The Miliband speech: one crumb of comfort in amongst the neoliberal detritus

Picture courtesy of the Daily Mirror

Well, it’s really nice of Ed Miliband to stand up for tenants who are being screwed by unscrupulous private sector landlords. Thanks for the warm words, Ed, they mean so much. And yes, I’m being sarcastic. That is my wont.

Labour has not pledged to reverse any of the Tory cuts, indeed if they won the next general election they will continue cutting, slashing and capping. I had a look at Miliband’s speech he gave to the Fabian Society (the fact that he spoke to the Fabians should tell you all you need to know) on Saturday and there was nothing to get excited about. In his speech he apparently fleshed out his “One Nation”, er, vision.

I will quote some of the speech, starting with this extract.

New Labour rightly broke from Old Labour and celebrated the power of private enterprise to energise our country.

You will notice how he uses the Tory-coined phrase “Old Labour” here. It’s as if to say that anything the Labour Party did before the arrival of Kinnock and Blair was bad or wrong. What about the National Health Service? I could list other achievements but the NHS is certainly a great achievement for a country that was, ostensibly, broke. The celebration of “the power of private enterprise” led to the disastrous reliance on the Private Finance Initiative, which effectively led to the wholesale destruction of the NHS. It licensed carpet-bagging on a massive scale. In short, it was a failure. The only thing it “energised” were greedy businessmen.

It helped get people back into work, and introduced the minimum wage and tax credits to help make work pay.

And it used tax revenues to overcome decades of neglect and invest in hospitals, schools and the places where people live.

The National Minimum Wage (NMW) was seen as a great achievement by the New Labour government but it wasn’t a living wage and was never going to be. Of course, the Tories opposed the NMW and continue to do so. Many Tories, especially of those of a free-market bent want to scrap the NMW altogether and force people to accept sweatshop wages with no workplace protection.  Speaking of workplace protection, New Labour refused to reverse the draconian anti-trade union legislation introduced by the Thatcher government. Workers continue to find themselves under attack by a ruthless and venal government that pits worker against worker and dares to offer them pitifully worthless shares in return for compliance. if it could get its way, the Tories would take us back to the 19th century… and Labour would let them.

The word “responsibility” appears several times during the speech. This word is much beloved of neoliberals and is, more often than not, applied to those at the bottom.

To turn things round in Britain, we all have to play our part.
Especially in hard times.
We are right to say that responsibility should apply to those on social security.

This language is no different to that used by the Tories. The suggestion here is that those on social security are universally “irresponsible” rather than victims of circumstance – which is often the case. But he throws in the following decoy to distract those who would seek to pick holes in his argument.

But we need to say that responsibility matters at the top too.

That’s the essence of One Nation Labour.

It shares New Labour’s insight about our obligations to each other.

And it learns the lessons of what New Labour didn’t do well enough, ensuring responsibilities go all the way through society from top to bottom.

Here, Miliband appears to suggest that his One Nation Labour brand is an extension of the New Labour brand. If you thought Miliband’s Labour Party was any different to Blair/Brown, think again. The ingredients on the label are exactly the same but with a couple of new additives… and the new brand name.

New Labour began with a bold agenda for the distribution of power in Britain.

And it stood for a Labour party not dominated by one sectional interest, but reaching out into parts of Britain that Old Labour had never spoken to.

Again, Miliband distances himself from so-called “Old Labour”, that’s the same Labour Party that legalized homosexuality and abortions under the rather right-wing Labour Home Secretary, Roy Jenkins. It’s been said that if such proposals were put to the Commons today, they would be voted down.

Miliband came from a relatively a privileged background. He went to Oxford and like many of those who were intent on a career in politics, he read (they don’t study at Oxbridge) Politics, Philosophy and Economics (PPE). He tells us that the Labour Party will be

Recruiting MPs from every part of British life: from business to the military to working people from across every community.

With most of Britain’s mines and factories closed, it’s hard to see how Miliband can recruit more Dennis Skinners. It sounds like a load of guff to me.

All in all Miliband’s speech was crafted to appeal to the Fabians and placate those so-called floating voters whose  political allegiances change with the wind. Fabians believe that they can reform capitalism. They are mistaken and have been wrong for more than 100 years. Their gradualism has led them to betray the working class and the labour movement time and time again.

