Britain’s Labour Party Has Itself to Blame for Defeat

Labour Party leader Ed Miliband and British deputy prime minister Nick Clegg attend a Remembrance Sunday ceremony in Whitehall, London, November 9, 2014
Labour Party leader Ed Miliband and British deputy prime minister Nick Clegg attend a Remembrance Sunday ceremony in Whitehall, London, November 9, 2014 (Sandra Hall)

With Britain’s Labour Party expected to lose Thursday’s general election, falling from 257 to 232 seats in the BBC’s forecast, The Telegraph‘s Dan Hodges argues that the party has only itself to blame for this defeat.

Hodges, a former Labour Party official, has been highly critical of Ed Miliband’s leadership for years.

He believes it was a mistake for Labour to refuse to apologize for its mismanagement of the economy when it was last in power until the final days of the campaign. This allowed Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservatives, who could now win an overall majority, to credibly claim that Labour could not be trusted with command of the world’s fifth largest economy again.

When Cameron first came to power in 2010, the United Kingdom was borrowing £149 billion, equivalent to 11 percent of economic output. Labour had allowed the national debt to rise from around 50 percent to almost 80 percent of gross domestic product.

Miliband anchored his party not in the political center where elections are won. “Instead, he decided to position it where it felt most comfortable,” according to Hodges — “on the left.

Labour criticized almost every austerity measure Cameron’s government enacted and seemed to promise only more of the public spending largesse that made those cuts necessary in the first place.

[Miliband] was told that to win, he would have to reach out beyond his — and his party’s — comfort zone and build a broad political alliance. Instead, he decided he could coast into power with 35 percent of the vote.

With Labour now at 32 percent support — with 542 out of 650 seats declared — that strategy has been proven a mistake. Partially because it failed to take into account the popularity of the Scottish National Party, which has all but wiped out Labour north of the border, but crucially because it didn’t even try to woo moderate English and Welsh voters who gave Labour three victories in a row under Tony Blair.

Labour’s Miliband Rules Out Deal with Scottish Nationalists

Labour Party leader Ed Miliband visits the Open University in Buckinghamshire, May 21, 2014
Labour Party leader Ed Miliband visits the Open University in Buckinghamshire, May 21, 2014 (OU)

British Labour Party leader Ed Miliband on Thursday ruled out a coalition with the Scottish National Party if his party falls short of a parliamentary majority next month.

“If the price of having a Labour government is a deal or coalition with the SNP, it’s not going to happen,” Miliband said during a Q&A session with voters that was broadcast by the BBC.

Both Miliband and SNP leaders had earlier said they could do a deal after May’s election which neither Labour nor David Cameron’s ruling Conservative Party is expected to win.

As polls show the SNP on the verge of a landslide in Scotland, the Conservatives have warned English voters a Labour government would be held to ransom to separatist demands, such as higher welfare spending north of the border and the removal of Britain’s nuclear submarines from the region. Support for the Conservatives has crept up in recent polls.

By rejecting even an informal pact, Miliband may hope to stop Scottish voters switching to the SNP which would deny him a majority.

May2015, the New Statesman‘s election website, predicts that the nationalists will win 56 out of 59 Scottish seats in Westminster. They currently have only six.

Most of the nationalists’ gains would come at Labour’s expense.

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon has already said her party would “lock David Cameron out of Downing Street.” Miliband is betting it won’t vote down a minority Labour government instead.

Miliband Says Labour Fiscally Sound, Tories Irresponsible

British Labour Party leader Ed Miliband speaks in Cardiff, Wales, March 19
British Labour Party leader Ed Miliband speaks in Cardiff, Wales, March 19 (Welsh Labour)

Labour leader Ed Miliband tried to turn the way Britain’s two largest political parties are typically seen on its head on Monday, claiming his was fiscally responsible whereas the Conservatives were “throwing promises around” with no idea how to pay for them.

Miliband was speaking in Manchester where he unveiled the Labour Party’s manifesto for the May election. He insisted the plan did not contain a single policy that wasn’t “paid for without a single penny of extra borrowing.”

Prime Minister David Cameron’s party, by contrast, has promised to spend £8 billion more on the National Health Service and cut taxes by another £8 billion in the next parliament — without specifying where the money would come from.

“You can’t fund the NHS with an IOU,” Miliband said. “Every promise we make is paid for. That is the difference between the Conservative Party and the Labour Party.”

Coming from a party that has spent five years in opposition criticizing austerity and calling for higher public spending to stimulate an economy that is now growing faster than most in the developed world in spite of Labour’s claims that Tory cuts would nip the recovery in the bud, the rhetoric is ironic to say the least.

Or, as the BBC’s Robert Peston puts it, “Labour has subjected itself to discipline which the Tories have decided they don’t need (largely because they think voters will give them the benefit of the doubt, based on the cuts they’ve delivered in the current parliament).”

