Miliband’s on the hunt – but he desperately lacks a clarion call


In today’s New Statesman, David Miliband has released a new essay on building Britain a social democratic future. It’s disappointing.

Miliband’s focus on Labour’s electoral strategy neglects a more urgent and, for progressives, a more difficult question: What’s the point of the progressive project anymore?

Against the backdrop of mass bankruptcies and near-bankruptiies – and, consequently, the bankruptcy of supply side economic policies – could there be an easier, more ripe time for progressive parties to articulate the dangers of unregulated finance and, more importantly, an agenda for remedying the follies wreaked by the unchecked financial sector? Yet, instead of piercing analysis and a compelling vision, Milliband rifles his only almost-zinger towards the not even low-hanging so much as long since plucked, Mr. Roy Hattersley.

“But in his article, liberty, rights, social justice and equality are listed as a range of desirable values, when the issue is how to resolve clashes between values, not whether you can make a list of them.”

A passable criticism – if you’re on the high school debate team. Less so if you’re attempting to re-imagine and inspire the realignment of middle and working Britain’s political passions.

Having set his bar so low, I politely await the underwhelming all-too-easy grand finale he’s obviously teed-up. Instead, New New Labour serves up this:

“…we are enjoined … to put power as well as wealth and opportunity in the hands of the many, not the few.”

Got that? And that abstract nothing-speak was one of his more impassioned sentences.

At a time when, as Miliband concedes himself, Europe has 24 out of 27 left-leaning parties out of power despite the FT running a Capitalism in Crisis series while one populist GOP presidential candidate is attacking his Republican colleague as a “Vulture Capitalist”, the question, while it still retains some relevance, must be: Progressives: Is this all?

Where’s the progressive critique for the new century? Is there none?

  • PaulT

    David Miliband got mentioned in the latest issue of Private Eye, apparently he’s earned an extra £400,000 outside of his day job since the election, which drew the assumpsion that he’s probably not that interested in being leader of the Labour Party.

    Well at least not at the moment, I suspect with Local elections in a few months, and again in 2014 coupled with a EU Election and a General Election in 2015 he’ll be watching results to eye up any opportunities

  • aquifer

    Labour is lost, captured by careerists unwilling to challenge their death embrace by the unions of the bigger public sector workforces while more people work alone without a Union. They collude in robbing democracy of real resources, rejecting a proper political party funding system in favour of taking Union money, allowing the Tories to take whatever they need to stay in power and maintain their influence. Their intellectual toolbox is empty save a large rusty revolutionary spanner that fits no nut when more toil for us in the developing world and when we destroy more resources than we use. Marginally nicer than the Tories means nothing when we look at these empty vessels.

    As Neil Kinnock said in one less gassy instance: Don’t be poor or old.

  • Greenflag

    It’s not just the Labour ‘toolbox’ that looks empty so too is the Conservative’s . The only difference is that the latter is in power to manage further British relative decline as it becomes an offshore glorified no transaction tax haven (perhaps ). As we await the upcoming Greek default there will be political repercussions right across Europe and the world and several I believe 5 big banks in the USA are on the edge when the Greeks tip into the abyss Will they be bailed out by the American taxpayer as Mr Obama faces re-election ?

  • HeinzGuderian

    I can’t see Ed being in the job much longer.
    Dismal displays at PMQ’s,and the Tories make Labour look like little more than rabble.
    (Twas ever so,I guess)

    Oh how they cheered when Tony came to power. new Labour,huh ?

    The Old Etonian will still be PM when Northern ireland celebrates it’s centenary. 😉

  • Those who assume that the present preages the future, that the Cameroons are superglued to power (they’d be the first ones ever) may wish the reflect.

    The next few weeks are likely to dent that invincibility.

    For the record, in the 2008 UK local government elections the actual polling was Con 44%, LD 25% and Lab 24%. The result was the Tories gained 257 seats and control of a dozen councils. As of now, the opinion surveys (for what they are worth) indicate Con and Lab around 40% each — with Labour apparently clawing back some of the EU non-veto slippage of late 2011 — and LD around 10-12%. As they say in the property trade: extrapolate, extrapolate, extrapolate.

    Similarly BoJo became London mayor on the back of that same Labour unpopularity, with a “swing” of around 13½% (though both major parties showed a gain against the rest). Again: that won’t last. Indeed, there are distinct signs of panic in the BoJo camp — yesterday’s was the clarion call of a “reduction” in council tax (£3.10 a year down versus the £2.50 a week increase in fares earlier this month).

    So, the bottom line is that the Tory election machine is going to be hard-strapped to polish either of those two jobbies.

    Then there that IFS critique of the present strategy: 75% of the austerity programme, 88% of the benefit cuts, 94% of the departmental spending cuts still to come. How long will that little lot be sellable outside the Murdoch press?