On the one hand, Miliband is a hostage to the Blairites and on the other, he’s running scared of the Tory press (ably assisted by Hatchet-job Hodges in the Torygraph), who pore over his every word, hoping to find a way to paint him as a closet Commie. It’s quite laughable and, at the same time, it’s tragic.

There really is nothing Red about Ed.

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4 Comments

Filed under Government & politics, Labour, Tony Blair

4 responses to “The Miliband speech: one crumb of comfort in amongst the neoliberal detritus

  1. harryseeingred

    New Labour never won elections in any meaningful way, (I know they won more seats than the Tories but ideologically they benefited from the sleaze factor that undermined Thatcher and Major.), all they did was continue down the neo-liberal pathway and completely betrayed their natural supporters, hence the reason so many people don’t bother to vote any more. When people say politicians are all the same they are kind of right and this blog item demonstrates why the continuing New Labour bullshit will not get those people who don’t vote into the election booths. Kinnock is to blame for the move away from traditional Trades Union roots and ultimately the destruction of the Labour Party as completed by Tony Blair. By surrounding himself with NOLS (National Organisation Of Labour Students) apparatchiks Kinnock began the process to ditch clause four and the move towards the wishy washy party we now find laughingly called the “Opposition”. Neil Stewart and other anti working class traitors have been responsible for the ever rightward drift within Labour policy making circles both internally and externally. The Labour Party needs to be re-constituted if it is ever to be seen as a socialist alternative again. This is, in my view, highly unlikely and the failure of previous attempts to form a real alternative party without interference from the SWP (witness the Respect debacle), who refuse to stand in elections under their own banner and only operate to subvert other attempts at left unity, is a matter of great sadness to me. I despise those who adopt the pure line of opposition to the Parliamentary Road to Socialism whilst at the same time failing to realise that vast numbers of people in this country would actually vote for a truly radical Socialist programme if it was put forward to them. It is people like Owen Jones who stand up and continually put the alternate vision forward at every opportunity that I admire. A party based around some of his ideas would be highly popular judging by the reception he gets whenever he appears on the media. So either we all rejoin the Labour Party and subvert it away from it’s current tar pit or we get together to form something else, but please let’s not get ourselves hung up on debates about the correct line and who is the keeper of some mythical flame. The time for change is now, a lot of people need help and Labour is not the answer, but without action they will be back in Downing Street with all the mess that the blue and yellow Maoist coalition have saddled them with. A party called New Opposition might be a start.

    • I completely agree, Harry. I will always hold Kinnock responsible for the introduction of the Blair pathogen into the party. Once he got his feet under the table, the party was literally destroyed from within. Kinnock was all too obliging when it came to rooting out the Militant Tendency, who were better socialists than he could ever be. Kinnock seemed to relish his role as witchfinder general and where did it get him? He ended up in the Lords and became an EU commissioner.

  2. Cracking down on landlords …. AND Agents

    Ed should look at:

    1. Repealing shorthold tenancies and returning to the Rent Act 1977 inc Case 13 – that would allow appeal to the court except where the landlord proposes to return to their own home, or a close relation would occupy – that would be the only case for automatic possession.

    2. Consider allowing those who rent-to-buy (mortgages by another name) to claim housing benefit – also would stimulate house building and home ownership. Now I know a lot of Labour folk will dismiss that – but think carefully because it puts power in the hands of people – some will want to buy, others private rent or public sector rent, they get choice. It can be accommodated within a fair, progressive tax regime, and with 1. above, it would also serve to bring down/ keep down rents and housing prices because it would be regulated by fixing of maximum benefit levels. Shorthold tenants can use the system now to seek some form of rent determination – if they do, their tenancy is not extended, loss of home. 1 would kill that off.

    3. Make it possible for a tenant to take an agent etc to court for failing to inform that it is possible for landlord and tenant under shorthold or any other -hold, when the agreement/tenancy ends to allow things to continue on the same basis as before whtout a new agreement/fees etc – it’s called ‘statutory tenancy’ – agents never tell people, it’s a form of deceit. Neither tenant nor landlord gains by the constant game of new agreements – only agents do so and they fail to tell either side the truth. Fees first….

    • You make some excellent points, Jan. I would also add that the recently introduced shared ownership scheme is one of the biggest confidence tricks ever to be played on the public. A “buyer” of such a property will never own outright and would still be required to pay rent to their Housing Association.

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