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Ed’s opportunity

22 September 2011

Ed Miliband is the man to rip up the rulebook. He uses the phrase half a dozen times in
an interview with the New Statesman. Ever since the phone hacking saga climaxed in July, Miliband has been
busy posing as an insurgent against the Establishment; the politician who refused to fawn to Rupert Murdoch. His version of events is utterly specious: he was happily quaffing News
International’s champagne at the beginning of the summer. But that is immaterial. Miliband has recognised an opportunity to redefine his faltering leadership.

Despite his stern rhetoric, Miliband says very little about policy to the Statesman beyond promises of a VAT cut and a few other baubles. A separate interview with Progress is equally devoid of concrete policies. Our leader column in
this week’s Spectator (subscribers click here) observes that Miliband has
made a negligible impact on Britain’s political landscape, but is terrifyingly close to power. We say:

‘Ed Miliband is not ready for this…His opposition strategy appears to be standing by and watching the government make mistakes. He does not deserve the opportunities which lie in front
of him, and he may lack the resolve to take them. But if Britain is plunged into a fresh economic crisis, David Cameron will be lucky to survive it.’

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The forthcoming Labour conference will provide a backdrop for Miliband’s recalibration. The greatest test comes in the person of Ed Balls. As our leader column notes:

‘Miliband needs to look ready. This requires a credible economic policy, no easy task with Ed Balls in charge…Miliband has the better analysis [of the two]. His talk about the ‘squeezed
middle’   gets far closer to the real problem: that British living standards are already suffering their most sustained downturn in 80 years.’

Miliband may have no answers as how to relieve the squeeze or foster aspiration; but, given the economic situation, he may only need words to win.

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Show comments
  • El Sid

    “We were ripping up the rule book. The rule book said you didn’t take on News International, you didn’t take on vested interests, because, as with the ‘too-big-to-fail’ banks, they were ‘too big to be challenged’….it was a set of people whose power had never been challenged and who thought they were untouchable…you judge people by whether they are willing to speak out without fear or favour.”

    Funny how he goes quiet as soon as the unions and the 30 November strikes are mentioned…..

  • El Sid

    @Swiss Bob – I wouldn’t get too carried away about the shale gas in Lancs. First of all – there may be 200tcf gas in place, but the recoverable figure will be vastly less than that – if indeed it can be recovered at all. Secondly there’s no guarantee that it’s economic. The economics of shale gas extraction are still a bit controversial – even in the US it may be as much as 50p/therm, and there’s various technical reasons why UK shale gas will be rather more expensive than in the US – some people have talked about it being twice the price, but it’s very project-dependent. Say Cuadrilla’s project turns out to be relatively easy, you could be talking costs of 50-80p/therm. For comparison, Irish/North Sea gas comes in around 30-40p, and the wholesale price has been 50-60p recently.

    So the Lancs shale gas is no magic bullet,certainly not in terms of dramatically reducing “energy” prices and definitely not by the next election. It’ll need several years of very boring appraisal work to figure out whether there’s a resource and if it’s economic to extract. But it won’t be mega-cheap – it’s more important in terms of energy security (replacing LNG imports) rather than energy prices.

  • David Dee

    “His opposition strategy appears to be standing by and watching the government make mistakes”

    Now I wonder where he got that one from ??
    The only time our Pantomime PM mentioned policies was when it became necessary to save his own backside. Remember masssive tax cuts for millionaires via his IHT proposals or his repeal of Fox Hunting.

    But come the Global recession and Northern Rock and both he and Boy George seem to have disappeared !!!

    Ed is right to keeep stumm at present with the coalition tearing itself apart all he has to do is wait for the withdrawal of the Lib Dems from this arrangement which, according to their conference will not be too far off now.

    Then it is goodbye to Cameron, who has never held a decent job in his life, and who is only PM through some shoddy deal with the Lib Dems on AV which, incidentally he reneged on as he had promised,as his part of the deal, not to take an active role in the campaign.

    As for spin. Whatever happened to ‘Tapper’ Coulson, another one of Cameron’s shoddy deals !!!

