labour is popular. An element exists in the support for the unions of admiration of anybody who is simply willing to stand-up to the government and resist them.
All of this should add-up to a huge political opportunity for a bold Labour Party to step up to the plate and be a party of radical change. It is, however, an opportunity we are missing due to timid leadership which spends far too much time playing it safe. Given the evidence of public opinion its hard to argue the ‘pragmatism’ line – in fact, Ed Miliband’s refusal to be bold is the opposite of pragmatism. It’s dogmatic because it’s rooted in groundless and spineless fear. Although he wasn’t gambling as much as people surmised, it is perfectly true to say that Mr Miliband shone during the phone hacking scandal. He has since retreated back into exactly the position he was in before, of weak vacillation, with the public unsure of what he thinks and unsure of whether he is speaking his mind when he does pipe-up. He is becoming a big reason that Labour is missing a historic opportunity to fulfill its founding purpose and change a shattered society radically and forever. In the long run this will only damage himself, the Party and the country so he would be wise to reconsider his position and offer the unions his clear support.