Ed, the copycat coalition and the cuts

10th January, 2012 4:39 pm

Today Ed Miliband started the long fightback. He knows he can’t win on style, so he has to best the Government on content. He laid the foundations for what could be his most important message of 2012 – Ed sets the agenda, and others follow. On Murdoch, irresponsible capitalism or the squeezed middle he can plausibly argue that first he was ignored, then dismissed and a few short months later imitated.

Labour must do everything it can to hammer home this line on the ‘copycat coalition’ until the public notices. It is the way to sidestep the obvious critiques of Ed’s presentational imperfections. In six months time we need to hear on the doorstep (and in the focus group) ‘he’s no performer, but the others keep nicking his ideas’.

For this strategy to work though, he needs to flesh out his big themes. The speech today set out some fundamental principles, but there was no detail to latch onto. He won’t win his place as ‘man of substance’ without some crunchy specifics.

First off, there’s now nothing to lose in forcing the whole shadow cabinet to pronounce on short-term spending cuts. With the overall spending profile set in stone, shadow ministers are just looking evasive or naïve if they don’t own up to cuts they’d keep. Their list of cuts don’t need to be exhaustive (they should be illustrative) but they must be substantial. Being totally explicit on departmental spending also buys Ed Balls some credibility to make the case for one-off stimulus and job-creation schemes, out with ordinary government budgets.

Ed also needs a lot more examples of what it means to deliver fairness without public largesse. He was onto something today when he talked about companies ensuring their best prices are available to those who need them most. The mantra of ‘the poor pay more’ is familiar within left campaigning circles, but not much further. It could become part of his responsible capitalism critique – and it plays well with his ‘squeezed middle’ theme.

But today’s speech did miss an open goal. Ed was speaking to London Citizens, the architects of the Living Wage and he didn’t mention low pay. Tackling low pay, including steep rises to the Minimum Wage, is by far the most obvious and effective way of delivering fairness with no public money.

There’s still a huge amount of heavy lifting to do to bring ‘responsible capitalism’ and ‘cuts with fairness’ to life. Leftie policy wonks need to come up with concrete solutions that the leadership can start to pick and chose from. Tangible ideas on poverty pay and boardroom pay, cosy cartels and impenetrable pricing, growth sectors and targeted investment. That’s how Ed can win on content and have a message that matters around the country.

Today was just the beginning.

Andrew Harrop is the General Secretary of the Fabian Society. He writes in a personal capacity.

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  • Anonymous

    This is not what Ed Balls has been saying.

    This seems to be victory for the Glasman “Blue Labour” approach.

    • Anonymous

      Unless in three years time labour is again looking at another term chasing those magic Tory swing voters.

  • Plato

    “he’s no performer, but the others keep nicking his ideas”

    Sorry that makes him sound like a complete drip >  the big boy stole his dinner money?

    And its called politics, normal people don’t care about these He Said, She Said stories.

    Tony stole all the Tories clothes before the 97 GE, and continued to do so for yrs. Did the public care? Of course not.

    And given that EdM has already told the world that he’s made from Grit And Steel – having his pocket-picked by the posh Tory boys looks even more stupid than it did in that Guardian intv. I can’t believe he actually said it again today too. Oh and Kremlinology.

    Lobby hacks were even taking the pee about how many Rubik’s Cubes he could have done in the 40 mins he kept them waiting. Complaining that HMG has pinched a few ideas isn’t going to do him any favours.

    • Anonymous

      Any fool can think up ideas: they are of little use unless there is a plan (cunning or otherwise to bring them into effect. Stealing ideas is one thing: stealing plans is something different.

      Plans? Ed has none… As seen by today’s speech. Well that is a little unfair: but nothing substantive. How would he reform business pay? WHere is the detailed paper?

      There is none.. You can “lead” with ideas as much as you like… until they become plans of actions they are free like the wind.

      • Anonymous

        I disagree, I think ideas are the most important thing of all.

        But the challenge is indeed translating into practical action.

        Ed M actually received a lot of credit from parts of the media,
        and there is no doubt the coalition have tried to capitalize on,
        following the content of his conference speech last year.

        I do think he knows his stuff, but it’s how that is formulated
        over the next few years that will count in my view.

    • Anonymous

      Boy Oh Boy, did you not Notice when the Tories came out with anything Blair would take it over,  everyone in the country laughed about it and it has now caused the Tories and Miliband to say nothing much in the hope that nobody would steal it, on here somebody said Labour has to ensure Miliband keeps telling people that idea was ours, but people do not care so long as somebody puts into practise.

      But if the Tories said something and it sounded good labour used it, rightly so, but now we have  opposition saying little, and the only way back into power these days are not the opposition being great, but the party in power messing up big time

  • Anonymous

    Being totally explicit on departmental spending also buys Ed Balls some credibility to make the case for one-off stimulus and job-creation schemes, out with ordinary government budgets.

    Sorry. What planet is Mr Harrop on?

    Ed Balls has consistently opposed ALL Coalition cuts, claiming he would cut little and borrow more. 

    Then Ed M comes along and effectively says “austerity is needed, we can’t spend more”   and effectively spells the death of Balls’ policy.

