Miliband Fears “Race to Bottom” If Scots Secede

Britain’s Labour Party leader has argued that England and Scotland share “one economy” and predicted a “race to the bottom” on salaries and working conditions if the two separate.

Speaking in Glasgow, Ed Miliband said he feared regulatory competition between an independent Scotland and the remainder of the UK would prompt companies to move “wherever the rules are weakest.” Read more “Miliband Fears “Race to Bottom” If Scots Secede”

Labour Party’s Got Deeper Problems Than Miliband

Britain’s Labour Party leader, Ed Miliband, is struggling to connect with voters. His performances as opposition leader in parliament have been disappointing and despite mounting unease with the ruling coalition’s austerity agenda, his socialists are barely more popular today than they were during last year’s election.

Even if almost 70 percent of Britons believes that slowing budget cuts would boost growth according to a recent poll, less than 30 percent thinks Labour would do a better job than the government. The reason is simple — 74 percent of respondents in another poll last week said that there should be no increase in borrowing to reduce the deficit. That included a majority of Labour voters. Read more “Labour Party’s Got Deeper Problems Than Miliband”

Britain’s Labour Party Living in the Past

Ed Miliband’s disappointing policy speech at a Labour conference in Liverpool last week was reflective of the political predicament that Britain’s largest opposition party finds itself in.

Thrown out of power overwhelmingly in last year’s parliamentary election, the Labour Party has struggled to regain traction in the polls. The ruling Conservatives, by contrast, have retained their electoral support as has Prime Minister David Cameron who, Labour’s vilifications notwithstanding, is a moderate right-of-center leader who appeals to a large part of the British electorate.

Although they haven’t yet won majority support and depend on the third party liberals in government, the Tories are perceived as more moderate and reliable than they were roughly ten years ago when New Labour, under Tony Blair’s leadership, appealed to college educated young urban professionals and middle-class voters who were drawn to the Liberal Democrats in the last election. Read more “Britain’s Labour Party Living in the Past”

Labour Elects New Leader

The British Labour Party elects a new leader today. Former foreign minister David Miliband is the popular candidate but close second in the polls is his brother Ed Miliband who served as energy secretary for two years under Gordon Brown. In spite of their family relation, the two represent very different futures for Labour.

David Miliband is a proclaimed admirer of the Third Way policies of former Prime Minister Tony Blair. He believes that after the last election, Labour has to “rebuild itself as a great reforming champion of social and economic change.” The party cannot survive when it moves to the left and withdraws into a “comfort zone” of union and public-sector workers’ support, according to Miliband.

Blair managed to transform Labour into a middle-class platform in the 1990s. His successor, Gordon Brown, was more of an old school socialist, playing class politics ahead of this year’s election. It didn’t do the party much good. Labour won less than a third of the vote in May.

Ed Miliband, who contributed to Labour’s most recent election manifesto, has positioned himself firmly to the left of his older brother. It has brought him the support of some of Britain’s largest of trade unions as well as their leaders who enjoy significant influence within the party. One union has even threatened to withdraw funding from the Labour Party unless Ed wins the leadership contest.

Pressured by his brother’s challenge, David has struck a more populist tone in recent weeks and months, favoring a “mansion tax” on high value properties and the creation of an investment bank built on the proceeds of selling off financial institutions that were nationalized as a result of the crisis. But he also urges welfare reform — something currently undertaken by the coalition government of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, though presumably not in the way Labour would like to see.

From upping taxes for the rich and on bankers’ bonuses to raising the minimum wage, “Red Ed” as he’s been dubbed by some critics, is telling core party members what they like to hear. He interprets Brown’s defeat four months ago as the end of “New Labour” and the recession, according to The Economist, as inaugurating “a new era in state activism.” The newspaper disagrees and has endorsed his brother who “has a more mature approach to the central, most pressing issue of British politics — the deficit, and the spending cuts that he acknowledges it necessitates.”

David Miliband seems best to appreciate that economic growth can come only from a nurtured private sector, rejecting the “default statism” of some in the Labour Party.

“A lurch to the left,” The Economist fears, would leave centrist voters “with nowhere to go other than the Conservative-Liberal coalition. Britain needs a credible opposition — and David Miliband is the most plausible person to deliver it.”

Update: Labour begged to differ. In an extremely close election Saturday afternoon, the party chose Ed to lead it in the years of opposition ahead.

While David Miliband led in the first rounds of voting, with especially strong support among sitting parliamentarians and party members, Ed’s strength with unions and affiliates members ultimately secured him a narrow win over his brother.

In his acceptance speech, Ed said that he understood the need for change. “This country is too unequal.” The gap between rich and poor, he believes, “harms us all and it is something government must tackle.”

“Today’s election turns the page,” according to Miliband, “because a new generation has stepped forward to serve our party and, in time, I hope, to serve our country.”

Clegg: Brown Can’t Stay If Labour Loses

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said it would be “preposterous” for Gordon Brown to stay on as prime minister should his Labour Party come in third in the popular vote in Britain’s election next May 6.

After the British party leaders debated on television for the first time two weeks ago, Clegg emerged as a serious contender to both major parties. The Liberal Democrats are now set to win more votes than they ever have yet Britain’s archaic electoral system will probably deny them much seats in Parliament. In spite of Labour’s waning popularity, it might well come out as the biggest party once again.

