Saturday, 12 January 2013

To Strive Always to Walk in the Shoes of Others.

That particular rhetorical excretion is taken from a speech given by Ed Miliband this morning, which aimed to tell us what his “One Nation” idea was all about. I feel the need to make some brief observations.

Firstly, Miliband’s explanation of the meaning of ‘One Nation’, when seen in writing, is interchangeable with David Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ speeches. That is to say that both consist of a series of non-committal platitudes about the community spirit of the British people, and about how this must be harnessed for the greater good. The Big Society is no longer mentioned by Conservatives, mostly because nobody ever worked out what it was or how it related to government. It is hard to see why One Nation will fare any differently.

Secondly, there was very little that was new in the speech. He claimed to have ‘broken with New Labour’, but he’s claimed to do this before. Here for example. It didn’t achieve anything, because outside the Westminster bubble that is pretty much a meaningless phrase. It simply begs the question; so what are you? As I’ve said before, ‘One Nation’ is a slogan, not a program for government. There were some hints at possible policies, for example Miliband called for better regulation of private landlords to protect long term tenants. This is an old policy from Labour's last election manifesto (author, one Mr Ed Miliband), not a radical new way of thinking. It’s almost as if someone thought up the slogan and they are now trying to make up a philosophy to fit around it. Perish the thought.

You might be getting the impression that I don’t think much of this type of opposition leader’s speech, and there is some truth to that. However, you can use it to discern roughly how Labour intends to fight the next election. This year for example Nick Boles, the Conservative planning minister, is making a huge effort to get more houses built in order to lower the price and allow more people to buy their own home. Ed Miliband has signalled he intends to make it safer to rent. That is a political difference worth thinking about. Remember how popular Mrs Thatcher’s ‘right to buy’ scheme was? Mr Miliband apparently doesn’t. He is gambling that people have other concerns now, and that they will vote accordingly. It sounds like a pretty big gamble to me.

Having said all that, he must be doing something right; Ladbrokes have Labour at 4/9 to win most seats at the next election, and Miliband at 4/5 to be the next Prime Minister. Perhaps this says more about the bookie's opinion of the coalition than the inspirational nature of Mr Milibands leadership. 

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