At this year’s Labour Party conference in Brighton, its leader Ed Miliband veered markedly to the left, ending the policy of “triangulation” which had led to the policies of Labour, the Tories and the Liberal Democrats being almost identical.
For example, Labour-supporting Owen Jones’ instant reactions were:
If there’s one notion that is dead, deceased, defunct after this speech, it’s that “Labour has no policies”. A million green jobs; a freeze in energy prices; a house building programme and a “use it to lose it” policy for property developers; the end of the hated bedroom tax. Labour activists who have too often been lost for words on the bedroom tax now have something to say. Miliband took on the policies of divide and rule, the merciless redirecting of people’s anger at their falling living standards at the unemployed, private sector, immigrants – anyone but those at the top. But there is still so far to go. What does strengthening the minimum wage mean? Labour needs to commit to a living wage to stop the taxpayer subsidising of poverty pay. Where is the commitment to letting councils build housing? How is he going to create a million green jobs? A coherent alternative to austerity during the longest fall in living standards since the Victorian era is still to emerge. But this was a step in the right direction, will help win public support, and undoubtedly will boost the morale of an all too often deflated activist base.
[It has to be said that the way Miliband and the rest of Labour’s leaders come up with policies, which seem to be based partly on internal policy forums (such as the green jobs pledge, close but not identical to the demand for “1 million climate jobs” put forward by some campaigners and trade unionists) and also on focus groups (Labour’s new raft of policies are actually popular!)]
But what happened to the pledge of “1 million green jobs”? It was hardly reported in the news coverage of the speech (and completely omitted in the half-hour long BBC2 highlights programme “Today at Conference” in the evening).
It’s unsurprising that Owen Jones was enthused by this pledge, being a very left-wing and potentially popular reform, albeit one that Miliband himself wouldn’t be keen to advocate since it needs to be well justified as to where the money will come from. There are fairly strong arguments in chapter 2 of the One Million Climate Jobs report, but the policy would be open to arguments from the Tory press that Labour just wants to borrow a lot more money which can’t be afforded.
It is also unsurprising that left-wing newspapers for parties/organisations to the left of Labour (such as Socialist Worker, The Socialist and the Weekly Worker) failed to report it too, since that could have undermined their arguments in favour of a party to the left of Labour.
I was invited to a speech and Q&A session with Ed Miliband on the 3rd of October. Before he arrived, Liverpool Wavertree Labour MP Luciana Berger (a Shadow Minister for Climate Change) gave an introductory speech mentioning various things about Labour’s new policies on energy – but she said nothing about the Million Green Jobs pledge. Miliband didn’t either – if he’d picked me to ask a question, I was planning to raise the issue, as well as plugging tidal power (which I think is the best renewable form of energy in this island country, in being completely reliable and potentially cheap), but (even if sheer chance hadn’t got in the way), he probably watched me question his deputy Harriet Harman on Question Time in Rochdale, so it’s certainly unlikely that he’d have let me make a speech/ask a question!
Somebody from the audience shouted out about nationalisation of the energy companies when Berger was making her speech, which I argued is necessary (without full compensation) in creating the Nationalise energy production & distribution, a million climate jobs Facebook page. This can be regarded as a transitional demand.
Of course, nationalising a few companies in one country would not be sufficient to tackle climate change. Policies to reduce greenhouse gases here would have little impact if similar measures are not taken globally, and since most capitalists put short term profits ahead of the future of the world, it is up to the 99% to overthrow the 1% who are in power via socialist revolutions – and the first in an advanced Western country would be hugely inspiring to the masses struggling throughout the world.
So is Ed Miliband no different from David Cameron and Nick Clegg? Well, the Daily Mail editors certainly don’t think so! The tirade they launched against “Red Ed” and his late Marxist father Ralph shows they are rattled by Labour’s new set of reforms in the interest of the ordinary people in the UK – which I discuss, along with related issues such as the Daily Mail’s support for fascism (before the Second World War and endorsing the French Front National’s Marine le Pen in 2012) and David Cameron’s father Ian being a tax dodger (as indeed is the Tories’ election guru Lynton Crosbie and the owner of the Daily Mail Viscount Rothermere, the latter being “a non-domicile” according to Mark Thomas in 2009) in a separate blog entry.