  • DavidDP

    I’ve read the editorial piece, and I must say, it’s not really very good.

    The first half is the traditional Spectator jeremiad against inflation, with the implicit demand, I assume, for a rise in interest rates.

    This is of course going to do nothing for the squeezed middle. I fear Spectator journolists suffer from the traditional “journalists are the squeezed middle class” view that has previously resulted in such complaints that people earning over £40k a year, way above the average, are finding life tough or, pace Cristina Odone, that they are finding it difficult to continue to afford £30k a year in private school fees.

    In reality, the actual squeezed middle class are unlikely to have the savings that well paid journalists have, but will have onerous mortgage payments, and so will see the raising of interest rates as squeezing them further, not, as the Spectator seems to suggest, some form of financial liberation. This is particularly the case as the rise in interest rates will do little to stem price rises caused by demand in outher countries (namely China and India) meaning prices will still rise alongside the now added burden of increased mortgage payments.

    The second half claims that Miliband can seize the initiative by calling for tax cuts on those on low incomes. All that needs to be said on this matter is that this is such a novel initiative it’s in the coalition agreement.

  • Simon Stephenson.

    Bellevue : 2.31pm

    “When did this turn of events come about? When did it become ok to lie? You report it as if it is the same old same old. Why are we not utterly OUTRAGED that politicians can lie, and get away with it?”

    For my take on this, see my this afternoon’s posts to this thread:-

    at 2.00 and 2.29

  • Simon Stephenson.

    “His opposition strategy appears to be standing by and watching the government make mistakes”

    It’s not even as creditable as this. He wouldn’t recognise a genuine mistake if it came out and bit him in the goolies. His stance is to cherry-pick any event or happening which can be used to support Labour’s unrepentent attitude towards the consequences of its 13 years in government. The only thing that matters to the current Labour leadership is that none of them are labelled as incompetent, and as so may were at the centre of 1997-2010, the only strategy in town is to perpetuate the myth that the previous government could not have done any more than it did to promote sound fiscal and economic management.

    “His talk about squeezed middle gets far closer to the real problem: that British living standards are already suffering their most sustained downturn in 80 years”

    Maybe, but he’s being totally dishonest by refusing to concede that the reason living standards are being squeezed is that they’d been over-inflated during his party’s term in office by unsustainable debt-growth. Even a normal family can understand, if it uses a credit-card to live above its income for a few years, that when its credit is maxxed out it won’t be able to live to the same standards in the future. If it’s really astute, it might also realise that in fact it won’t even be able to live up to its income, because a maxxed out card requires servicing, both in repayments and interest.

    So if Redward Edward has even a fraction of an ounce of decency and honesty in him, he’ll acknowledge his and his party’s part in the creation of this squeeze on living standards. Not until then will he have earned the right to be sceptical about those policies of the new government with which he disagrees.

  • Russell

    Miliband is as delusional as Brown & Balls, in fact almost every labour MP and supporter.

    Lies and spin are shared equally by the BBC, The Guardian and the Labour party,

  • Rhoda Klapp

    Using the PFI scandal to ditch Balls might be a start. And clear out any other stains of Brownism. Then he only has to deal with the slight problem of his own total unelectability.

  • Bellevue

    “His version of events is utterly specious…” or in other words, he is lying.
    When did this turn of events come about? When did it become ok to lie? You report it as if it is the same old same old. Why are we not utterly OUTRAGED that politicians can lie, and get away with it?
    Why doesnt the Spectator call them on this, instead of calling them ‘Brownies’ or whatever?

  • Swiss Bob


    If the Govt allowed Cuadrilla to develop the 200 trillion cubic feet of Natural Gas under Blackpool we could see a reduction in energy prices and a boost to the economy before the next elecction, and Miliband wouldn’t have a chance, not that he’s got much of a chance anyway.

  • DavidDP

    “Miliband may have no answers as how to relieve the squeeze”

    Because there are none. Living standards for the middle classes and below will fall and there is nothing any government can do about it. We’ve simply run out of money and need to enter a prolonged period were we are earning it, not spending it.

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