Labour is talking about the wrong scandals. We are too preoccupied with the latest Westminster fads and are failing to talk about the bread and butter issues that affect people’s lives.
The fuss about Barclays will bemuse most normal people. I have little doubt that traders acted improperly, immorally and possibly even illegally. But even as someone who is interested, and even a little bit geeky about politics, I can’t quite bring myself to follow the debate about who said what about which type of inquiry should exist and when. I’m not exercised or outraged about whether the inquiry has cross party support. I don’t care about who said who should resign and when. Bob Diamond will doubtlessly be replaced by someone just as overpaid and just as implicated in mess at Barclays, so why bother entering into a spat and waste energy calling for his scalp?
Meanwhile, the real scandals that plague people’s everyday lives are too often going unnoticed and undiscussed. Ed Miliband’s rhetoric about predators and producers truly resonates with a nation that feels increasingly ripped off- but people are far more likely to be angry at their spiralling electricity or mobile phone bills than they are about the internal workings of Barclays’ board or who text who what at News International.
The scandal of profiteering by grubby private companies in social care receives almost no attention, despite the fantastic National Care Service Labour pledged at the last election. The scandal of buy to let landlords making rented housing wholly unaffordable is barely given a mention, kicked to the long grass to be discussed in Labour’s policy review in 2014. The scandal of 100,000 young people trapped in unpaid internships and even more locked out of the opportunities they deserve is nowhere near Labour’s agenda, despite this submission to the National Policy Forum by myself and Hazel Blears. The scandal of train and bus companies making record profits while commuters pay record fares is being worked on beaverishly by the superb Maria Eagle MP, but solid announcements of what we would do to make public transport better appear to hitting gridlock.
When at the NPF in June Ed Miliband said that “no-one who works should be in poverty”, he was speaking to ordinary people who are tired of working long hours for little pay. We need more statements like this and more detail to show how we can make it happen. We can’t hope to rally our supporters around Westminster fads and oppositionalism alone. The Tory omnishambles means Labour has an opportunity to be heard for the first time in years. Let’s not waste the chance to really talk about what sort of Britain we want to build.