I nearly called this post, Ed Miliband and the Tale of Two Speeches. Any way, here are the two speeches:
‘Forgetting’ the Deficit
We knew Ed Miliband had ‘forgotten’ the deficit, because, as is standard practice, his speech had been given out to the media before hand. Unsurprisingly, in these days of dumbed down reporting that really was all most people heard about his speech. And the discussion of that omission, about a topic never out of the media, rolls on, partly due to members of the Labour Party.
Some of those members feel that Labour’s recent poor ratings in a number of opinion polls are down to his forgetfulness and the Mansion Tax, not their own behaviour. I am assuming those confident the tax has played its part were consulted by the pollsters and, altruistically, responded on behaviour of fellow mansion owners? After all, surely a grandee deserves to live in a mansion, tax free?
One must not forget, of course, the usual off the record briefings to the right wing press, surmise and fantasising by the same. Labour got through its conference without its usual dog, split, barking. Seemingly, some wish to preserve that tradition. If the Prince over the Water is not David (I want the backing of Tesco at a General Election) Miliband then its Alan Johnson.
Intriguingly, this awkward brigade are ignoring the polls suggesting that Labour will not only win the Heywood and Middleton by election, but with a greater percentage share of the vote than at the General Election in 2010.
Now for the other speech in which policies to counter attack ukip were outlined and to which the awkward brigade should have been listening intently as it gave them something meaty with which to campaign, not in cosy, whinging chats with lobby correspondents, but with prospective Labour voters.
Sticking Two Fingers Up to ukip and the Tories
I am not going to repeat the whole speech verbatim, the link above will allow you to do that and I am not going to focus on what one might term the motherhood and apple pie sections, covered in most of the party leaders’ speeches, in one form or another. For the record, I do not wholeheartedly agree with all of the speech. In my book, you cannot call yourself a socialist, if you cannot start an argument with yourself about ideology in an empty room. The speech was no JFK Inauguration, no Martin Luther King “I Have a Dream”, not even Arthur Greenwood’s “Speak for England”. Ever wondered about how today’s media would have dissected those speeches, if they had been around back then? However, Ed Miiband did set out Labour’s response to ukip and, their fellow travellers, the Right of the Tory Party. I want to focus on those pieces of the speech aimed particularly at the centre right, centre and centre left of politics, the place where most of the electorate, most of the time live. :
“I said earlier that we need to create good jobs at decent wages. To transform our economy. The jobs of the future. So our third national goal is that by 2025, Britain becomes truly a world leader in the green economy, creating one million new jobs as we do. Under this government, we’re falling behind Germany, Japan, the United States and even India and China when it comes to green technologies and services.
There are so many brilliant businesses who are desperate to do their bit but government’s not playing its part. With our plan, we will. This is what we’re going to do.
We’re going to commit to taking all of the carbon out of our electricity by 2030.
We’re going to have a Green Investment Bank with powers to borrow and attract new investment. And as Caroline Flint announced today, we will devolve power and resources to communities so we can insulate 5 million homes over the next ten years.
You see the environment isn’t that fashionable any more in politics as you may have noticed with David Cameron. But it matters. It’s incredibly important for our economy. And there is no more important issue for me when I think about my children’s’ generation and what I can do in politics, than tackling global climate change. Now we need a plan for jobs. We need a plan for wages. We need a plan that is actually going to help the working families of our country.”
The Tories and ukip have no interest in creating that million jobs, no interest in exploiting the potential within the Environmental Business Sector and no interest in tackling climate change so that the world I will pass on to my Great Nephew will at least be the way it was when I was born into it. Clear blue, purple and yellow water. Not just that, but a move closer to the position of the Greens, Plaid Cymru, the Scottish Nationalist Party, the Social Democratic and Labour Party and parts of the Tory Party (the Liberal Tories or Conservatives, if you prefer) and the Liberal Democrats too. I really do not care if this set of policies lays the foundations for grace and favour arrangements after next May, because this approach is the right one to take, irrespective of party politics.
As an aside, I fail to see why the SNP would not support Labour at Westminster after next May, particularly given the plans the party had to develop the Environmental Business Sector in Scotland after Independence. Nicola Sturgeon, a canny party leader if I ever saw one, will have a much better hands of cards in a card game with Labour than with the Tories. In addition, I cannot see her repeating the mistake of 1979 when the SNP played a part in bringing down the minority Labour Government, triggering a General Election. The SNP went into the lobbies with Mrs Thatcher, then went into the General Election with 11 MPs and came out the other side with only 2 MPs. The Tory Party remained in power for 18 years and devolution was off the agenda for the same period. I can well imagine Ms Sturgeon doing her utmost to avoid a similar outcome. An outcome that would hand the keys of Number 10 to David Cameron, damage the SNP’s future electoral chances and postpone any further chance of more devolution and/or another independence referendum.
