Ed Miliband had to rally his troops this week. In truth – this was already done for him prior to his big speech on Thursday courtesy of a very impressive social media campaign. He must do more however.
Before his speech, there were a number of buttons Ed Miliband had to push. CHARTIST outlined three things that should have been addressed: the world of work, housing and austerity and public finances.
The speech was more a rallying cry and attempt at self-defence rather than a detailed policy speech. We’ll let him off on this. but some questions remain and policy, how it’s made and who makes it.
Ed was keen on hitting the zero hour contracts button repeatedly in coining his new buzz phrase: ‘the zero-zero economy’. “Why must those at the top pay zero tax when so many people on low pay get zero hour contracts?” is a paraphrase of his leading point. Although this was light on detail, it is not a bad furrow to plough given it is not turf Cameron wants the election to be fought on. But the zero hours contract card has been one played by Labour before, but we’re yet to have any detail. Their use is so entrenched, and stretches far beyond the retails sector they’re commonly associated with, that a commitment for an outright ban will look fairly hollow with details of what would replace them. It is not as simple as banning them. Things are more complex than this. We can’t have a situation where 2 years into the next Labour government and ZHCs are still in wide-spread use because. Labour has enough credibility problems with voters.
There is also no mention at all about collective bargaining reform. If Ed wants to make the labour market one fairer for working people the living wage and zero hours contracts will not be enough; not even close. This needs to be addressed. The living wage has a powerful emotional pull among many working people for good reason. But this sets a floor for wages and collective bargaining and empowered unions will be at enforcing this in workplaces than law alone. But – as with Labour’s reticence on the living wage – it is clear what (or whom) the obstacle is: his Shadow Chancellor.
The momentum generated through successes on phone hacking, targeting the banks and energy firms has fizzled. But there’s plenty left for Labour to work with. The NHS will be fertile ground, Europe increasingly looks, bizarrely, like a vote-getter in metropolitan areas like London. But if Ed wants to play the economy card as prominently as he outlined in his speech, he’ll have to have more details and wit.
Will his Shadow Chancellor let him?