The next election is going to be the big, post-crash debate that the country didn’t have in 2010. Ed Miliband, as his speech yesterday demonstrated, believes that radical state intervention is needed to deal with the ‘living standards crisis’. His answer to the fact that there’s no money left is to get companies to pick up the tab for redistribution.
There’ll now be clear red water between Labour and the two other main parties at the next election. This raises the question of how the Lib Dems fit into all this. Miliband barely mentioned them in his speech yesterday and has steered clear of attacks on them this conference season. There’s been much chatter in Brighton that this is deliberate, the Labour leader keeping his options open in case of another hung parliament. But there’s genuine concern in Clegg’s circle about the contents and policy implications of Miliband’s speech. After yesterday, it is even harder to see how a Clegg Miliband coalition would work.
Miliband did politics a favour with his speech yesterday. He has guaranteed that the next election will be a proper choice between competing philosophies. Politics is not going to be boring over the next 20 months. Whether he has done himself a favour, remains to be seen.