Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Labour Party – Are You Tories in Disguise?

We might have expected it, with Ed Balls, the Labour shadow chancellor, stating in a pre-conference announcement he will stick to the Tory public sector pay freeze beyond the next general election, should Labour win. But this year’s Labour party conference has gone even further though, with the leader of the party stealing the ‘One Nation’ mantle from the Conservative party.

Ed Miliband isn’t the first Labour leader to snaffle this particular slogan of the pre Margaret Thatcher Conservative party. Tony Blair described New Labour as a ‘One Nation’ party in his (successful) bid to win over voters from the ‘middle ground’ in British politics. Of course, the ‘middle ground’ had shifted so far to the right in elite political discourse at that time, that it was probably not an exaggeration for him to claim it as a left wing position, as being akin to the Edward Heath led Conservative party of the 1970’s is indeed to the left all three main parties these days.

David Cameron depicted himself as a ‘One Nation’ Tory when he was attempting to detoxify the Conservative party brand, and so appeal to ‘middle ground’ voters, who are generally the most fickle anyway, and it worked, in a fashion for him too. I don’t think Cameron can play that card anymore though, with pressure from within the right of his party so strong now. So, in terms of positioning in the consciousness of the public, Labour and Miliband may well be onto something. Political ‘cross dressing’ doesn’t really surprise anyone these days, and it may be purely a presentational tactic.

But on top of the other portents that have been revealed at the Labour party conference this week, about the direction of Labour and the likely approach they would take to governing the country if they win the general election in 2015 (if the ConDem government lasts that long), this may well be more significant. Because make no mistake about it, the Labour party has staked its flag firmly on the already overcrowded centre right political compost heap, in Manchester this past few days.

The huffing and puffing of the unions has been ignored yet again, and it makes you think what on earth do the unions get out of funding a party that pursues policies that are so bad for their members? Hope of some crumbs here and there, I dare say, but is that really enough for the millions of pounds they put into Labour? Union members should ‘vote with their feet’ and support parties that represent their interests, and I think the Green party comes into this category, whatever union  leaders say about reclaiming the Labour party for working people. This is just a fantasy.

Liam Byrne, Labour’s shadow welfare secretary, is on record as saying that welfare benefits are likely to be slashed further under a future Labour administration, in line with Ed Balls taking a ‘zero-based’ review of public spending. Byrne claims that more benefits will be means tested, rather than universally available, such as free bus passes for the elderly, which is bad enough in itself, but does anyone really believe that Labour will restore Disability Living Allowance and Employment Support Allowance to those who have cruelly had it withdrawn from them under the ConDem government?

The leader of Scottish Labour, Johann Lamont went even further, claiming that we need to end the "something for nothing" culture, as applied to benefits in Scotland, and blaming the Scottish National Party led government north of the border for issuing ‘election bribes’ to voters. 

With no visible sign of irony, Andy Burnham the shadow health secretary, called for the reversal of the ‘rapid privatisation’ of the NHS, when the last Labour government opened the door to NHS privatisation with exorbitant Private Finance Initiative deals to build new hospitals whilst hiving off the most profitable parts of health service provision to private companies.  

And Ed Balls has ruled out taking the part nationalised RBS and Lloyds banks into full public ownership and using them as investment motors to get the economy moving again. He also refuses to confirm that a future Labour government would raise the top rate of income tax to 50%, let alone the 75% that the socialist government in France is introducing, or to raise corporation tax from the scandalously low rate it is, by even one penny in the pound.

The generous side of me thinks Ed Miliband would like to inch Labour slightly to the left, but it is clear that powerful voices within the party will not stand for it, and they get listened to carefully, unlike the unions.

So there you have it. The right wing press falls over each other in its praise of Ed Miliband’ speech and performance, and well they might. Nothing to fear here, on the contrary, business as usual for the establishment, as the rest of us continue to get shafted.

So much for the self-styled, ‘People’s Party’.   

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