Miliband’s promises

by Daphne Liddle

LABOUR leader Ed Miliband has had a very good party conference; he has emerged from the shadows of obscurity and ambivalence and come out fighting against the most unpopular measures of the Con-Dem Coalition’s punishing austerity regime.

Certainly this is the best we have heard from a Labour leader in decades but everything is relative. There are still a lot of crucial issues that need to be raised where there has, as yet, been no change from his predecessors.

And of course there is the huge question of how much of his pledges will he actually implement when in power? Is it all just a vote-winning scam that will burst like a bubble the day after the election?

He has promised to scrap the bedroom tax, to raise the minimum wage, to make a big increase in free childcare; to build 20,000 more houses a year and to dismiss the hated Atos company that carries out the notorious work capability assessment (WCA) on people with disabilities and long term illnesses.

If he actually implements only some of that, workers will be better off under a Labour government than they are now.

But he has not said the contract for the WCA assess- ment will not go to another similar company. The root of the injustice is the demand from the Department of Work and Pensions that the WCA must find tens of thousands of people who have disabilities fit for work so their benefits can be cut and Government spending reduced.

Miliband has not said he will restore disability benefits — yet.

He has promised to cap domestic fuel prices for a couple of years — provoking howls of indignation from the Big Six energy companies, threats to raise prices excessively before the 2015 election and of blackouts or that they will leave the country.

Miliband has replied that the Government has to stand up to them — but has said nothing about renationalisation of the industry — the only real way to avert their threats.

Indeed he has said very little about curbing privatisation or reversing the Health and Social Care Act that is currently eroding our NHS and feeding the pieces to the private sector.

He has not mentioned restoring trade union rights — though clearly the policies he is now declaring are aimed to win the support of union members.

But at the same time Miliband is trying to diminish the structural links between the unions and the Party.

He has not said much about civil liberties though he did mention halting one of the cuts to legal aid.

Some of his proposals are pure popularist bandstanding — the idea to make attacks on members of the armed forces a serious crime. Anyone who has lived in a barrack town knows that young squaddies when out on the town and drunk can be very intimidating and violent.

It is a mistake to give them special status to think themselves above the same laws that apply to anyone else. It is already a serious crime to attack anyone unprovoked and this should be enough.

He has made a toadying gesture to those who are obsessed about immigration — saying that companies who import skilled workers from outside the European Union should be obliged at the same time to give apprenticeships to local young workers.

Why not just create good apprenticeship schemes and tax big business to fund them?

And he has said nothing about restoring corporation tax to its levels of a couple of decades ago so we get some taxes back from the giant companies that currently find loopholes to get out of paying anything?

Overall we can now honestly ask workers to vote Labour and expect to be a bit better off than they are now. But as always we must continue to stress that if people want real change and real benefits they must do a lot more than just vote.

Miliband has said nothing about mobilising workers to come out of their homes and fight for themselves — but like his predecessors has implied we should leave it all to him. No way!

The more workers who get active in their trade unions and community campaigns the more there will be real pressure on Miliband to implement his promises and respond to our other demands.

And in the long run neither Miliband nor anyone else can give us a proper return on the wealth we create with our work except ourselves — by uniting and acting together to get rid of the capitalist system and install socialism.