Labour needs a left leader

by Daphne Liddle

LABOUR leader Ed Miliband last week at the party’s annual conference in Liverpool told delegates that Cameron “represents the last gasp of an old system that does not work”.

But he failed to make any references to the only system that does work — socialism.

All he and his Shadow Chancellor, Ed Balls, had to offer was a watered down version of the Con-Dem Coalition’s cuts and an admission that, if elected in 2015, they probably would not be able to undo the Coalition’s savage cuts.

Miliband said that Britain was crying out for a new kind of society in which the right people — responsible “grafters” — are properly rewarded.

Subservient workers, who strive for long hours trying to please their bosses, in both public and private sectors, have always been repaid with treachery, attempts to steal their pensions and job cuts. Miliband’s words will offer them no change.

He attacked “predatory asset-strippers” and the “fast-buck” culture. And he vowed to fight for “a new bargain in our economy so reward is linked with effort”.

But his attacks on the banks and the equity raiders are like water off a duck’s back to the rapacious capitalists who know there is little or nothing he, or Cameron, or Clegg or Gordon Brown could do to stop them.

On the other hand he discouraged public sector workers fighting to defend their pensions in a way that really will hit the robber capitalists.

Dave Prentis, general secretary of the public sector union Unison, told the conference that his members would “never forgive” Labour if it fails to back them in their fight over pensions.

He told Miliband that workers expected the Labour leader to support them if they decide to strike and called for full support for the TUC day of national strike and action in defence of pensions on 30th November.

Shadow Welsh Secretary Peter Hain said Labour was proud of its union ties and wanted to strengthen them. But Miliband is working to change the Labour Party structure to reduce the influence of the unions — even though they foot the bill for keeping the party afloat.

He has also proposed changes that would allow non-members to have the same voting rights in internal party policy issues as members.

This is a step to liquidation of the party. It is an insult to members who pay dues and carry out party work that they are to have no more influence than any other person in the street — who may even have contradictory political affiliations.

And it leaves supporters with no reason whatsoever to actually join the party. The entire conference seemed focussed on a general election in 2015.

They seem to have missed the news that the entire global banking system is facing an imminent train crash, that further banking bail-outs and even more swingeing cuts are on the agenda.

They don’t seem to have noticed that the inner-city working class has shaken off its apathy and started rioting — albeit rioting with no clear political focus yet.

The political landscape is changing fast; there is rising anger that needs leadership and focus now, not in 2015.

The attacks the Con-Dem Coalition have made on the poor and low paid, the elderly and disabled, on students and the unemployed would have given Keir Hardy — or even Harold Wilson — heavy ammunition to throw at Cameron and capture public support.

But Miliband and his coterie waste their opportunities agonising over past Labour mistakes.

Miliband even began his speech by announcing he was not Tony Blair — and paused too long for a thin cheer. He may not be Blair but he has failed to repudiate Blair’s biggest mistake - Iraq. Miliband has even gone on to support Cameron’s colonialist attack on Libya, showing a total inability to learn the lessons of the Iraq fiasco.

If Miliband fails to address the issues of here and now he will be swept aside by events. The danger is that he will take the whole party with him.

The union leaders — some of whom do seem to have a grasp of the situation — need to put him straight or chose a better leader — like John McDonnell.