Can the Two Eds up their game?
This week’s PMQs saw a flurry of questions on debt from Ed Miliband. It’s a realisation that George Osborne is in choppy waters politically with the over-arching aims and objectives of his economic plan. It made a change from just looking at the symptoms of the current malaise such as unemployment, although they featured too. Earlier in the week Ed Balls was laying it on thick in the media making overtures to Vince Cable and trying to isolate the Conservatives again. All reasonable tactics you might say. But shouldn’t Labour be looking closer to home right now?
I’m not talking about what allocation of blame the last government should or does receive for the financial crash. It’s what they’d do if they were in power now and what they plan to do in 2015 that I think most people are bothered about. But Labour’s cupboard is almost bare. There’s no fizzing of ideas, new solutions or off-the-shelf plans ready to encourage growth and address the long-term weaknesses of the UK economy.
So far all the political debate has been about cuts. Which cuts, how fast and how deep – as though that’s all that it would take. Labour’s taken a political decision not to be at all clear on that – which brings its own advantages and disadvantages. But the party’s five point plan for jobs and growth isn’t up to much either. Few MPs can remember more than two of the points, which is probably just as well. Have you read them?
What I want to know is what’s going provide the rockets behind the economy. What will help the country pay its way? I assume someone’s thinking about these things, somewhere, but I haven’t heard a it and the public haven’t either.
The Coalition has a plan for the duration of this Parliament which in my view it is currently making a hash of. But Labour doesn’t seem to be thinking even as far as that right now, preferring the general over the specific. The fact you need a lecture to understand whatever ‘predistribution’ means makes it politically unsellable from the off.
Given that Labour is in Opposition, there should be an abundance of time for radical thinking, lessons from abroad or dare I say it, an original idea or two. Instead the focus from the left as a whole is on the various failings of the government, the impact of cuts (which may or may not be reversed) and tax havens. Nothing the public can really get their teeth into or become hopeful for the future. Labour may be starting to look like an Opposition but without something more will struggle to appear like a government in waiting.
We know the economy is going to be the central issue at the next general election. So why isn’t Labour and the left devoting more time and resource to it? There are plenty of people who blame the last government for not doing more to regulate the financial services before the 2008 crash. But until the Labour Party comes up with something plausible, credible and imaginative then it will be hard to draw a line on the past and show the voters it has something to offer the future.