Labour Party Conference: Red Ed? Pull the Other One

October 1, 2013 12:38 pm

Aw. Don’t blame Ed Miliband. After all, he’s done NOTHING. That is, he’s done nothing all summer to the point that various Labour luminaries were starting to get the pre-election jitters that, if he doesn’t pull his finger out soon, they fear, and present us with some policies, Labour is about to sleep walk into another election defeat.

Okay, the summer of 2012, he played into the widespread disgust people felt towards the Murdoch press (and others) who used  illegal telephone hacking to intrude into the lives of ordinary people – among them the families of murdered teenager Milly Dowler and the parents of missing Madelaine McGann among many others. In the past, leaders of political parties have stood in line to throw themselves at the feet of the House of Murdoch if they wanted any hope of electoral victory. Tony Blair famously flew across the globe to sit at the feet of Citizen Murdoch back in the 1990s.

It seems a long time ago now, but Rupert Murdoch’s reputation hit a new low by the time the phone-hacking scandals came to light that it was deemed safe to make a stand against his turgid brand of ‘journalism’, especially as it has been revealed that David Cameron had strong links with the Murdoch press through his former Communications Director Andy Coulson. A former ‘creature’ of Murdoch, Coulson is awaiting trial for his alleged role in the hacking scandal. It was a smart move by Miliband to stand outside the now tainted magic circle and pose as ‘the people’s clarion’. It sure beat scratching his head over actual policies with which to beat the Tories.

labour party conference

How did he press home the advantage? Did he then go on to attack government policy? Did he swing into action against the vicious attacks on benefits? Or perhaps he led an onslaught on the continuing dismantling of our NHS? Maybe he called for the re-nationalisation of the Royal Mail in order to deter its wholesale privatisation?

Not Ed

All or any of these would have proved popular and given a focus to the resistance by ordinary working people to the savage capitalist free for all this weak government has launched.

No, not Ed. Instead, Miliband decided to turn on Labour’s strongest supporters – the trade unions, and in particular, UNITE the union earlier this summer. Miliband accused some of their members of corruption in the Falkirk constituency. Their crime? They dared to sign up UNITE members to the Labour Party. He even called in the police to investigate. It was a move designed to make him look ‘tough on trade unionism’, to show the Tories he wasn’t in the unions’ pockets. It blew up in his face when the police found nothing amiss, and even Ed’s own internal party investigation found no wrongdoing. UNITE was totally vindicated.

Having failed abysmally to smear the UNITE union and, by implication, the trade union movement in general, Ed seemed to disappear from view despite calls for him to push himself to the fore.

Veteran Labour backbencher, George Mudie, MP for Leeds East, claimed that Miliband was ‘failing to set an agenda’ was ‘too hesitant’ and was surrounded by advisers who ‘did not tell him the truth.’

‘We are eighteen months away from a general election,’ Mudie is reported saying, ‘I have difficulty knowing what it is we stand for.’

Enter the Syrian issue.

Swingeing cuts

In some quarters, Ed Miliband won some acclaim for (allegedly) leading the fight against entering the Syrian conflict when it became apparent chemical weapons were used on August 21. Not so in reality. He, and those around him, were in favour of military intervention. However, it was during a meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party (all Labour MPs) before the vote when it became apparent that there was massive public opposition…and it was precisely this that stayed Miliband’s hand. He cynically played it as if he was concerned to identify concrete evidence on who the perpetrators of chemical weapon use were, and to work through the UN. He wriggled off the hook of bowing to opposition within ‘his’ party, while making him look the bigger ‘statesman’ (which, where Cameron is concerned, isn’t actually THAT difficult).

With Labour’s poll rating only inching ahead of this unpopular government, even at a time of swingeing cuts and lower taxes for the wealthy, and Miliband’s personal rating slumping even behind Cameron’s at -20%, it’s been clear that Labour’s leader would have to use the party conference in Brighton to pull something out of the hat.

And finally…Ed spoke. Much was made of his making a speech of 63 minutes (without notes!) in which he confirmed that a Labour government would repeal the ‘Bedroom Tax’; that the ‘big six’ energy companies should freeze their exorbitant prices; that more quality, affordable homes would be built and that if construction companies would not build on their land then said land would be confiscated.

miliband

In Tory terms, this may seem that Ed Miliband has finally revealed himself as ‘Red Ed’, the creature of the unions, who is hellbent on ‘taking us back to the ’70s’ as Tory house journals such as the Daily Mail and Daily Express screeched.

Bullshit.

The devil was in the detail. It’s easy for Miliband to pretend to don radical-sounding clothing but the meat of the matter is – why wait for the election? If he instructed all Labour councillors NOT to impose the ‘bedroom tax’ that particular vicious policy would be dead in the water tomorrow.

And why promise to only FREEZE energy prices from 2015 – 2017? The ‘Big Six’ would be given carte blanche to carry on raising them from now until the election, and will know such a freeze will last a mere two years when, presumably, the constraints will be off.

Then he promised to ‘try and persuade’ business leaders to employ British apprentices for every foreign worker they employ. ‘Try and persuade’? Why ‘try and persuade?’ Why not just legislate and be done with it?

Smoke and mirrors

Reaction in the capitalist press was predictable – ‘Red Ed’ was going to drag us back to the ’70s. At least one energy boss declared they would pack up and leave the country and the lights ‘would go out’, a barely concealed threat of blackmail.

Such bosses were implying, practically, a ‘strike of capital’, yet these are the very people who deny the right of workers to withdraw their labour, to defend THEIR interests is to be detrimental to ‘the nation’s welfare’. Such double standards, such glaring hypocrisy. Lord Digby-Jones, formerly a member of Gordon Brown’s cabinet, now a leading member of the Confederation of British Industry, was spitting words of potential disaster: ”A return to socialism,’ he declared. He would. He was a guest speaker at the UKIP conference.

Beneath all the smoke and mirrors, Miliband maintains that the Tory cuts will stay in place and more will continue, so there, in a nutshell, lost amid the furore of  ‘Red Ed’s’ pronouncements, capitalism remains safe in Labour’s hands.

During his conference speech, Miliband attempted to make light of his perceived image when he recalled helping a woman who had fallen off her bike. ‘You’re like a hero,’ he claims she told him.

‘See,’ he appealed to the Labour delegates, ‘I’m NOT a geek.’

Oh, yes, you are, Ed. Yes, you are.

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