So what next for Labour’s ‘Modest Man’? By Manvir Basi
On the eve of the 1945 General Election, Winston Churchill when asked about his opinion of his opponent, the then Labour Leader Clement Attlee, answered ‘he’s a modest man with much to be modest about’. Fast-forward to a similar scenario in 2012 with Labour under Ed Miliband with comparable skills to Attlee, the party is enjoying a healthy lead over the Conservatives in the opinion polls. Yet, the question is how can Labour continue to stay ahead of the Conservatives? The answer lies in radical policy and effective party personnel.
Firstly, on policy Mr Miliband has already made good moves coining the term, the ‘Squeezed Middle’ reflecting the hard times inflicted on the population by the Coalition Government’s austerity programme. However, Labour needs to step outside its’ comfort zone and re-address its relationship with business. In particular, Labour needs to develop an active business policy, encouraging entrepreneurism. To gain this business support, Labour needs to be brave and bold. For instance, Labour could aggressively cut Corporation Tax down to 15%, similar to Ireland which has attracted Facebook and Yahoo’s investment boosting economic growth. Not only will this gain business support but add more credibility to Labour’s economic policy. Cameron in opposition developed an active Business policy gaining the support of Tesco and Sainsbury’s who then supported his Austerity programme.
Labour’s main economic theme ‘Cutting too far too fast’, works in Keynesian economics but in politics it will not buy as the public have accepted the Government’s Austerity programme. The party was discredited for running up a huge budget deficit through spending too much money in Government. This perception is not altered through Labour’s ‘Five Point Plan’ of spending more and borrowing more. Mr Miliband should follow the lead of President Obama who has introduced a small stimulus into the economy focusing on infrastructure spending creating not only a growing US economy but a thriving private sector. Fundamentally, Mr Miliband needs to create an overarching theme similar to Obama’s ‘Audacity of Hope’ in order to set out his vision for a future Britain under Labour. Once again this would cement Labour as an effective alternative to the Conservative Party rather than just an opposition. In essence, Mr Miliband needs to change the public’s perception of Labour, continuing his work of establishing what Labour stands for with radical policy being the heart of this. Mr Miliband must take heed, as Labour cannot simply oppose the Tories for the sake of it, as the public will not buy into it.
Finally, the key to an effective opposition is by having the right personnel. Mr Miliband has made moves on this bringing in experienced Labour figures such as Lord Adonis. This is where Mr Miliband can outmanoeuvre David Cameron. Given the main criticism towards Cameron’s Government as ‘being out of touch’ and ‘inexperienced’, Mr Miliband can create a strong contrast of an experienced and respected Labour front bench. How can this be achieved? Well, step forward Alistair Darling and David Miliband. Firstly with the former, Darling should be brought in to counter the Coalition’s economic strategy and soften the edges of Labour’s anti-Austerity agenda. With the latter, David Miliband needs to put behind his failed leadership bid in 2010 (I must admit I did support David not Ed) and take the position as Party Chairman. As chairman, David Miliband can reform the Labour Party in particular reforming its Union links, which could be a political ‘hot potato’ for Ed Miliband given the Union’s strike tendencies. With David as Chairman, the Labour Party can be united ending the Brownite and Blairite rift bringing stability to the heart of Labour. By plugging senior Labour figures in his shadow Cabinet, Mr Miliband can create a genuine alternative to the Government with the potential to be radical and inspirational but with a dose of political common sense.
To be competitive in 2015, Mr Miliband needs to continue his party’s development as a radical alternative to the Coalition, focusing on credible policies to regain the public’s trust. Then again in 1945 the ‘modest man’ led Labour to a landslide victory leading to the creation of the NHS. So maybe just maybe ‘modest’ is key for Mr Miliband come 2015