Ed Miliband was right, “You see the environment isn’t that fashionable any more in politics” or the media. I may be a member of the Labour Party, but I think it is a disgrace the way in which the Green Party, the fourth party in UK politics is treated by the media. The fact is that ukip with its set of attitudes is more interesting than a party with a well defined, rational set of policies. In a way that is a sort of backhanded compliment to the Green Party. The Greens have entered the mainstream of politics.
I mentioned the 1 million jobs to Sunny Hundal via Twitter and he started waffling on about Cameron and a million jobs created over the last four years. I responded by pointing out that this million jobs have been talked about for over a decade, not just by political parties and the environmental movement, but by hard nosed businessmen and women (not presumably in ukip) salivating at the prospects offered by the opportunities of the Environmental Business Sector. Sunny, probably did not see my response, but either way he did not come back to me. Again, Ed Miliband was right, “government’s not playing its part”. Although it was beginning to do so, prior to the Credit Crunch and might have started to again, particularly through the Regional Development Agencies. Of course, the RDAs were unnecessary QUARGOs, something else about which ukip and the Tories agree.
Forgive me for thinking that throwing down this gauntlet to the Tories and ukip was more important than going on about the deficit. The more people there are in work and business, the wider the tax base, the lower the Social Security bill and the more the money to pare down the debt, invest in the NHS and introduce a 10p tax rate. And paring down the debt means lower interest payments which frees up more money and so on.
“we can insulate 5 million homes over the next ten years” means lower energy bills going forward for the poorest in our society. I guess if rising energy bills means turning down the thermostat a degree or two then this is really of no interest to you, Nick Robinson, Nigel Farage and David Cameron? Capping energy prices and Winter Fuel Allowances are a sticking plaster in comparison with increasing energy efficiency and thereby reducing energy usage and as a consequence, bills.
“We’re going to commit to taking all of the carbon out of our electricity by 2030” means more exploitation of renewable energy sources not less and even more energy reduction (through increased efficiency), reuse and recycling. It means creating new industries; new jobs (many in manufacturing); increasing energy security; reducing brown outs and black outs in many areas, especially rural ones; it means increased trade through exports of knowledge, skills, technology and energy. We import electricity from France through an inter-connector. We can easily build more such connections linking the UK and Eire with Europe. It also means real power to the people not ukip’s recipes for gridlock in local government. What could be more power to the people than individuals, communities and businesses generating a proportion of their own energy themselves and, in the process sticking two fingers up to the big six energy companies?
Every day, I read stories in the financial pages about countries like China planning major investments particularly in wind and solar. ukip and the Tories think it is all ‘green crap’. They are economic Luddites, happy to throw away our chance to be leaders in the Environmental Industrial Revolution on seemingly purely ideological grounds. Funny, but is that not what they usually accuse the left of doing? Putting ideology before everything else?
Finally, Cameron and Farage style themselves the heirs of Baroness Thatcher, who in 1988 famously said, “We do not have a freehold on the earth, only a full repairing lease”. Whilst no lover of the Baroness, Ed Miliband in 2013 said, “Margaret Thatcher was the first political leader in any major country to warn of the dangers of climate change”. Would Mrs Thatcher, if alive today, be talking about green crap or would that hard nosed woman from Grantham be saying where there is ‘green crap’, there is brass?
“we’ve got to say to business that you’ve got to play your part. If you want to bring in a worker from outside the EU, that’s ok but you must provide apprenticeships to the next generation.”
Notice that? He said, “from outside the EU”. No ifs, no buts, no may bes. Standing up to the Tories and ukip?
“the Battle of Cable Street against Oswald Mosley and the black shirts” … “the Ford workers at Dagenham who fought for equal pay to today’s campaigners for the living wage” … “a spirit of internationalism. From those who fought in the Spanish Civil War to our generosity to those overseas.”
The people standing up to fascism; the people fighting and standing up for their rights, often as trades unionists and the people saying yes, it is a far away country of which we know little, but about which we do care and want to do something to help. How are those sentiments not in direct contrast with those of the Tories and ukip?
Sir Oswald Ernald Mosley, 6th Baronet of Ancoats to give him all his titles was initially a Tory Member of Parliament, then an Independent MP, then a Labour MP and then went off to found first the New Party and then, after a European tour, the the British Union of |Fascists. Mosley’s relatives, wives and mistresses comprise a chunk of his era’s Who’s Who entries. He was a toff, who allegedly tried to play that image down, leading a party of Establishment officers and working class other ranks, many uneducated, uncultured and lacking in empathy. Did Ed Miliband almost call Farage and ukip, the heirs of Mosley and the BUF?
He did say Cameron “lies awake at night thinking about the United Kingdom Independence Party. UKIP. That is why he is doing it friends and I say pandering to them is just one more reason why he is not fit to be the Prime Minister of this great country.”
