Last week it was benefit claimants shirking responsibility. This week it’s about the irresponsibility of industrial action. Next week will be about curbing the power of Trade Unions. You may be forgiven in thinking that these rabid rants are the contents of a Daily Mail editorial or the wild-eyed drone of a coalition minister. But you would be wrong as these are the musings of the Leader of the Labour Party. We live in very strange days.
Since Ed Miliband became Leader of the Opposition, apart from some ill-judged, lack-lustre performances at the dispatch box, we have waited nine months for the benefit of his wisdom. Only now, as we are about to embark on the most protracted, divisive and vicious periods of industrial unrest since the Battle of Orgreave, has he bestowed upon us anything approaching an actual policy.
In spite of their weasel words, it is clear that the Conservatives are determined to destroy just about everything that matters in a mature, compassionate and valued social democracy. The poor, the not so poor and even the reasonably well off are being forced to suffer so that the very wealthy can remain very wealthy. Given that Cameron, at the behest of his very wealthy backers, has declared this new class war, the long awaited response from the Leader of the Labour Party has been, to say the least, unpredictable.
Instead of issuing a clarion call to protect the people from a particularly nasty, vindictive old school Tory government, Red Ed seems to be agreeing with the millionaires who populate cabinet. According to the Leader of the Labour Party, public sector unions have made a “mistake” in taking industrial action to preserve their pensions. Negotiation, claims Miliband, is a more public spirited approach. Ed does not mention the negotiating stance of the government in the ridiculous shape of Danny Alexander. Take it or take it, says the LibDem idiot at the treasury, otherwise we will make your life Hell. Working longer, paying more and receiving less is not up for negotiation. Strange then for Miliband to describe the only option available to this mill-owner stance as a “mistake”.
In response to anarchist teachers and revolutionary civil servants, the government is issuing dark threats of “reforms” to trade union law which, given a basic grasp of coalition logic, will result in industrial action being made illegal. Rather than screaming “no pasaran” and invoking the memory of Keir Hardie, Ed has decided to reduce the power of the union bloc vote on the National Executive and to do away with elections to the shadow cabinet. He sees himself as a football manager so it’s only fair that he should pick the team. Miliband unexpectedly beat his brother to the leadership thanks largely to the bloc votes of the unions and an electoral system known as AV. Strange days indeed.
Seismologists have detected unusual movement and rumbles taking place below the surface of the earth. We need not be alarmed. With Ed as Leader there will be no earthquake or tsunami. The spikes on the seismographs are just the sounds of Ramsay McDonald, Clement Attlee and Michael Foot turning in their graves.
The Leader is clearly very bright, politically shrewd and not afraid to lead from the front. After all, he is credited with writing the manifesto that saw the Labour Party do so well at the last general election. At the dispatch box, however, there is something of the swotty schoolboy about him. With an expression that varies between confusion, guilt and defiance, he seems like a teenager caught in possession of a magazine he is not old enough to buy.
He says that Labour “can only win if we change”. In this case “change” would appear to be abandoning long established, deep rooted principles in favour of mimicking the questionable success of the Conservatives. With the LibDems already absorbed into the Tory hegemony, power before conviction seems to be the political imperative. Whilst not yet wearing Thatcher’s twin set and pearls, Miliband is attempting to pull on Cameron’s trousers in the increasingly vain hope of victory. After nine months, we now see the Emperors new clothes.
For those who oppose the madness that is being inflicted, turning to Her Majesty’s Most Loyal Opposition for support is now futile. Change might be needed to win power, but change is also now needed to regain any credibility. The Labour Party could make a start by changing its leader.