Miliband vowed that under Labour, “The deficit will be cut every year. The books will be balanced and the national debt will be falling.” But that commitment is far less ironclad that it sounds.

Peston notes that if economic growth keeps up, the deficit will fall relative to gross domestic product anyway. Labour would probably even be able to spend up to around £40 billion more than the Conservatives plan to between the election and 2020 and still meet its promise of cutting the deficit every year.

The party could also make good on its promise to balance the books by the end of the next parliament without making additional spending cuts at all.

The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, by contrast, who currently rule in coalition, want to eliminate the deficit by 2017-2018.

The two parties inherited a £149 billion shortfall from Labour in 2010, then equivalent to 11 percent of GDP. They cut it in half to £76 billion this year, or 4 percent of GDP.

Miliband is right when he accuses the Conservatives of making unfunded spending promises. But Peston is also correct when he notes that they — unlike Labour — are credible. Miliband’s conversion to fiscal discipline comes late in the game. Too late, perhaps, to convince voters Labour is serious this time.

The socialist party’s manifesto still contains plenty of goodies, from cutting university fees by a third to freezing rail fares as well as utility bills to raising the minimum wage. The party would bring back the 50 percent tax on annual incomes over £150,000 to help pay for some of the measures although the abolition of the highest tax rate under the Conservatives actually saw revenue from top earners increase. A higher marginal rate might not actually bring in more revenue as those subject to it find ways to circumvent the tax.

Labour would also introduce a property tax for homes valued at £2 million or more to finance an extra £2.5 billion in annual spending for the National Health Service.

Anti-Business Mentality Blinds Labour to Health Improvements

The British Labour Party's shadow health secretary, Andy Burnham, in London, England, June 9, 2010
The British Labour Party’s shadow health secretary, Andy Burnham, in London, England, June 9, 2010 (Dave Wood)

Blinded by its anti-business mentality, Britain’s Labour Party would roll back liberalizations in the National Health Service if it wins the election in May, leader Ed Miliband said on Friday.

Miliband said in London his party would halt the “tide of privatization” he claims has taken place in health care since the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats came to power in 2010. Although it was Labour that brought private contractors into the system in the first place while the rate at which services are outsourced has actually slowed under the current government.

No matter. Under the next Labour government, Miliband said, private firms would have to reimburse the National Health Service if they exceed a 5 percent profit cap on contracts.

Currently around 6 percent of health services in England are provided by private companies.

Miliband said contractors were “draining money away” from patients.

The money we pay for our health care should be invested for patient care and not for the excess profits of private firms.

This is a simplistic view. Profits incentivize companies to cut costs and improve quality in order to attract more customers — incentives that are utterly foreign to the National Health Service’s bureaucrats. 2011 research showed that surgery patients from privately-run facilities were healthier and experienced less severe recovery conditions than patients undergoing the same procedures in NHS hospitals.

Also, who decides when profits are “excessive”? Miliband?

The Labour proposal would do more than cap profits. It would effectively roll back the very use of contractors.

The BBC’s health editor, Hugh Pym, points out that companies need a return “if they invest up front to provide clinical services” and cautions that firms might be deterred from bidding if there is a limit to the profit they can make.

What Labour, if elected, will have to decide is whether a shrinking pool of private contractors would make it harder for the NHS to keep up with rising demand for care.

Three million patients are currently waiting to be treated. The health service itself expects to be £30 billion in the red by the end of the next parliament.

Labour wants those patients treated, raise health spending, merge social care — which is now run by local authorities — with the National Health Service and get rid of contractors. How will it pay for it all? Why, tax the rich, of course.

Miliband didn’t say on Monday he wanted to get rid of contractors altogether but his shadow health secretary, Andy Burnham, did in January. “If we allow market forces to continue to take hold,” he said at the time, “they will eventually break the NHS apart.” Burnham claimed that involving private health providers had raised the cost and complexity of care when the opposite is evidently true.

For Labour, this isn’t about finding a way to provide the best possible health care at the lowest price. As Burnham put it, this is an ideological battle — between “NHS values” and business values; between “collaboration” and “competition”; between “patient care” and profits.

Seeing those things are mutually exclusive may be Labour’s biggest mistake when it comes to health care.

Miliband Seen Benefiting Most from Sky News Debate

British Labour Party leader Ed Miliband is interviewed on Sky News, March 26
British Labour Party leader Ed Miliband is interviewed on Sky News, March 26

Labour Party leader Ed Miliband did much to boost his credibility as a potential prime minister in interviews broadcast by Sky News Thursday night.

By contrast, David Cameron, the incumbent, seemed caught off guard by presenter Jeremy Paxman’s grilling. He was forced to admit that his party had failed to keep its promise to bring down the national debt and only conceded after being asked several times that he would not be able to live off a zero-hours contract either.

The number of Britons on zero-hours contracts has risen 100,000 in the last year alone, now representing 2.3 percent of the workforce. The expansion in zero-hours contracts has helped bring down unemployment from 8 percent when Cameron took power in 2010 to 5.7 percent last month. A record number of Britons is now in work but almost 700,000 lack job security.