    And Hr Harrop says  this gives Ed Balls “some credibility”!

    Absolute contrary: it makes Ed Balls look the economic giant pygmy he is.

  • Anonymous

    To day Wales have stated  any women who is worried over Breast implants, will have them removed in Wales, if any treatment or if they want to have implants put back it will be done free. The Assembly said people cannot live with this over them it would be like a life sentence.  Any think from Miliband to day it would have been a good move to make labour look more then just a party of power, might have made it a bit more human.

    We know that labour tried very hard to   give students no charges to Universities but will look at this again.

    Prescriptions are free in Wales,  Eye tests are free in Wales, it may be small things but they are socialist, Labour England stated the Blue badges will be £20, not in Wales they will be free.

    You do not need to spend billions to make people think you care, but once you have had Blair and Brown then sadly socialism becomes conservatism and you forget where your going, you fail to notice the people who matter and you chase the rich which labour did, taking the 10p tax from the poorest and giving it to the better off.

    If the middle class are finding hard on £35,000 imagine how people on £14,000 are but oh no  Labour believes these people should get an education, of course if they all did and all became trained up labour would open the door to immigrants to take over the bin round.

    I did not hear nothing to day which would make me say yes that’s labour for you, all I was hearing was labour beloved middle class, what I think has gone wrong and Labour has not caught on, the middle class in Wales, NI, and Scotland are actually working class people and they do not see them selves as middle class, and in Scotland they responded by   going with the SNP who are obviously in touch with people.

    I suspect the biggest problem none of the labour party are really in touch with people anymore, you know it was not to long ago Politicians were demanding £100,000 in wages and more expeneses basically because well the middle class was getting to close to them.

    This labour party is not a Labour party and people are not fooled by it anymore, you have lost the swing voters and if you do not watch out  then sadly Scotland will go it alone and labours dead.

  • I agree the fundamental task has been outlined: how to deliver social justice when the banker’s recession has emptied the public purse and the capitalist system has become dysfunctional. 

    A response to this will take time and rather than launch immediately into an austerity contest where, if things get really bad, the medicine may become indistinguishable from the disease, Ed must do the initial groundwork by identifying the institutional resources that can replace the now discredited concept of ‘market driven efficiency’.

    Ed has already put himself well ahead of Cameron by taking a giant step with the acknowledgment of the failure of the neoliberal experiment. Now the major work is to re-think the economy with reference to globalisation, along with the attendant politics.

    He must ignore the  siren voices demanding a retreat into yesterday’s certainties,  Cameron has succumbed to this approach and they’re taking him nowhere.
    It’s going to be hard work and the only place to start is with the foundations.

    • Anonymous

      We will see.

    • jaime taurosangastre candelas

      @ Dave Stone,

      the cost of the deficit spending from 2001-2008 was £530 billion, according to official figures.  The cost of the banks’  bailout to date has been £130 billion according to the NAO, of which much will be returned as companies like LLoyds and RBS return (eventually) to profitability and our national shares can be sold.  £530 billion is to me a larger number than £130 billion, and while both are extremely unwelcome for taxpayers to have to fund, it is not really correct to place all of the blame on the financial sector.

      If you wish to place 100% of the blame on the financial sector, you must also place 407% of the blame on Gordon Brown, Ed Balls, and Ed Miliband, who all thought over-spending was a fine policy for most of the last decade.

      What may also have failed is the concept that a Government can over-spend in the “good times” as well as provide stimulus in the “bad times”.  That will probably change our politics more than re-thinking the economy.

      • No doubt we could toss figures around all day and night, however a NAO report, published in December 2010 concluded:

        “The scale of the support currently provided to UK banks has fallen from a peak of £955bn to £512bn, but the amount of cash currently borrowed by the government to support banks has risen by £7bn [to a total of £124bn] since December 2009.”

        • jaime taurosangastre candelas

          That “support” is guarantees to backstop any further losses.  It is “lender of last resort” sort of support, a line of credit.  It has not been drawn upon, and in fact declined a little in the last year as some guarantees came to the end of their validity.  The £512 billion is the remaining guarantees, which I acknowledge “might” be required to be turned into real money in the future, but so far has not.

          Actual money spent on bailouts £130 billion.  Actual money spent on deficit spending £530 billion (not including PFIs which despite getting me irritated, only account for a relatively small proportion of over-spending).

          • Andy-james1

            Hi Jaime, Would it be possible to provide a link to the figures, I’d like to be able to refute this every time I see this “it was the bank bailout”which caused the problems.


          • “Guarantees” – speaks for itself.

            And as Ed Miliband pointed out in today’s excellent speech, Osborne will:

            “Over five years, [borrow] £158 billion more than he promised. Not borrowing to get people back into work, but paying them to be out of work. That’s the price of George Osborne’s failure.”

            The free-market experiment that allowed Mandelson to declare: “We are all Thatcherites now”, has come to a juddering halt. It has failed.

            And it’s interesting to see how this crisis is draining the Atlanticist yearnings of Eastern Europe of all vitality, now the Eastern Europeans increasingly turn away from the UK example and look elsewhere for leadership.But that’s no surprise really, just consider the example provided by Cameron. An Eton accent counts for very little on the other side of the Channel. And let’s face it, he doesn’t have much else to offer.

