Dangers of Miliband delusions

by Daphne Liddle

ED MILIBAND’S first speech to the Labour party conference in Manchester was a work of art, full of careful wording that would allow socialists to get the message that he was one of them while at the same time reassuring the ruling class that there would be no real challenges to them under his watch.

It is refreshingly clear the Labour Party now has a politically literate leader who understands class dynamics and economic processes and who will not be dependent on a clique of advisers, speech writers and adoring sycophants.

But there is a grave danger that his approach will allow right-wing trade union leaders to settle back into their comfortable armchairs and think they can leave the defence of the working class safely in his hands.

Miliband spelt out plainly his view of the role of trade unions — helping underpaid and exploited dinner ladies get proper pay and respect — but not by waging a class war against the Con-Dem cuts.

He said: “Responsible trade unions are part of a civilised society; every democratic country recognises that...“We need to win the public to our cause and what we must avoid at all costs is alienating them and adding to the book of historic union failures. That is why I have no truck, and you should have no truck, with overblown rhetoric about waves of irresponsible strikes.”

He also called for social responsibility from bosses towards the workers, “The gap between rich and poor does matter. It doesn’t just harm the poor it harms us all.

“What does it say about the values of our society, what have we become, that a banker can earn in a day what the care worker can earn in a year?

“I say: responsibility in this country shouldn’t just be about what you can get away with. “And that applies to every chief executive of every major company in this country.” Miliband also said: “We must protect those on middle and low incomes. They did nothing to cause the crisis but are suffering the consequences.

“I say the people who caused the crisis and can afford to do more should do more: with a higher bank levy allowing us to do more to protect the services and entitlements on which families depend.”

On Europe he said that the flexible labour market was here to stay but that it must be backed by strong labour laws that prevent bosses using cheap migrant labour to undercut wages and — to loud cheers — that agency workers must be protected.

He said the deficit made real and painful cuts and that he would not oppose all Coalition cuts. He specified some of the cuts he would not have made: “You see when you cancel thousands of new school buildings at a stroke, it isn’t just bad for our kids, it’s bad for construction companies at a time when their order books are empty. It’s not responsible, it’s irresponsible.

“When you deprive Sheffield Forgemasters of a loan, a loan from government which would be paid back, you deprive Britain of the ability to lead the world in new technology. It’s not responsible, it’s irresponsible.”

He admitted a litany of errors made by New Labour in power — the biggest of which was the Iraq war, making him the first major British politician to acknowledge this.

He distanced himself from the attacks on civil liberties in the name of the “war on terror” and many other of Blair and Brown’s worst mistakes, which he admitted led to Labour losing last May’s general election. And he thanked “everyone, not just Labour Party members, but thousands of ordinary members of the public who drove the BNP out of Barking and Dagenham.”

Ed Miliband sounds a thousand times better than Blair or Brown but we have heard fine words before.