David Miliband’s defective vision
David Miliband has suddenly sprung back to life. His article for the New Statesman has certainly caused a stir. First let’s deal with intent, although he mouths platitudes about supporting Ed Miliband we should be under no illusions that he actually does. He repeats – in code – the same charge that more open Blairite critics of the leadership, like Dan Hodges, have made that Ed’s leadership is the product of an emotional spasm. This is the genesis of his attack on “Reassurance Labour”. Also, incidentally, Neil Kinnock, the alleged target is known as a prominent Ed Miliband supporter.
Of course, I do agree with David that we should engage in constant “restless” and indeed critical thinking. Now to deal with some of the substance. Mr Miliband seems awfully exercised by the fact that no prominent businesses supported Labour at the last election but on the day after the disgraceful Welfare Reform Bill was rubber-stamped by Parliament it seems all David offers you if you are poor is cold comfort. He pays lip-service to ‘equality’ and ‘greater freedom’ while failing to recognise that business, in-fact, supports neither.
For somebody nominally so intelligent his attack on people who allegedly feel the state is a “cure-all” is annoying because its a lazy caricature. It accepts the right-wing way of framing the debate over the role of the state. However, its a caricature that the left is somewhat responsible for; I consider myself a socialist but for me socialism is about empowerment of the people. Mr Miliband does not want to empower the people – he wants to empower and enrich his best buddies in business. The tyranny of the market may be one that is cloaked in a velvet glove but its still as real as any the state can exercise.
I find it quite amazing that in his article, David Miliband manages to counterpose growth to redistribution and regulation. This crisis is not one of “investment” but of debt – debt caused by rampant inequality in incomes and the undemocratic accumulation of the wealth by the 1%. Redistribution is therefore essential for growth, not an optional extra. Regulation is equally essential to aid the process of redistribution.
His article has been cited as offering a ‘vision’ for Labour, it is however a defective and distorted one. The elder Miliband frequently slips into seeing what he wants too, not what actually is. He makes much play of the current electoral poor performance in Europe but seems to have missed the centre-left’s victory in Denmark. François Hollande’s lead over Nicholas Sarkozy seems also to have escaped his notice.
One thing that he is correct about is that you can’t rely on the government being unpopular to win you an election. Labour does need to offer a coherent vision of how we would do things differently and that is currently lacking as the leadership has all the tenacity and courage of a sheep caught in the headlights of a 10-tonne truck. However, I doubt his ability to offer that – indeed, in many instances what he is offering is re-heated Blairite rhetoric. It’s important to remember at this juncture that Blairism lost its electoral appeal roughly 10 years ago when it became a by-word for deceit and trickery. So, although he may make some relevant observations, David Miliband’s vision for Labour’s future is not one that will ultimately lead us anywhere accept up an electoral cul d sac.