Under the slogan of “One Nation Labour,” British opposition leader Ed Miliband on Tuesday launched a tirade of class divisiveness, painting Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservatives as an uncaring elite that cuts public services for the poor. “They used to say a rising tide lifts all boats,” he said. “Now the rising tide just seems to lift the yachts.”
Miliband, who defeated his older brother David in a leadership contest after the 2010 election in which Labour lost power, distanced himself in a speech to party faithful gathered in Brighton in the south of England from the centrist “New Labour” policies of former prime minister Tony Blair, saying economic benefits were being “scooped up by a privileged few.”
“David Cameron and George Osborne,” Britain’s finance minister, “boast that they fixed the economy but for hard-working families life is getting harder not easier,” he said. “Unless we put things right, it will only be a recovery for the few.”
The speech was reminiscent of the one Miliband delivered at last year’s party conference when he chastised “predatory” businesses and “wealth strippers” while ordinary Britons were supposedly “squeezed by runaway rewards at the top.” He argued at the time that Labour had been “too silent about the responsibility of those at the top” while it was in government for over a decade.
Even if the government’s austerity program — which has done more to slow the growth in public spending than reduce it — is unpopular, Miliband has failed to persuade voters that he is better positioned to run the world’s sixth largest economy than Cameron’s Conservatives. An Iposos MORI survey conducted for Channel 4 News showed just 20 percent of voters trusting Labour on the economy while 38 percent said the Conservatives have the best policies.
The party’s credibility is not helped by Miliband’s ambivalence about balancing government spending. He told supporters in Brighton that the party will have “iron discipline” on spending if it is elected, warning that he “won’t be able to spend money we don’t have.” He also complained earlier this year that the national debt was rising faster than the Conservatives had promised when they came to power. Yet he advocates fiscal stimulus, including infrastructure investments, to encourage economic activity — which would require more borrowing, even if his one concrete budget proposal, raising taxes on wealthy homeowners, is implemented.