            And, just for fun, consider the workings of Ian Pollock, BBC’s finance analyst, who calculated that in 2008, at the height of the bank crisis, £815bn was knocked off the wealth of U.K households. That’s £31,000 for every home.

            Yes, it looks very strongly like a banker’s recession. One that grew in the soil prepared initially by Thatcher and then tended more recently by the conscientious husbandry of her heirs.

            They believed in the efficiency of markets. That is the God that failed.

      • happy.fish

        But aren’t you missing the point that the banking crisis has led to the recession and the subsequent loss of tax recipts. This has to be factored into any discussion about what went wrong. Or do you think that the present difficult economic times were down to the GB gvt’s deficit?

        • jaime taurosangastre candelas

          @ Happy fish,

          I’m of the old fashioned belief that recessions – if not predictable in the precise quarter in which they start and stop – are fairly predictable in a cyclical sense.  I never believed Gordon’s boasts of abolishing them.

          King Knut was quite canny in forcing his advisors to accept that certain things are inevitable (tides, in his case) by showing them that he could not hold back the sea.  He’s much misunderstood and portrayed as believing he could hold back the tide, but that is immaterial.

          The current recession may well have been precipitated by the economic crisis in mid 2008.  Everything has a cause.  However, apart from the obvious thought that the current recession could have been a lot less bad by better regulation (both tories and Labour are equally to blame), it should have been apparent to anyone who has pretensions to work at a senior level in the Treasury or as an economic Minister that a recession was going to occur sometime towards the end of the decade, because, despite Gordon’s wishes, recessions are cyclical.

          Gordon was unable to reinvent economics, but unlike King Knut, didn’t have the personal intellect to understand himself or his lack of God-like powers.  As a result, he ploughed on with spending money we did not earn on the national credit card for most of the last decade.

          • Jaime

            You’re completely missing the point. The last recession wasn’t some domestic product of Labour (or Tory) mismanagement – it was, and still is, an ongoing global crisis which first started as a complete seizure of liquidity, and now has become an insolvency problem.

            How much has this to do with the policies of the last Labour government? Probably zero, since it has affected countries from Iceland to Greece, from Hungary to the Ireland, which were run by very different ideological parties, but still subscribed to the IMF doctrine of dissipated risk through derivatives, large scale leverage, and asset price speculation.

            Until sensible people understand that this crisis is a global one, they will never solve the problem. Had Labour cut the structural deficit circa to zero circa 2007, they would have still been faced with the crisis deficit of 2008 when interbank lending seized up,  world trade stuttered, and we were a day away from all the major bank ATMs ceasing to function. 

            Some blame can be laid at the door of Brown and Blair for acceding to the post 1986 consensus of fluid capital markets. But they were hardly alone on this. And let us not forget the Tories were arguing for even less regulation of the banks. 

          • jaime taurosangastre candelas

            @ Peter Jukes and Diarmid Weir,

            with respect, I think you are missing my point, which is that recessions come about on a cyclical basis.  Each one may be tipped off by some unique event, in this case by a banking crisis, but the recessions themselves are fairly predictable.  I don’t argue with your arguments that this particular recession was tipped off by a global crisis, but I do say the a recession would have occurred about now, and that is predictable based on the natural history of our economy.  If it hadn’t been the global banking crisis, it would have been something else, maybe a year or two later, but something would have tipped the UK economy into crisis.  It’s what history tells us.

            I would expect any Chancellor to look at events (such as the roaring economy of 2000 to 2007) and to start worrying about the next recession, and planning accordingly.  To turn that all around, I as a private citizen fully expect the UK economy to be in recession for the next 2-3 years (it’s a deep recession, this one), so I plan my life accordingly.  My house will be stagnant or declining in value, my salary will increase only marginally, inflation will bite into living expenses, as a family we won’t buy any major capital items such as new cars.  That’s just normal thinking.

            If Labour people wish to believe that the current recession was entirely unpredictable, that is up to them.  I’m only a private citizen, not some economics guru.  But trusting history and the fact that all politicians are idiots (and every time you see a British politician of any party on TV, you can be pretty sure they are either directly spinning or acting as an unwitting parrot for a vested interest), I could see that there was a big problem building up back in about 2005, which is when I switched my investments into stores of value such as gold and growing countries in Asia like the Philipines and Australia.  Next time around it could be different – maybe the safest place to put your money will be in Turkey or Angola.

            I hope to have another 50 years on this planet.  I can confidently predict that wherever I live, there’ll be a recession about every 9.2 years, and that the cause of each will be different.  I’ll plan my life accordingly.

          •  ‘…I’m only a private citizen, not some economics guru.  But trusting history and the fact that all politicians are idiots…’

            Argument from analogy is all very well, but it is laughable to propose that the government has the same freedom of response as a comfortably-off professional such as yourself whose income and wealth are well into the top 50% of the population.

            If ‘all politicians are idiots’ why engage in political debate?

          • GuyM

            Why even vote, why indeed?

            And yes, I’d agree that all politicians are idiots and anyone in pursuit of power is someone to be deeply wary of.

