Miliband is moving

LABOUR leader Ed Miliband has been slow to show his hand but at last, with a general election on the horizon in 2015, he is beginning to deliver some policy pledges that will give working class people a reason to vote for him.

It is hard to judge his motivation; is this pure opportunism and will the promises be ditched as soon as he is in power? Or will some survive to become real policy?

He has promised to ditch the hated bedroom tax — a no-brainer for anyone wanting working class support. And he has promised to raise the minimum wage. Neither of these will cost the Government dearly. People facing eviction over the bedroom tax are being forced to rent in the private sector if they want to find accommodation with fewer rooms. But private sector rents are much higher than in social housing so they end up needing much more housing benefit.

And raising the minimum wage will reduce the amount that low paid families need to claim in tax credits.

Miliband has promised to build 200,000 new homes a year by 2020 — partly by giving local authorities wider planning powers to order “hoarders of unused land” to “use it or lose it”. And he includes a programme of building some new towns.

This is desperately needed but he does not specify that he wants the councils to build more council houses — rather than getting the private sector to do the job.

The Labour leadership does seem to have recognised that the Con-Dem austerity cuts have driven millions of working people into a “cost of living crisis”.

If he had recognised this three years ago and campaigned like a real opposition party maybe we would not have had to wait until 2015 for the next general election.

But whatever his motives, Miliband does seem to be responding to pressure that is coming mainly from the unions. If he can be pushed this far it is likely, as 2015 approaches, he can be pushed further so the campaigning must continue.

We also have to remember that this man wants to make a fundamental change in the relationship between the Labour Party and the unions and that not long ago he was accusing the giant union Unite of dirty tricks because it was calling on its members to join the Labour Party and take an active role in constituency affairs.

And he has said nothing about scrapping anti-union laws. There is a danger he is trying to beguile the unions into thinking they can trust him to fight for the working class while removing their power to force him do so.

Miliband is certainly very different from Tony Blair, who would have been terrified to stand on a platform in public taking questions from ordinary people in the street, as Miliband did last weekend in Brighton.

We should support his progressive proposals as far as they go but continue to demand much more, especially with regard the trade union and civil rights.

The fight for better living standards is an essential part of the fight for socialism because it gives workers confidence in their own power. But it is a stepping stone to the raising of the more important political struggle to get rid of capitalism, which cannot deliver the peace, prosperity and security that workers need; only a working class state can deliver that.