In a nutshell? Not a lot. Well, nothing that anyone on the left wants to hear. I found this blog in today’s New Statesman, in which Mr. Ed is quoted as saying,
The Government’s economic failure means that whoever wins the next election will still face a deficit that needs to be reduced. The redistribution of the last Labour government relied on revenue which the next Labour government will not enjoy. The option of simply increasing tax credits in the way we did before will not be open to us.
We need to care more about predistribution. Centre-left governments of the past tried to make work pay better by spending more on transfer payments. Centre-left governments of the future will have to make work pay better by doing more to make work itself pay. That is how we are going to build growth based not just on credit, but on real demand.
I think this is a centre-left moment. Why might you think it’s a centre-right moment? Well, because of issues of fiscal responsibility, which is why we must be strong on that. But for me it’s a centre-left moment because people think there’s something unfair and unjust about our society. You’ve got to bring the vested interest to heel; you’ve got to change the way the economy works. That’s our opportunity.
Straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. So if Labour gets into power at the next General Election, we can expect to hear things like, “the country is broke” and “tough choices have to be made” repeated at every opportunity. But what is this “predistribution” idea? It’s a non-word that PPE types love to coin in the absence of real ideas. If Mr. Ed is serious about “making work pay” then everyone needs to be paid a living wage. I’ve heard little from him about that. What he seems content to do is carry on with the bankrupt idea of
negative income tax Friedmanite bollocks tax credits.
The rest of the interview carries on in a similar vein. Lots of platitudes, loads of “I feel your pain” type stuff. We also find out what books he took with him on holiday [sighs].
If you were any doubt that Mr. Ed’s Labour Party is a different beast to Lord Snooty’s Tories, think again. This is the same beast but it speaks in warm words and wears a sickly smile. It still has its neoliberal claws and fangs, they’re sheathed… for now. Here’s another snippet,
On welfare and benefits, the Labour leader insists that some form of contribution from the recipients of welfare must replace what Liam Byrne, former head of the Labour policy review, called “unearned support”.
“I do think we need a society where people make a contribution,” Miliband says. “You build a successful society out of people showing responsibility. That’s an important principle at the top, it’s an important principle elsewhere. But people at the top have a particular responsibility because they help define the ethic of the country.”
These words could have been said by Cameron, the only real difference here is the tone. The word “responsibility” is deployed as a buzzword. It’s one that makes disciplinarian ex-bankers like Liam Byrne drool with uncontrolled anticipation.
But how does Miliband intend to make people more responsible? If making people work for their benefits is considered to be a mark of their “responsibility”, then he has some serious moral and ethical questions to answer. What about dignity and respect? In effect, Labour’s support of workfare would be tantamount to giving a nod and a wink to the further erosion of worker’s wages, which have declined in real terms for the last 20 years. My, wouldn’t Gaitskell be proud of this lot? Ramsay MacDonald too. In fact, this is a party in which even Twinkletoes Cable would feel at home these days. Maybe that’s the point: to appeal to the SDP lot in the Lib Dems should the coalition fall. Then again, maybe it isn’t. In fact, I think I’m being too generous on Mr. Ed and his crew of weak-willed snivellers. In truth, they haven’t got the guts to offer hope to a nation that’s crying out for it. Instead of doing anything that could be described as visionary, the former party of labour takes another sharp right-hand turn into a ditch.
UPDATE 6/9/12 @ 1758
Mr. Ed fleshed out the “predistribution” idea that I mentioned earlier in a speech to The Policy Network.
“Predistribution is about saying, ‘We cannot allow ourselves to be stuck with permanently being a low-wage economy and hope that through taxes and benefits we can make up the shortfall.’
“It’s not just, nor does it enable us to pay our way in the world.
“Our aim must be to transform our economy so it is a much higher skill, much higher wage economy.
“Think about somebody working in a call centre, a supermarket, or in an old peoples’ home.
“Redistribution offers a top-up to their wages. Predistribution seeks to go further – higher skills with higher wages.
Yay! Higher wages! How? Anyway, it seems I got it wrong vis a vis the tax credits. That was one of Gord’s ideas… well not really, it originally came from Milton Friedman, who was neither a socialist or a social democrat.
The BBC article also notes that Miliband is having text with Twinkletoes (what did I say?).
The FT has this rather interesting story here. Here’s a snippet,
Mr Cable told the Financial Times in July he did not “exclude” a run for the party leadership and polls suggest the business secretary, who is a former Labour councillor, is more popular than Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister.
But behind the mischief, Mr Miliband is making another calculation: that Labour may need to work with the Lib Dems in the event of a hung parliament in 2015 and that Mr Cable may hold the key to a Lib-Lab deal.
How’s life in that ditch, Ed?