            The brightest and the best never enter politics, they understand how venal and full of lies the profession is.

            Oh and Jaime is right, the economic cycle is a matter of fact. Peak follows trough follows peak and the was a time that even Labour politicians understood this and realised the job of economic management is to smooth the peaks and troughs on a steadily upward course.

            Brown oversaw a huge credit fuelled boom and then a crash made worse by lax regulation, over spending by the government and a retarded belief he was better than all previous Chancellors.

          • Unfortunately your personal analogy of indebtedness shows no awareness of your indebtedness to larger historical movements around house prices and credit.

            The current crisis is no cyclical, unless your time span is 70 years. 

          • Anonymous

            I am sorry.. but one two examples stand out of your woolly and incorrect analysis.

            Let’s see Northern Rock.
            Loans of 5 times joint incomes
            No proof of earnings.
            Mortgages of 125% of property value.

            Anyone – but anyone  – who looked at that when on offer could only think they were crazy.
            The regulators were not asleep… they were blind drunk and looked the other way.

            And look at RBS. Have you read the recent report? Scathing attack on everyone including the Regulators.

            To blame the failures on N Rock and RBS on a Global Crisis is demonstrably wrong. Both were based on failures over years.

            That is evidence in the public domain which you fail to consider. Hence my first paragraph.

          • Northern Rock is nothing compared to banks in the US, Spain and Iceland. Nearly all banks, thanks to the breaking of the glass wall between investment and retailing banking, ended up with loan to asset ratios of 30 to 1. It was a global phenomenon, touted by Greenspan, and a global consensus of spread risk through derivatives.

            Either you don’t know what you’re talking about, or have inadvertently proved my point

          • Frankly, Jaime, you are talking nonsense. The 2008-2009 recession was not a cyclical downturn of the standard type seen over the last 70 years, but a real crash caused by the seizing-up of the credit system.

            This happened not because of misjudgements specifically by Gordon Brown or by Labour, but by a shared failure among almost all politicians and economists to understand the fragile nature of financialised capitalism.

            As such, looking to anyone’s past performance is pretty irrelevant. What matters now is getting the economy working effectively and fairly for everyone. Do the Tories/Lib Dems have the right approach? It’s looking increasingly unlikely that they do. Do Labour? As yet, no – but I believe Ed Miliband is making some of the right noises. Those writing him and Labour off lack either understanding or concern for the economic future.

          • Now that’s not true is it.  Everyone “knew” the property market was overheating in 2006-7; that consumer borrowing levels were way above their long-term average and unsustainable; and that there were structural imbalances in the economy.

            Even the “golden rule” acknowledged that the boom time should have come to an end by the time of the crisis.  You can argue that extending the boom for longer “caused” a deeper recession, since the extended growth was funded directly by the unstable bank loans we now blame the banks for permitting.

          • What’s not true? Who is the ‘everyone’ that ‘knew’? No-one forced the banks to make loans that were dodgy if those same banks’ (US-originated) assets turned out to be garbage.

            Were Labour rejecting the arguments of other political parties to regulate the financial sector more tightly? That is the only politically relevant question here.

          • GuyM

            I see so the government can do whatever it likes with no moral doubt so long as no one in opposition complains….. the art of leadership Diarmid style is that?

            A certain Shadow Chancellor had the failure of regulation firmly laid at his door a few weeks back, maybe you should tell him to explain to the country that he didn’t have to manage or lead anything, that’s not what government is about?

          • You can twist how you like, but the reality of our scarcely democratic political system is choosing the lesser ‘evil’.

            Which of the likely candidates to lead the country can claim to have predicted the financial crisis and made serious proposals that might have avoided it?

            If the answer is none (as it surely is) then we must look at who seems most to have learned the lessons. Who is suggesting the best route to a safe efficient finance industry? Who has the most realistic plan for a sustainable, productive and fair economy?

          • GuyM

            The 2008-2009 fits the “cyclical downturn” very well actually.

            The capitalist economic cycle which Brown thought he’d abolished (no better reason to regard him as a deluded crank) has up and downs, the point of government being to smooth the peaks and troughs out.

            Brown failed and wasted billions in the process. Not to worry as the two Eds want to do some more damage.

          • happy.fish

            This debate has become so tediously polarised it runs financial disaster fault of Brown spending huge amounts of money on the public sector for no gain. To it was all the credit crunch, in hindsight it was inevitable, if only we ahd seen it.

            The reality was somewhere in between. Brown did not waste billions, most of that money did make improvements, even if they were not immediate. A lot of it might not have gone to directly improve public services, instead went into the salaries and creation of too many middle managedment jobs, and yes lots of it went into the profit margins of the much lauded private sector. It is true that had there been less spending then the credit crunch, would mean that we would have less to cut now, but then we may have had higher unemployment, and more social problems. Perhaps the bigest failure was that a lot of that money should have been directed towards social housing and supporting a more diverse economy, although I’m not sure how you would go about that.

            So as we play hindsight criticism perhaps we should decide what the alternatives might have been. The NHS may still be struggling now, and this will always be the case until we actually decide what it’s role is, since what we seem to expect far exceeds the what could be delivered with the amount of money we are willing to spend, but had it not received the investment it had, it would be in a far more parlous state. A similar thing could be said for the state (fabric) of our schools, many of which were simply fallling down.