Cameron “never recovered from these missteps and rarely appeared in control,” wrote New Statesman‘s George Eaton.

The Telegraph‘s Dan Hodges agreed, writing it was “the weakest public performance I’ve seen from him since he became prime minister.”

Paxman was tough on both candidates but Miliband had the advantage of taking questions from the audience first. He appeared unusually confident during this Q&A session, recognizing that the last Labour government had failed to properly regulate the banks as well as immigration before making the case that Britain could “do better.”

“I think this country’s too unequal and we’ve got to change,” Miliband said.

Sky News’ political editor, Faisal Islam, said the performance was surprising. “We saw a kind of hard Ed Miliband that you would not recognize from the papers.”

The Labour leader is often criticized for appearing feeble. He told Paxman he didn’t care if voters thought he was a “north London geek” and that his opposition to what would have been an American-led military intervention in Syria in 2013 proved he was “tough enough” to lead the country.

Standing up to the leader of the free world, I think, shows a certain toughness.

Attacking Barack Obama might not have been the best way to convince leftwingers of his toughness and conflating potential airstrikes in Syria with the 2003 invasion of Iraq was unfair. But it was the first time in a long time that Britons saw Miliband so sure of himself.

Cameron did well in answering questions from the audience too. He evaded only one — on his broken promise not to impose a “top-down reorganization” on the National Health Service. He pointed out instead that the Conservatives had kept their word not to cut health spending and voiced cautious support for further liberalization.

It was “very smooth,” said Islam; “the prime minister that we know, involving anecdotes about his family, sounding very ordinary and normal. It was his comfort zone.”

It did not make up for his earlier lackluster performance, though. As The Telegraph‘s James Kirkup argued, “what really counts is expectations, how you perform relative to what people expect of you.” In that sense, Miliband won. He “entered the room with a reputation for being a hopeless ditherer but failed to live up to it,” according to Kirkup, “by being warmer and more assertive than many watching would have expected.”

Cameron had refused to debate Miliband directly, saying all party leaders should be invited. Two debates, one hosted by ITV and another by the BBC, will be aired in April involving the leaders from other major parties as well. Elections are due May 7.

Britain’s Miliband Proposes More State Interventionism

British Labour Party leader Ed Miliband answers questions from reporters, May 3, 2013
British Labour Party leader Ed Miliband answers questions from reporters, May 3, 2013 (Paul Bednall)

British Labour Party leader Ed Miliband proposed more state interventionism in an interview with the BBC’s Andrew Marr on Sunday, calling for energy price cuts and higher taxes on the rich.

The socialist complained falling oil prices had yet to benefit consumers and proposed to give the state regulator “the power to cut prices to bring immediate relief.”

We see wholesale costs go down 20 percent in gas prices over the last year and no reduction in bills.

Prices have actually come down. Petrol is at its lowest since March 2010.

Moreover, with tax comprising over 70 percent of petrol prices, falling oil prices can only affect prices at the pump so much.

Miliband did not propose to reduce gasoline taxes. He did previously say he would freeze energy rates for two years if his party comes to power after May’s election and also threatened to confiscate private lands if developers did not build more homes.

Prime Minister David Cameron, who leads the ruling Conservative Party, described those proposals as “nuts”.

The liberal Adam Smith Institute’s Victoria Freeman wondered at the time how energy companies would remain solvent if Labour prevents them from passing increased costs onto consumers.

It could come down to a choice between cutting investment, returns to investors or staffing costs. Given that energy companies’ largest shareholders include [British] pension funds, none of these options are appealing.

The Telegraph‘s Janet Daley also warned that cutting energy companies’ profits “would reduce the amount of tax revenue they produce for a government drowning in debt.” She cautioned, “The new Miliband revivalism brings back the threat of nationalization and state seizure that did so much to wreck the prospects of postwar British industry.”

In his Sunday interview, the Labour leader also defended his plan to tax expensive homes and high incomes even if estimates show neither would raise much revenue. Labour’s “mansion tax” would probably raise no more than £1.6 billion — total revenue this year is £648 billion — while its proposed 50 percent income tax rate for high earners would raise nothing.

“These stunts don’t work,” argues The Spectator‘s Fraser Nelson, “but Miliband isn’t interested in what works. He’s interested in what focus groups like the sound of, which is why he’s a fundamentally unserious politician.”

Labour is nevertheless virtually tied with the Conservatives in opinion polls. Because Britain’s electoral system benefits the left, chances are it will win a plurality, but not a majority, of the seats in Parliament.

Hysterical Conference Speech Shows Miliband Is Unfit to Lead

British Labour Party leader Ed Miliband in Glasgow, Scotland, August 8
British Labour Party leader Ed Miliband in Glasgow, Scotland, August 8 (Stephen Fyfe)

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.