“There are now indications Labour might come third in terms of people voting for the different parties,” Clegg told the BBC yesterday. “It is just preposterous, the idea that if a party comes third in terms of the number of votes it still somehow has the right to carry on squatting in No. 10,” the premier’s Downing Street office, “and continue to lay claim to having the prime minister.”

The election is increasingly likely to produce a hung parliament, one in which neither party manages to gain an overall majority. Both Labour and the Conservatives will probably try to come to a coalition with the Liberal Democrats under such circumstances. Although Clegg is said to sympathize with the Tories personally, his party leans more to the left and prefers to work with Labour.

Prime Minister Brown has touted the Liberal Democrats with promises of electoral reform in recent weeks, apparently anticipating the need to find common ground with the minority faction. Nonetheless, Brown and Clegg repeatedly attacked one another during the debates. Clegg’s recent warning only casts the prospect of an alliance in further doubt.

Gordon Brown’s Chance at Victory

Just a few months ago, the British Conservatives had this year’s parliamentary election in their pockets. After more than ten years of Labour rule, Britons were tired with Gordon Brown while opposition foreman David Cameron lured as a fresh, “green right” alternative who promised to restore fiscal responsibility and British pride altogether.

The Conservatives polled at their best two years ago, scoring a 20 percent lead over Labour at the time. Since the end of last year however, their popularity has been on the decline.

While still set to win the elections, it appears unlikely that the Conservatives will manage to gain a majority. In the event of such a “hung parliament,” there is a good chance, writes Peter Oborne for the Daily Mail, that the Liberal Democrats, Britain’s third party, will end up keeping Labour in power.

The Liberal Democrats’ Nick Clegg has promised that if neither of his opponents win an overall majority in the House of Commons, he will support whichever collects the highest number of seats.

Most Liberal Democrats aren’t too enthusiastic about letting the Conservatives govern however. They oppose their intention to balance the budget through massive cuts in spending. Gordon Brown on the other hand has quietly suggested that he might be willing to consider electoral reform. Proportional representation is something the Liberal Democrats have long been dreaming of for it would undoubtedly allow them greaten their base of support.

All this talk of an alliance with Labour is something of a personal setback for Clegg. Under his leadership, the party has moved to the right and he would probably prefer to work alongside David Cameron instead Brown even as the rest of his party disagrees.

Brown Is Human

In an interview with Piers Morgan broadcast on ITV1 last Sunday, British prime minister Gordon Brown spoke openly about the death of his daughter Jennifer, his son Fraser who suffers from cystic fibrosis, and the leadership deal that was struck with Tony Blair. More than four million Britons watched the show.

With his wife Sarah in the audience close to tears, the otherwise so reserved Prime Minister had difficulty hiding his emotions while talking about his daughter who died just ten days after childbirth.

Ahead of the program, Sarah Brown engaged with women on the popular website Mumsnet where she chatted candidly about her husband and their relationship. Brown, she noted, “is surprisingly romantic.” She also discussed Jennifer’s death, favorite television programs of hers, and the importance of family Sunday lunches.

Brown’s and his wife’s charm offensive are part of a Labour strategy meant to soften the Prime Minister’s image ahead of this year’s general election. He is generally perceived as cold, grumpy and boring; not exactly the sort of qualities that a socialist politician is likely to benefit from.

Asked whether the interview was indeed aimed at boosting his popularity in the polls, Brown told BBC News: “I do think people have a right to know who you are, where you come from, what you are trying to achieve.”

Reportedly the Conservative Party is in talks with ITV to secure a similar high-profile interview for David Cameron, although he will probably not sit down with Piers Morgan.

Brown Bashing the Rich

It’s not good to be rich in Britain. One is properly punished there for making too much money as becomes a welfare state. From every Briton that earns over £150,000 (or $243,000) a year, the government takes half of that in income tax. The well-off now face a further cut to tax relief on their pension contributions. An announced increase in the inheritance tax threshold has been put on hold but the taxman is still going after those with offshore bank accounts for it seems that in Britain today no crime is worse than the outrageous practice of tax evasion.

Even The Economist is upset and it calls Gordon Brown’s bashing of the rich “bad politics and rotten economics.” With elections arriving in a little over six months, Labour is doing everything it can to prove that it is still the “party of the many” whereas the Conservatives are branded as the “protectors of privilege and gleeful spending slashers.”

An extra tax on bankers’ bonuses this year is meant to smooth over voters but it does little to aid Britain’s ailing economy. The last of the G20 countries to be mired in recession, all the Labour government can think of doing is spending more money in the hope that such Keynesian methods will save Britain from further stagnation.

Now, with what will probably turn out to be a dreadful election ahead, Gordon Brown and his party are throwing themselves up as defenders of the common man again. Bashing the rich isn’t all about class politics though. As The Economist points out, the government needs the additional funds badly to keep its social services running, the imperfectly reformed National Health Service first among them. These are “disproportionately used by the poor” while “their employees tend to vote Labour.” By looking after the state, the party is looking after its core vote. The paper doesn’t like it one bit:

Britain has much experience of class politics, and none of it has been good. Class politics makes for bad economics: the state swells, public money gets wasted and entrepreneurs grow nervous. And it makes for a sad country, too: divisions deepen, suspicion flourishes and the social contract frays. When the time comes to judge the parties’ electoral strategies, voters should remember that.