            Even after all these events, the real issues and debates have not moved on. What do we as a country want in terms of public services, which people whould we look after, when we have decided that, you can ‘price’ it all up then work out how much we will all need to pay for it. The deficit could have been dealt with in the simplistic ‘balance the books’ principle by higher taxation at any point in the last 30 years.  For some reason when we come to sorting out the deficit this is never mentioned as a real alternative. We know why, it would apparently be political suicide, or in other words, we would all rather live in our dreamworld and the politicans don’t have the guts to tell us like it is and we will slowly stumble from one crisis to the next.

            We have sold off all the country’s assets, we have then leveraged what was left and now we either start paying for what we are all demanding, or we start making real decisions about what should and should not be the role of the state. The history of our party would suggest a particular position on this, our job should be to persuade why this should be the case and why it is even in the interests of everyone. I’m not sure we know how to even do this anymore.

          • happy.fish

            I fear you are missing the point of Cnute. I believe he was mocking the flatterers and meally mouthered who were making silly claims about his ‘power’.

      • Andy James1

        Hi Jaime – could you provide a link to this, I’d be interested to see the figures.

      • Peter Barnard

        @ Jaime,
        “Official figures.”
        What “official figures?”
        Table A5 of Public Finances Databank (published by HM Treasury) shows public sector net debt of £311 billion at the end of fiscal 2000/01 and £527 billion at the end of fiscal 2007/08 : an increase of £216 billion
        Table 18.2 in Annual Abstract of Statistics 2010 (published by ONS) shows net borrowings totalling £200 billion for fiscal years 2001/02 to 2007/08, inclusive.
        Both numbers, accessed via different routes, as it were (but still “very official”) are a long way from your £530 billion.
        Perhaps you can give us your “official figures” source?

        • jaime taurosangastre candelas

          Also from ONS (PSF1.1, November 2011), the cumulative total of deficit spending from 2000/1 – 2008/9. Not public sector net debt, which is different from deficit spending and is a large pool of debt incurred at various times going back into history.

          Your figure appears to come from PSF 8 of March 2001 (£311.1 billion), which is Public Sector Finances: Net Debt.

          • Peter Barnard

            @ Jaime,
            There is no Table 1.1 in PSF Nov 2011 ….
            Look, if you owe £1,000 in year “X,” and owe £2,000 in year “Y,” your net borrowing over the period has to be £1,000 – and that’s the figure that counts.
            Similarly, government debt incurred in year “X” will be redeemed in year “Y” (unless the debt is undated, as in War Loan) and more often than not (going back to 1688 when government first started to borrow money), government will borrow the amount of debt to be redeemed. This does not add to the inherited level of debt, and chancellors of any political hue have done this.
            Let me give you an example, from 1837, when Queen Victoria ascended to the throne :
            Unfunded debt created : £47.2 million
            Unfunded debt redeemed : £49.5 million
            Exchequer Bills created : £28.3 million
            Exchequer Bills redeemed : £30.6 million
            (Source : B R Mitchell and Phyllis Deane, Abstract of British Historical Statistics, University Press at Cambridge, 1962)
            In other words, government in 1837 borrowed £75.5 million, redeemed £80.1 million, so there was a net debt reduction of £4.6 million – and it’s that net figure that’s important. According to the way that you are looking at things – I think – you would say that in 1837 government borrowed £75.5 million.
            What Labour did between 2001 and 2008 was to borrow more than the debt that was being redeemed. I have never denied this. However, “absolute” numbers without context or perspective (in this case, as a percentage of GDP) are meaningless. You may as well say – and thunder forth – that that the net unfunded debt of the United Kingdom has increased from £3.1 million (in 1691) to £977 billion now (PSF, Nov 2011). Without context, the two figures are meaningless.
            And I’m still waiting for the source of your £530 billion ….

          • jaime taurosangastre candelas

            @ Peter Barnard, sorry Table 1, not 1.1.  The figure is cumulative.  The original data was from the Economist in May 2011 (I have the paper copy, it may also be online but I do not have a subscription and have used my monthly allowance of 5 free articles!), who did a further calculation to strip away about £100 billion of mostly debt repayments and some sundry other stuff, so not £630 billion but £530 billion is the net amount.

          • Peter Barnard


            You originally stated “from 2001 to 2008” ; now you are including calendar 2009 and 2010 …  

            I can only react to what you write …

          • derek

            @Peter , here’s a link, might be worth a read.   

          • Peter Barnard

            Thanks, DB.

            Overall, your reference is a pretty balanced article.

        • GuyM

          They were running  a deficit from 2002 onwards, which you know very well despite your usual attempts to cover that little fact up.

          Clearly they and you are not in favour of Keynesiam economic policies…… ooops seems they are, but only when the policy calls for increased spending, how terribly responsible and not at all fitting the narrative that Labour only knows how to throw money about.

          • Peter Barnard

            @ Guy M, 
            I haven’t denied, in my comment,  that Labour borrowed money between 2001 and  2008, so don’t put words in my mouth.

