Ed Miliband squared off to David Cameron today at Prime Ministers Questions over another, unsurprising, rise in unemployment. He did a passable question of somebody who actually cared.
I say ‘impression’ because my rampant cynicism is starting to lead me to conclude that the unemployed and the unemployment is a Trojan Horse which is being used to bludgeon the Labour Party into accepting a neo-liberal austerity agenda.
For somebody who cares about the unemployed, Mr Miliband has been awfully quiet on the topic of the governments ineffective and coercive Workfare proposals. He has also been silent as the next Church mouse about the slave-labour proposals that people be forced to work for Job Seekers Allowance – not to mention neglectful of the effect this will have on the wages of those in work.
When it comes to the solutions Mr Miliband proposals, and this is being the kindest I can, lack any kind of imagination or insight into the problem. Indeed, he seems to be engaged in some kind of slightly perverse Dutch auction with Mr Cameron to see who can create the most paper jobs.
Let’s be frank, shoving the unemployed into low-paid, barely existing jobs isn’t a solution except when it comes to producing eye-pleaseing stats that you can spin in a positive whirl to your hearts content. Incidentally, I have infinitely more experience in this field than Mr Miliband.
So, what is to be done? Well, Paul Kenny, the GMB General Secretary made a helpful but pointed suggestion that the solution was to “stimulate demand, not cut wages”. Richard Murphy meanwhile had a detailed suggestion which was more specific:
A plan for #growth: close the tax gap; green quantitative easing; 25% of pension contributions invested in job creation. Go for it #Labour
£60 billion is what this measure would raise! Imagine what could be done with that. We might even see a government create some jobs that last and a sustainable, balanced economy and get this country back on its feet. I doubt however Mr Miliband will ever lead such a government since he’s clearly incapable of leading himself to his own reflection in the morning.
Unemployment is an issue that understandably tugs at the heart strings of the Labour Party and the labour movement. However, I would advise comrades be weary of how that can be used against them. Emotional blackmail and coercion are the last refuge of an intellectually bereft leadership. The last leader who really attempted this was Tony Blair over Iraq when the Spanish Civil War was used to brow-beat a reluctant Party into marching into the fog of a war it didn’t really want. Does that not tell us all we need to know about how low this leadership has sunk?