Ed Miliband tends to enjoy success when he’s either stealing someone else’s clothes or offering a possibly unworkable policy that sounds catchy. This morning on the Andrew Marr Show he tried both tactics. Having nicked One Nation from the Tories and repeated the phrase so often that they probably don’t want it back, Miliband is now trying to ape a Republican president, Theodore Roosevelt. His close colleague Lord Wood sets out why Labour thinks this is a space it can jump into in a piece for Coffee House.
The catchy line from this Roosevelt-style crusade is that Labour is now the party of competition, with Miliband planning to appoint consumer groups such as Which? and Citizens Advice to advise market regulators on competition. Miliband said:
‘And if I can just make this point, Andrew, you were talking earlier about President Roosevelt, he was a republican, a Republican president. I think lots of people in Britain, lots of Conservatives, will be thinking: “Why is the Conservative party not championing this agenda? Why have they become the champion of the big vested interests like the energy companies and the banks?” It is Labour that is the party of competition, Labour that’s taking this agenda forward.’
Miliband is cleverly trying to scramble into every nook and cranny that he thinks has been vacated by the Conservatives. The problem with stealing someone else’s clothes is that they don’t always fit very well. Labour wants to be the party of competition and give consumers a greater say in the way markets work. Fine. But where the buttons start flying off this is when you consider that Miliband also wants a big state intervention in the energy market that would involve telling companies what prices they could charge. So he’s leading the party of competition but not of free markets, which is interesting.