  • Scarlett

    Shame that responsible capitalism is an oxymoron, really….

  • GuyM

    Of course this whole narrative looks a bit fanciful when one realises Cameron was talking about “moral capitalism” way before Milliband mentioned anything to do with it.

    Davos – Jan 2009 – Cameron as Leader of the Opposition was putting forceful arguements forward.

    So Ed M is copying the PM is he? Hardly setting the agenda is it when you are a bit of lagard on the issue?

    • It’s laggard, Guy. So much for that private education. And Cameron’s idea of moral capitalism was to regulate the banks less, tax the poor more than the rich, and basically acquiesce to the demands of his hedge fund sponsors. 

      • M Cannon

        You can’t been a grammar school, can you?

        But have you actually read Mr Cameron’s 2009 speech?  He said this:

        So I think it’s time to update the free market orthodoxy that has dominated the
        past few decades. It’s time to assert a fundamental truth: that markets are a means
        to an end, not an end in themselves. Markets are there to serve our society, not to
        suck the joy out of it or trample over its values. So we must shape capitalism to
        suit the needs of society; not shape society to suit the needs of capitalism.
        That is what I mean by responsible business. Business helping to create a society
        that is greener, safer, fairer – and where opportunity is more equal. Business
        helping to create a society that is more family-friendly, where responsibility and
        power are decentralised, and where we value and build up the institutions of the
        public realm and civic society.

        • happy.fish

          I await to see the policies to back this up. I think the green bit has already been ditched. How does he intend to get business to help create this society, or is the big society bit? Obviously using the state to do this would be wrong, so I presume there is some other plan, involving magic fairy dust.

        • That was in 2009, Mark. A year earlier your bete noire Gordon Brown had actually done more to mitigate the interbank lending crisis, and stimulate the economy, than Cameron has done in two years.

          Hence the double dip recession

      • GuyM

        It was a typo Peter, if only we could say the same for your usual “white man’s burden” hand wringing apologies to the world for us terrible white western colonialists.

        As M Cannon says below, maybe read a speech before jumping in with your usual “intellectual” response that looks like a pre-determined response from the back of a fag packet.

  • Anonymous

    I’m impressed with Ed M’s consistency despite all the sniping from the side-lines. If he’s not careful people might begin to believe it’s possible to have real principles at the top of a major party!

    In terms of ideas from “leftie policy wonks” – my starter for ten is:

    Our economy needs to drastically reduce the costs of land, commercial premises and housing that show up in the balance sheet of businesses. These costs make our labour more expensive and our businesses less competitive.

    Target taxes at empty/ under used land and property and give renting businesses / farmers rights to buy or similar. A careful but bold approach to this would build in long term competitiveness with fairness and should advantage the majority at the expense of wealthy vested interests who
    would rather wages were reduced on the back of cheap imported labour
    (which nicely pushes rents up as well!).

    • Anonymous

      Let us know how much the PFI will be  now and how much will be at the end.

      because we know Brown did not wish to let us know how much the schools and the hospital have cost us, I know companies love the idea of PFI, but what is the cost to the tax payers.

  • Anonymous

    Hi Andrew, good to see you on LL, and hope all is going well in your new role?

    I like your perspective here, and agree policy direction and detail needs to made clearer
    and communicated well; I think it’s been a bit of a hit and miss approach last year,
    punctuated with very good speeches and the start of Refounding process,
    but gaps too long in between.

    I don’t necessarily agree with the long term view of Ed as not good on presentation;
    it’s been a tough time with lots of pressures since beginning of leadership,
    and one would assume a period of trial and error, but also constrained by
    media bias and selective view; eg compared to massive favourable coverage
    for DC?

    So perhaps he needs to enhance his image by appearing in more informal situations,
    and interacting with the public; engaging in public debates more often- perhaps
    on specific issues like youth unemployment; creating growth areas in the economy?
    Debates in areas where high social deprivation is prevalent for example.

    Anyway, enough said there.

    On policy- I think rather than being forced to compete with the language of
    cuts and little else, let’s concentrate on areas for growth, and strategies
    for job creation, especially for the young. Give people hope.

    Talk about practicalities, encourage ideas and innovation,
    involve communities; MP’s like D.Lammy are a great inspiration.
    He’s not all talk- but has a lot to show for the work he does,
    and genuinely cares; shows passion.
    An excellent role model for young people.

    My personal preference as an immediate suggestion would be to
    make a commitment to heavily reduce HE student fees and reinstate
    EMA for example.

    Strong ongoing commitment to education at all stages;
    public services and NHS, social care for the elderly, Surestart etc.

    I have the impression that DC is keen to take the credit in so many areas,
    and will try to encroach on Labour’s traditional “territory” to appear progressive
    and modern! But he seems to gloss over things too superfically,
    leaping from one policy area to another, day by day, as if a PR exercise?
    And often sounds the same…..I think Ed is stronger on substance.

    So Labour have to steer an independent path; not measure/define ourselves
    against parameters set by right wing government.
    Yes, work together when necessary; but it is essential to have a distinct
    set of policies, principles and direction for the longer term.

