Peter Kenyon on the 2 Eds and some important pre and post-election choices
Britain needs a payrise. I would go further. The world needs a pay rise. The challenge is where to start. With less than 200 days to go to the next UK General Election, there is much to do. As set out the UK Labour Party’s economic policies do not add up. This is not because of profligate, irresponsible policy commitments. Labour as the only prospective party of government post-May 2015 can not afford that luxury.
Extravagant tax giveaways as proclaimed by outgoing Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron at his party Conference last month are just that, giveaways that you have no hope of delivering. His only hope and that of his flailing party is that enough of the electorate will believe him to reduce an inevitable loss of seats in just over six months’ time.
So the electorate needs help to refocus on jobs and growth. Ed Miliband made an interesting appointment last night bringing back Pat McFadden MP on to Labour’s frontbench to lead on Europe. Britain’s membership of the European Union is the bedrock of future jobs and growth. Miliband reminded people of that in his Conference speech, remembered sadly more for what he forgot to say than what he uttered.
Unless I’m mistaken, he did say:
David Cameron doesn’t lie awake at night thinking about the United Kingdom. He lies awake at night thinking about the United Kingdom Independence Party. UKIP. That is why he is doing it friends and I say pandering to them is just one more reason why he is not fit to be the Prime Minister of this great country.
Better together, across the United Kingdom. But also better together, true to our traditions of internationalism. And nowhere is that more true than when it comes to Europe and the European Union. Friends, let me say it plainly: our future lies inside not outside the European Union.
We need to reform Europe. We need to reform Europe on the economy, on immigration, on benefits, on all of these big issues. But here is the question for Britain. How do we reform Europe? Do we reform Europe by building alliances or by burning alliances?
Indeed. So Labour is up for a head-to-head on EU membership with UKIP and UKIP-lite (formerly the Conservative and Unionist Party). Cameron’s kami-kazi tactics over EU immigration levels are a big boost for Labour general election strategists. As suggested by Polly Toynbee in the Guardian newspaper this week, Cameron has reached a point of no return:
David Cameron has crossed the Rubicon. There is no going back. By proposing to limit free movement of labour from the EU he has planted himself on the side of the outs, as José Manuel Barroso made crystal clear in his Chatham House speech on Monday. The other 27 nations will never agree: if limiting national insurance numbers for EU workers is Cameron’s new red line then he has joined the Ukip wing of his party, who won’t let him renege.
This is very unsettling for UK jobs and growth. But every cloud has a silver lining. Labour has an opportunity to be much clearer about its relationship with business, and the role of markets.
Miliband set out a theme in his 2011 Conference speech, a year after being elected Leader:
Let me tell you what the 21st century choice is:
Are you on the side of the wealth creators or the asset strippers? The producers or the predators? Producers train, invest, invent, sell. Things Britain does brilliantly.
Predators are just interested in the fast buck, taking what they can out of the business.
This isn’t about one industry that’s good and another that isn’t. Or one firm always destined to be a predator and another to be a producer. It’s about different ways of doing business, ways that the rules of our economy can favour or discourage.