Ed Miliband spoke eloquently and enthusiastically today about his vision for Britain in the next ten years. He came up with a six point plan that would be put into action on day one of a Miliband government. So, what is this six point plan?
1. Halve the number of people on low pay by raising the minimum wage to £8 an hour by 2020.
2. Keeping wages in line with economic growth- as the economy grows-everyone’s wage should grow at the same rate.
3. Becoming a world leader in the green economy by creating 1 million jobs in the sector.
4. Have as many young people going into an apprenticeship as would go to university.
5. Building as many homes as we need, doubling the number of first time buyers.
6. Creating a 21st-century world class National Health Service.
This is the bare bones of Ed Miliband’s ten year plan for the next potential Labour government. This was not the best speech that Ed Miliband has given, purely because it’s all starting to get a bit samey. He’ll trot on and make an anecdote about the location he is in and launch into a speech filled with radical rhetoric that, outwardly appeals to Labour’s forgotten left wing supporters and members who have criticised Labour for not being left wing enough. Miliband has to appeal to them because, as we are aware, the left can sometimes find themselves in political limbo land. They don’t want to vote Labour, they don’t agree with the direction the party has gone in, but there are many alternatives- too many alternatives on the left to be credible, so many simply do not vote, or reluctantly vote Labour and hope for the best.
We need something to vote for, but the problem with many on the left is that they can’t trust the Labour party. And why should they?
Ed’s speech today, was described by Guardian journalist Ellie Mae O’Hagan, as “political erotica for the Labour left” That may be so, but we need to look beyond these radical pledges, that may be seductive to the Labour left, to investigate whether or not Labour really is going in a radical enough direction.
We’ve heard much about the proposed increase in minimum wage, and while it is commendable to commit to raising people’s wages, we have no idea what the economy is actually going to be like in five years. Will inflation have risen so that a rise in minimum wage would be higher anyway? Wouldn’t the minimum wage rise naturally anyway? Well, not exactly. It has taken nine years for the minimum wage to rise by £1.50 to it’s current level, set to be implemented on 1st October. But, as reported in the Mirror, £8 in five years probably won’t go far enough.
I’m in agreement with many of the other things announced, but again, like many people on the left, I’ll find it difficult to trust Labour as a party of government again.
The other policy I have an issue with is that of building houses to buy. That isn’t what we need. We need social housing. We need radical new housing policies for first time buyers, like the programme in Stoke on Trent where people purchase derelict houses from the council for £1, take a £30,000 loan out to do the place up and pay it back over 10 years. We need social housing after the housing stock was sold off with right to buy.
Ed’s speech wasn’t quite as show stopping as his 2012 conference key note address, but he still manages to impress with his lack of notes, or prompts. However, Ed was relatively quiet on the issue of the Middle East facing the government at the moment. Labour was instrumental in ensuring that the UK government didn’t commit air strikes against Syria last year. The issue of ISIS is much more complicated than I would care to get into and I think Ed Miliband would like to get into, too. Stylistically, Ed wasn’t on his usual top form. There were parts where he had to force applause from the audience. There were reports of aides and Labour staffers encouraging standing ovations and he allegedly missed out two key areas of cutting the deficit and immigration.
The question on everyone’s lips was what Miliband’s stance on additional powers for the Scottish parliament would be. Despite his rhetoric, about how we are “better together” and how upset he was about almost breaking up Britain, his silence on the matter of further Scottish devolution was markedly deafening. Has Labour broken the vow? We’ll just need to wait and see.