Forest of Dean & Wye Valley

Worried about Ed

In Editorial on March 5, 2012 at 12:59 pm

With public resistance to Tory policies mounting, where in the general scheme of things is the Labour Party leadership? Where is its vigour and determination to expose and campaign against the impact of the cuts? Where is the presentation of Labour’s alternative? Indeed, is there one to be presented?

For those who supported Ed Miliband for leadership of the Party, his record so far has been disappointing. It’s true that he’s had to establish his own sense of identity in the eyes of the public, as well as uniting a somewhat disparate shadow cabinet behind him. But so far his success has been somewhat underwhelming.

Labour has opposed the Government’s plans to dismantle the NHS (so far, sadly, without too much success. External campaigns and bodies like “38 Degrees” have made rather more impact). And after the election it spent some time engaging in a “listening exercise” orchestrated by Peter Hain and involving Party members and supporters. What happened to the results of this initiative, we don’t know. But is has shown little sign of re-galvanising the party – leaving opposition to the coalition Government’s policies to be spearheaded by campaigning pressure groups.

As for Ed Miliband, he has so far failed to establish a firm sense of direction for Labour, leaving an impression in the public mind of a floundering party. His declarations in January that cuts would have to continue under a Labour government only served to accentuate the negative, and cut the Party leadership adrift from those who might have rallied behind it. Indeed, he has now put himself at odds with Len McClusky of the Unite union, whilst other trade union leaders are hardly happy either. And he seems to have done little to even try to counter Tory lies that the cuts are “necessary” to get us out of the “mess” that the previous Labour administration got us into.

Of course there’s another way – one, indeed, that’s necessary if we’re to succeed in saving the economy. We have to invest in the public sector and build confidence and employment. At present all the signs are that Government¬† policies are leading us into a “double dip” recession, from which we’ll all suffer. Any talk of cuts by the Party’s leadership should be directed towards those who can afford them – including those bankers who were the ones who got us into this mess in the first place. And how about dispensing with that expensive folly, Trident renewal, whilst we’re about it? As folk used to say, it’s neither use nor ornament.

The Party leadership has also failed to recognise that many of the cuts are ideologically driven. They are not simply there to balance the books – they have been implemented deliberately to undermine the Welfare State (which past generations of Labour worked to build).

Quite rightly, Labour spokesmen continue to attack the Government’s record on rising unemployment and increased levels of poverty. But they seem to fail to make the connection between cause and effect. In other words, the implementation of the cuts is creating mass unemployment and driving many families in to poverty.


¬†Admittedly, Ed and his colleagues in the leadership of the Party are hampered by the baggage of past “New Labour” administrations. And there are still plenty of unrepentant Blairites in the Parliamentary Labour Party to act as brakes on any radical alternatives. There is a strand in the Party that seems to have forgotten is roots and in whose interests it was founded to serve. For them, the ghosts of Keir Hardy, George Lansbury, Attlee, Bevan – and even Harold Wilson – have been exorcised.

But, however we look at it, Ed Miliband gained the leadership because he was seen as a new broom, capable of sweeping away the trappings of the last decade or so. If this is the case it must involve, at the very least, a recognition of the importance of the public sector and the welfare state in our society – and continued support for the under-privileged in our society. All these are under attack by the present Government.


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