    I wish you luck Andrew, and I did meet you briefly at the
    workshop on social care for the elderly at Nottingham’s
    “policy forum” March last year; I particularly enjoyed your
    highly pragmatic approach, enthusiasm, and clarity of presentation.
    Your working experience must be invaluable.

    The Labour movement is very lucky to have people like you
    in their midst; I think as a party we have the best ideas
    and the best people!

    Wishing you the best of luck, again.

    Best regards, Jo.

  • Anonymous

    Following the Tories down the road of racing to the bottom on benefits and earning cuts is not going to win us elections on the door step. Our narrative has historically been one of articulating the hopes and aspirations of working people and whilst we have to be sober in spending commitments; we have to ask Ed to use his exceptional rubic cube skills to out-step the Tories in arguing and campaigning against unfair abuses of power and supporting alternative approaches.

    So – we need a message that will give people hope: not one that accepts the argument that there isn’t an alternative and that it’s okay to attack the poor, disabled, young and elderly.

    The passion of defending what is right has to come from the heart and usually from the experience from those who are or have been hurt.

    • Anonymous

      This is woolly.
      No politician of any party – especially even the BNP – is against the Vulnerable. It is political suicide. 
      But – be honest – haven’t you noticed how the system is abused? Rather too many NHS crutches? Rather too few people getting that Council House? Rather a lot of people on the dole?
      I do hope that everyone wants to stamp out people who steal from the present generous system – and that includes everyone, no matter what their origins and what their excuses are, doesn’t it?
      Or can we assume that you – not the Labour Party – are totally in favour of people stealing from the poorer taxpayers?

      • Anonymous

        Concentration camps are the answer, lie detectors first, make sure the soldier did not walk on the mine  just to get the massive generous £96 a week.  But yes Labour has been very generous on benefits the lowest benefits rise in forty years with Blair lying through his teeth on wars, to allow himself to become rich playboy, his her Royal Highness the second queen by his side selling his photo on Ebay.

        Miliband has to do more and he must ensure only the well off can vote if your disabled you should not be allowed to vote unless you work all for it

        • Anonymous

          No, this is a counsel of despair.
          If people are only allowed to take out what they have put in, then things work really well. Like the old stamps system. Until you got a stamp, you couldn’t get any benefits at all. In Singapore, as I understand it, you get a certain allowance for being born in Singapore and then can earn more benefits by work. Of course, you can also run out too.
          But people are very careful not to.
          At the moment, we are offering all the benefits we can think of and then some to anyone who cares to ask – and this includes the Indian sub continent, lots of China and several people from all parts of Africa. That is why we are going broke – are indeed broke.
          We need a serious overhaul so that people earn National Insurance.

          • happy.fish

            ‘you are only allowed to take our what you have put in’ That’s not a benfits system then is it? What you are describing as savings! What do you mean by running out of benefits in singapore?

          • Anonymous

            Bankruptcy is terrible. In Wisbech here there are rapes, prostitution, physical violence and visits from very unpleasant people for bankrupts.

            We as a country are nearly there now. So what will our creditors do to us, I wonder?

            This is a basic fact of life to be balanced against “rights” and “entitlements”.

            Bankrupts do not even own their own bodies! Look at the Greeks or the Italians who cannot even choose their own government!

  • Daniel Speight

    So why can’t the leadership show some balls and show how they will be different if elected? Some policies would go down very well at the moment. Just to get them started how about this?

    To encourage publicly listed companies to  follow suggestions on management pay levels, the pay ratio between the lowest paid and the top paid, workers representation on salary review boards and even worker representation on the board of directors, we use corporate tax levels to reward those companies making an effort and punish those that don’t. Of course the rules could applied to all state sector or state owned corporations straight away. No more £800,000 BBC Director Generals or £1M heads of the Post Office.

    We can use the same idea to fight against all the other practices deemed to be ‘predatory’, ‘crony capitalism’ or ‘immoral’. In a way it’s bribing corporations to act in the interests of the country and it’s self funding while we still have what Ted Heath called ‘the unacceptable face of capitalism’.

    How about new laws on press and TV ownership similar to those used by the US? Then there’s the use of tax havens for ownership of corporations to avoid paying tax in the UK even though much of their business is carried out here. How about when global corporations use a foreign base to avoid paying tax on their UK operations we charge them the difference they pay in their base country to what they would have paid in the UK?

    What about the railways? Everyone knows that they are a disaster right now. The ownership system put in by Thatcher has failed to give Britain reliable and economic railways. Let’s start talking about an answer with those involved, including the passengers who have just been hit with above inflation fare rises. Why should British railways be so much more expensive than those in most European countries. Let’s have more commissions set up by the party to bring these subjects to public attention. We have done this, or supported it, with policing and high pay after all.

    Doesn’t Labour have any academics that can come up with policy ideas, or is Glasman the best we can do? What are all these kids doing in their think tanks? What about the SPADs? Surely somewhere there are some new ideas to at least start discussions.

    • Anonymous

      They have ideas  I suspect problem is does labour want to issues them or in fact if labour did get back into power it would end up looking back at New labour.

      The problem of course did anyone hear Miliband moaning about New labour or Browns labour, but take a look at the voting records of the people who would like you to believe this is not New labour and it comes  down to sheep following the leader.

