In a rambling conference speech on Tuesday, Labour Party leader Ed Miliband once more made clear why he’s unfit to lead Britain. The country of haves and have nots that he imagines simply does not exist, nor are voters prepared for the class warfare he propagates.
Speaking in Manchester, Miliband insisted most Britons “feel the country doesn’t work for them.” There is a “tiny majority at the top” that is doing well, he said; “the game is rigged in favor of those who have all the power” while the rest of the country is suffering “misery, hardship and injustice.”
The socialist leader excoriated Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservatives for supposedly looking out only for bankers, big business and millionaires. “A Tory economy is always an economy for the few,” he said. “Because that’s who they care about.”
These are not unfamiliar themes for Miliband. He year ago, he claimed from the same podium that the benefits of Britain’s recovery were being “scooped up by a privileged few.” The year before, he chastised “predatory” businesses and “wealth strippers” in his conference speech and said ordinary Britons were being “squeezed by runaway rewards at the top.”
The message isn’t resonating. Because except for diehard Labour supporters, the British people know Miliband’s is not the real world.
It were the diehard Labour supporters whom the speech was for, though, writes Dan Hodges, a former Labour Party and trade union official, in The Daily Telegraph.
“Ed Miliband didn’t even try to present himself as a prime minister,” he argues. “To do that necessitated him reaching out over the heads of the assembled delegates and into the country. He had no interest in reaching out beyond his delegates. Instead, he delivered a speech designed to move his party painlessly back into its comfort zone.”
Hodges remembers the promises from four years ago when Miliband was elected leader. “Lessons had to be learned. Pages turned. The status quo confronted. It would, he told us, be a whole new politics.”
“And think where it has ended,” writes Hodges. “With a Labour leader pledging to his audience he would raise taxes to boost public-sector spending. Vowing to break up the banks but veto reform in the NHS,” the National Health Service. “And saying nothing — literally nothing — on immigration, law and order, welfare reform, the deficit or the macroeconomy.”
Miliband warned in his speech that the Conservatives would like talk much about the past in the upcoming election campaign whereas he wanted to discuss the future. Which is unsurprising because Labour’s record is abysmal.
Before the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats came to power in 2010, Britain’s budget deficit equaled 12 percent of GDP, or £163 billion. The national debt had reached a record high of £857 billion.
During the preceding thirteen years of Labour rule, education and health spending had more than doubled while tax rates remained almost unchanged. More than 20 percent of the country’s workforce ended up employed by the government. Almost 30 percent of public spending went to an enormously complicated and complex welfare regime which still left many in financial despair. Nearly four of Britain’s twenty million households had no one who earned a wage.
The coalition set out to change those numbers — with some success. Borrowing in the fiscal year that ended in March was £108 billion, or 6.6 percent of economic output. The fiscal improvement was largely due to economic growth because public spending has continued to rise in real terms while some tax rates were cut.
Two million Britons have found employment in the private sector since the coalition came to power, more than making up for the 400,000 job losses in the public sector. There is even a record number of Britons in work.
For all Labour’s laments, welfare still makes up 30 percent of government spending. But there have been reforms. Various benefits for which unemployed Britons could apply have been combined into a single Universal Credit, making the system both more accessible and less vulnerable to fraud. A cap has also been introduced on the total amount of benefits working age Britons can receive so they cannot get more in welfare than the average worker takes home in wages.
If that’s the sort of policies Miliband intends to overturn, it’s no wonder even one in four Labour voters has more confidence in David Cameron to run their economy than in their own leader.