HOW MUCH CAN WE STATE ABOUT THE NEXT STATE?
Recently, I spent a Saturday at the Fabian Annual Conference, entitled The Next State, where Ed Miliband, Leader of the Opposition, addressed over a thousand eager delegates. Part of his task was to paint a strong and compelling picture of One Nation Labour and what One Nation could look like in 2015.
In a broad sense, Mr Miliband defines One Nation as a state (in both senses of the word) in which everyone plays a part. He boldly noted in a room filled with Fabians that One Nation Labour “is not an idea rooted in Fabian pamphlets” but rather “in British history [and] in the soul of the British people”. He helped flesh out the economic aspects of One Nation Labour by contrasting it with both Cameron’s divisive rhetoric of ‘scroungers v strivers’ and with New Labour –
“New Labour did not do enough to take on the vested interests and bring about structural change in our
The Leader of the Opposition also established a policy framework for his vision of the next Labour Government. Miliband proclaimed the need to tackle short-termism in the City so that companies can contribute to long-term wealth creation. He argued that Government has to work with business to reform vocational education and apprenticeships in order that all young people can play their part. Finally, he championed the living wage and the creation of a national register of landlords, to enhance local authority powers to root out and strike off rogue landlords.
However, as anyone who watched Ed’s interview with James Landale over the weekend knows, there are certain variables which will determine a leader’s ability to form a Government and push through their policy agenda. Early in his interview with Landale, Miliband repeatedly stated that he could not promise that he would reverse the child benefit cut because he did not know what economic situation he would inherit. His inability to commit to certain policies at the present time was apparent throughout the interview.
At the end of Saturday’s Fabian Conference, Tim Montgomerie of Conservative Home flagged seven variables he thought could tear away at Labour’s current lead in the polls –
- A modest economic recovery could buoy the Conservatives
- Fleet St could sway the electorate by aggressively attacking Ed Miliband
- An in/out promise on the EU could lure some UKIP voters back to the Conservatives
- A new, further left-leaning, Lib Dem leader could attract Labour voters
- If Labour supports austerity measures, the SNP and the Green Party might be able to claim Labour votes
- The Conservatives could snatch Labour votes by promising welfare and immigration caps
- Labour could lose out at the hands of a ‘tax bombshell’ attack
Whilst identifying variables, whether in the economy or in the electorate, is important, and makes all this speculation quite entertaining, Labour should be wary of being distracted from creating a robust and inspiring vision for 2013. One variable we can’t work around, though is that we’ll have to wait for 2015 to see whether the next state will be one under One Nation.