Welcome to Radical Labour

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The Spectator have a cover cartoon this week that at first seems pretty hard hitting. It shows Ed Miliband as weak, Old Labour and dangerous. It’s wrong on the counts of weakness and Old Labour but it’s right on danger: just not in the way right wingers think.

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For leaving aside the contradiction between weakness and dangerousness, within its pages the Spectator misreads Ed’s agenda as that of Michael Foot, 1983 and not it’s true inspiration: Margaret Thatcher, 1979. Thatcher was dangerous to her opponents and the economic model she overturned.

Because just as Thatcher dominated politics and changed British society by reforming not just the state but the economy so too Ed Miliband realises that the key to transforming Britain is changing our economy.

This is what Rupert Murdoch of all people has correctly tagged: “Radical Labour”.

Action on unfair rents is the latest big idea to emerge from a Policy Review rapidly picking up steam as radicals in the shadow cabinet from Jon Cruddas to Sadiq Khan win arguments on the need for a bold manifesto. Because, as Emma Burnell wrote this morning, this kind of big, radical politics is Ed Miliband’s own kind of politics.

That’s why Miliband spoke with such strength and confidence this morning. The kind of surety that comes when a politician speaks with authenticity. Here was a strong progressive leader, a shameless social democrat unapologetically bashing the bankers and buy-to-let landlords who take blue collar Britons for a ride.

That may be dangerous to the price gouging energy companies, the rip-off landlords and exploitative zero hour employers but it’s not dangerous to the squeezed middle struggling to make ends meet. These voters share with Miliband an understanding that the basic rules of the game have broken down: they work longer for less pay and see their bills and rent skyrocket. That’s why Ed was right to frame “cost of living crisis” today as not just a political challenge to the Tories but a moral question for our society.

From the energy price freeze paired with market shakeup to affordable rents paired with adding to housing supply, Labour is cleverly developing a policy prospectus that blends both short term retail offers for the doorstep with long term market reforms to change the economy. It turns out that the much derided “responsible capitalism” and “predistribution” agendas pack political punch after all.

So perhaps the Spectator was indeed right to warn of “danger”. Come 2015, Radical Labour will prove dangerous to the vested interests of crony capitalism. And it will prove dangerous to the Conservative party too.

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