    • happy.fish

      To be fair it was Major who actually privitised the railways, unless my memory fails. me. This is an open goal for Labour. Rather than sink billions into the vanity project that is HS2 (between Birm and Lon why?) we could use that money to sort out the network as a whole. This might involve a new line between Birm and London, but not being HS2 it could use a far less controversial route, cost less and could also include more stops, meaning it would provide a benefit to those places it passes through. Intercity trains could be travelling much faster now on exisiting lines, these could be made as attractive as flying if they were comparable in price, reliability and comfort. People don;t fly because it is quicker, once you have gone through security, and travelled to your destination at either end, they do it often because it is cheaper! The biggest need for capacity is surely on commuter routes, something that will be unaffected by HS2. How about measures to deal with this.

  • Anonymous

    I am a Tory Troll, fresh from the Tory Blogs.
    Here is what we grass roots Conservatives are afraid of:

    1. A party split over Europe. As the Merkozy grows more and more strident, Britain is being pulled into the Euro system and will soon lose the City of London as new taxes are imposed. Most of the Social money for the Vulnerable currently comes from the City. We notice how even the High Speed Railway is proposed and directed from Brussels. Many of us are seriously, and very reluctantly, considering UKIP.

    2. Scotland becoming independent. We believe in the Union.

    3. The whole country going broke, or spending all the taxation on interest repayments.

    4. Serious, positive reform of the taxation and civil services.If the Miliband machine can join, take over, or exploit these openings, then there will be a lot of confusion in the Tory Ranks.

  • John Slinger

    Excellent post, Andrew. 


    Your line: “Leftie policy wonks need to come up with concrete solutions that the
    leadership can start to pick and chose from.”


    Any such ‘leftie policy wonks’ or indeed mere
    Labour-supporting mortals may be interested in the first Pragmatic Radicalism
    ‘Top Of The Policies’ event on skills next Tuesday. Details below. 


    This is a forum designed to be a) inclusive, b)
    fun, c) to get as many new ideas aired as possible, d) to encourage debate, e)
    to be a leveller (the quality of the idea is what counts, not the proponent’s


    CHAIR: Michael White, Assistant Editor, The Guardian




    WHEN? 6.30pm-8.30pm, TUESDAY 17

    WHERE? THE BARLEY MOW (pub), 104
    Horseferry Road, Westminster, London, SW1P 2EE

    5-10 Mins walking distance from Parliament


    SPEAKERS: Introduction
    by Sue Ferns (Chair of Unions21) and
    John Slinger (Editor of Pragmatic
    Radicalism). Winner announced by Tom
    Wilson, Director of unionlearn.

    See http://www.pragmaticradicalism.co.uk
    for updates on people presenting policy ideas on the night…


    Speakers agreed so far include
    John Edmonds, Anthony Painter, Parmjit Dhanda and many, many more. Please get
    in touch if you’d like to join them.

    Further info at
    at http://pragmaticradicalism.co.uk/top-of-the-policies-skills-event and
    the Facebook event page is: https://www.facebook.com/events/130466130403412/

    For an idea of how these events run see our pages on our successful
    Labour Party Conference fringe event at http://tinyurl.com/6eexteq and http://tinyurl.com/673na33.Please feel free to send this to anyone you think might be interested in
    participating or attending. We’re on Twitter @PragRad #TopOfThePolicies.
    Please spread the word.

    Best wishes,

    John Slinger

    Editor, Pragmatic Radicalism                 

    [email protected]

    http://[email protected]:twitter 

  • Anthony Sperryn

    I have just put a comment on Mauricee Glasman’s recent New Statesman article which could apply to this one too.

    Capitalism operates under a mass of detailed laws and regulations, some of which are specific to finance and some of which are, often, long-standing elements of English law.

    Bearing in mind human nature, competition and the profit motive, it is very optimistic to expect changes in how capitalism operates to happen voluntarily.

    I believe that getting into great detail about the actual operating and regulatory environment of our form of capitalism, as it affects individuals, businesses, advisers and government, will suggest changes that are needed in order to make it more responsible.  I expect that radical legislation may be required.

    If that is what Labour is doing, I applaud it.  This process may bring about better results in the long-term than saying banks ought to lend more to small business.

  • jaime taurosangastre candelas

    @ Andy-james1

    Full report (PDF – 142KB)

    Official enough for me – the Comptroller and Auditor General of the National Audit Office making his full report to Parliament.

    Value of bank bailouts (“total cash outlay”) is actually £123.93 billion, not £130 billion, but I misremembered.  It will be lower than that now, as six months has passed and gradually the costs are being repaid.

  • jaime taurosangastre candelas

    @ Andy James1:


    (there’s a PDF to download once you click on the “How much?” FAQ).

  • Peter Barnard

    @ Andrew Harrop,

    “Tackling low pay, including steep rises to the Minimum Wage, is by far the most obvious and effective way of delivering fairness with no public money.”

    Amen to that.

    I do believe that lawyers Linklaters and accountants KPMG now pay above the NMW and that they are pleased with the results, citing (if I remember correctly) : (i) improved staff morale (ii) reduced absenteeism and staff turnover, leading to enhanced productivity …


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