A lot of the advice coming from the likes of Matthew Goodwin is that Labour should pander to that small number of voters it has lost to ukip. Although they never say it, the implication of their advice is that Labour should tell women, you will have to wait a bit longer, luv, for equal pay; LGBT communities, you left the closet a bit too early for the likes of ukip’s dwindling band of social Luddites; Black and Ethnic Minorities, be content with what you have already got, Rome was not built in a day, you know; those with infirmities and illnesses, some from birth, be thankful for what you get, given you contribute so little to our society and so on.
Can you name a group, at a disadvantage in today’s society, that ukip and the Tories do not think are treated overly fairly at their expense? In ukip world, without all this ‘political correctness crap’ more white males than now would, according to them, get the opportunities that they deserve, purely on merit. They fail to see that, by implication, that unrealistic assessment makes them misogynist, racist etc. If you are born a white male in the UK then you have won the lottery of life before even your umbilical cord has been cut. Ed Miliband, in declining the advice of some members of the Commentariat, told ukip he fundamentally disagreed them. He fired an armour piercing round at ukip’s sole, French built tank.
“true to our traditions of internationalism. And nowhere is that more true than when it comes to Europe and the European Union. Friends, let me say it plainly: our future lies inside not outside the European Union.”
“Do we reform Europe by building alliances or by burning alliances?”
Cameron has “got no chance of fighting for this country. Because people think he’s got one hand on the exit door and his strategy has failed. If you want to reform Europe. If you want to change the way Europe works.”
Do I really need to say anything about those lines? Apart from the fact that EU regulations and funds are helping to drive forward the Environmental Industrial Revolution and that most business people, for a variety of reasons, want to stay in Europe.
“I’m determined that as Prime Minister, I promote our values all round the world and one of the things that that means friends is seeking a solution to a problem that we know in our hearts is one of the biggest problems our world faces and that is issues in the Middle East and Israel and Palestine.
I tell you, I will fight with every fibre of my being to get the two state solution, two states for two people, Israel and a Palestinian state living side by side, that will be a very, very important task of the next Labour government, friends.
There’s one other thing I want to say about what we need to do abroad. You know we have made extraordinary progress on Lesbian and Gay rights over the last twenty years. If I think about the transformation that I have seen growing up into adulthood, the biggest transformation.
We’ve made such progress on equality. But we have to face the fact that internationally things are, if anything, going backwards. We can’t just let that happen. We can’t just say “well, that’s OK”. The next Labour government will fight to make sure that we fight for our values and for human rights all round the world.
So today I can announce that I am appointing Michael Cashman, Lord Cashman, as our envoy on LGBT rights all round the world.”
Again, a Labour leader not conceding any ground to ukip or the Tories.
Let us not forget, of course, that much of this speech gives Rupert (I gave up my nationality to own media interests in the USA) Murdoch the finger too. I remember a few years ago, reading a piece in The Sun (it had been left on the train) by its Energy Correspondent (yes, really, who knew they had one!). He was praising the French! He was enthusing about the fact that most of France’s electricity was generated by nuclear power plants and that sometimes we were importing it via the Channel inter-connector that comes ashore close by Dungeness Nuclear Power Station. I gather that the inter-connector was built to export electricity from Dungeness to France rather than the other way around.
I would contend that if Labour’s Conference had not soberly responded to Ed Miliband’s speech then the stop watches would have been out to time the choreographed applause, that the party would have been described as being triumphalist, overly optimistic and/or clapping in the dark to keep its spirits up. I can also well imagine Nick Robinson gleefully referring to Labour’s (in)famous Sheffield Conference of 1992 when giving his take on Miliband’s speech.
I think this is no time for the Labour Party (or any progressive party in UK politics) to act like Prince Rupert’s Cavaliers. It is the time to emulate Cromwell’s sober, dedicated to their cause Ironsides, “I had rather have a plain russet-coated captain that knows what he fights for and loves what he knows, than that which you call a gentleman and is nothing else. I honour a gentleman that is so indeed.” There have been Ironsides in my family. All four of my grandparents fought against fascism in World War Two. I think I would dishonour their memory if I did not stand up to today’s domestic fascists.
My one Grandad spent 5 years as a prisoner of the Germans. He did not talk much about it. However, he did say that he and his mates shared their Red Cross parcels with their guards as those men’s rations became ever more meagre. Truly, a bayonet is a weapon with a worker at both ends. My Grandad also said he did not blame the German people for what he went through. I am not sure if he styled himself a socialist, but each giving according to their means and receiving according to their needs and his empathy are quite a good definition of socialism. And Grandad went back to Germany and Poland quite a few times when he retired.
We, the centre right, centre and centre left face a challenge to our society as it is today and an even greater challenge to how we want to see it develop in the future. The Devil may have the best tunes. “Fings Ain’t What They Used To Be” is quite catchy, but we know the past is another country, that they do things differently there and that, in many ways, the past is no template for our society today or in the the future.
“These are the times that try men’s” (and women’s) “souls: The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he” (or she) “that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.” (Thomas Paine). If Labour’s summer soldiers and sunshine patriots are not up for the fight then would they please quit the field? Those of us remaining would welcome the elbow room they would free up by doing so.