Ed Miliband – you forgot the economy, stupid

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September 24, 2014 by Paul Goldsmith


Ed Miliband forgot two sections of his speech today. One of his favourite party tricks is to memorise his speeches and it has worked for the past few years, today it fell apart. He forgot two sections that were extremely important – one on immigration and, crucially, one on the economy, and in particularly dealing with the deficit. Given James Carville, Bill Clinton’s speechwriter, is so often quoted as saying “it’s the economy, stupid”, it was surely stupid not to mention the economy eight months away from an election.

The centre of the speech had been well trailed in the press, a promise of an £2.5bn – year for the NHS that would be funded by a mansion tax, a crackdown on tax avoidance by hedge funds, and a tax on the profits of tobacco companies. 3000 more midwives, 5000 more caseworkers, 8000 more GPs and 20000 more nurses, an NHS with, in Miliband’s words, ‘time to care’.

The NHS might be an important In the centre of the speech was a question – “Is anyone going to make life better for me and my family?”, that Ed Miliband feels will be asked by voters at the next election. The message was basically that the economy may be recovering but it may not be working for ordinary working families. That is what he thinks he will change. He may be ahead in the polls but he is significantly behind on the economy, and that won’t have changed. Where he is in the lead is with ‘ordinary people’ believing that he is ‘on their side’. This is a significant dividing line between Miliband and David Cameron and he intends to make the most of it.

But I would like you to go back to the beginning of the last paragraph and think about the question that Miliband has asked, because it is extremely instructive as to how he thinks, the Labour Party thinks, and they are reliant on voters to be thinking. Why should we as people simply wait for someone to make life better for us? I assume he means the State when he says ‘anyone’, well if the Labour Party are at the stage where they view ordinary people as mere supplicants of the state. Like those newborn birds who just sit in their nest with their mouths open waiting for food to be delivered. What happened to ambition? What happened to aspiration? What happened to people taking responsibility for their own lives? What is the state’s record on innovation? What is the state’s record for starting new businesses?

If the Tory party are clever they can drive a hole through this and through the lack of economics in Miliband’s speech too. Miliband does get some traction when he argues that even though the economy is back growing again, the gains from that growth are unevenly distributed. That may be so, but what if the reason that the economy got back to growing again is BECAUSE of the rewards available for starting businesses, for producing wealth, for creating the more than a million private sector jobs that have been created since the 2010 election? Would they have been created if the 50% tax rate had still been in place? Would they have been created if those people who create them and new businesses were facing a government like Miliband seems to be promising, one that defines the members of ‘One Nation’ as excluding those who have been, are, or every want to be successful?

What I think Labour should be outlining is how they will support businesses to create jobs and innovate. What I think Labour should be outlining is how they will manage the economy so that they can achieve what they say they can achieve without destroying the incentives to create jobs and innovate.

In amongst the important explanations of how they will raise the minimum wage (which I support), help people not have to make the choice between heating and eating (which I support), I haven’t heard anything that suggests that Labour have any understanding of how anybody but the State can create anything. They have 8 months.

I welcome any comments - whether you agree with me or not!

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