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Ed Miliband: economic challenge entwined with unity problem

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Paul Mason | 18:46 UK time, Saturday, 25 September 2010

There is acrimony; there is a kind of dull, stunned realisation among Ed Miliband's followers that a man who entered parliament only 5 years ago is leader. Remembering that the majority of MPs and party members did not support him, and that the majority of Fleet Street opposed him, and only the unions delivered victory, the new labour leader has a lot of urgent positioning to do.

On the economy, what's important is that the "statist" wing of Brownism, which had backed Ed Balls, swung behind Ed Miliband on 2nd preference. This means Balls is in a position to ask for the shadow chancellorship. Given that Balls set the pace in arguing that Labour should drop its old strategy of halving the deficit in four years - and that Ed Miliband swerved around this issue in his acceptance speech - it will be high on the agenda in negotiations between the two men.

The new Labour leader is leftish not essentially in his economic policy but in the fact that he has embraced the whole idea of community activism, the living wage, mutualism and the idea that Labour can be a social movement that participates, while in opposition, in protests against the Coalition cuts.

What's being missed also is that Labour now has an extremely green leader: Ed Miliband fought (against the pressure from the very unions that have backed him) against the Heathrow third runway, and forced Gordon Brown into the compromise and conditions that eventually killed the idea.

I don't read the hesitancy and non-specificity of his acceptance speech as anything other than a political brain calculating what kind of alliances he has to build, and going into a holding pattern until the dust settles.

The obvious alliance is with Balls: a statist centre left and a mutualist centre left commands - on the basis of the vote - a rough majority in the party.

(The pro-Balls bloggers and tweeters are swinging pretty enthusiastically behind the new leader.)

But the majority of the Labour supporting press is to the right of both of them, and the spleen being vented on the internet by Blairite commentators and former players is a signal that it will not be easy to run the party: as in the computer game Medieval Total War, all factions have highly effective "assassins" and Ed Miliband's rhetoric on unity was really a plea for them, including his own, to stand down for a bit while they figure out what to do.

The key question within Labour now is whether war breaks out between the centre left and the Blairite wing which so narrowly, and yet so decisively, lost power within the party tonight. Ed Miliband's face betrayed, I think, that it was not until he finally won that he realised how hard this was going to be.

The pressing issues for Ed Miliband will be to spell out a coherent policy platform with which to oppose (some of?) the cuts expected in the spending review. Does he go with Balls' demand for slower deficit reduction? Does he step back from the rhetoric within the Labour movement of "oppose every cut"?

What does he do on defence, where his union backers regard the building of aircraft carriers, fighter jets and nuclear subs as an article of faith. He is well aware that Labour defence policy has tended to triangulate between the White House and the HQ of Unite but has given few signals of what he will do in the SDSR.

A final thought, among these initial reactions. "Fairness" has become the watchword of the coalition government; inside Labour Ed Miliband had become "Mr Fairness" - crafting the whole manifesto around this central concept.

This will have implications for the way Labour now approaches the Lib Dems: much of the tribal response speaks of "smashing" them. But on the economy and to an extent foreign policy Ed Miliband was the candidate closest in philosophy to the Lib Dems. How he positions Labour rhetoric against "anti-capitalist" Vince will be an early challenge.


  • Comment number 1.

    talk about win by a short ED

  • Comment number 2.

    Beyond the fact that I backed him at the bookies I am struggling to care at the moment when it comes to the new labour leader, a sentiment I suspect shared by the vast majority. Outside the westminster and media bubble, back on 'real life' street frankly it hardly seems relevent at all compared to the more immediate challenges we face.

    With the lib dems pulling some of the lefts teeth in the coalition government he may find it an uphill struggle to get the support of the public as well as his own party.


  • Comment number 3.

    I agree that two "Eds" working together might well be better for the Labour Party than one! :-D Also, unlike his bro, at least Mr Miliband has a real economics qualification (M.Sc from LSE). To me, the much lauded PPE seems to be a bit of a Mickey Mouse degree for people who want to boss other people around rather than acquiring a useful skill.

    Much will depend upon whether the poisonous culture of infighting in the Labour Party can change. Then in policy matters, the challenges are huge. Can Britain combine a real industrial strategy with a green economy? To get the answers the country needs, the right questions must be asked first.

  • Comment number 4.

    I think the BBC leader said it all:

    "He sold himself to party members as the 'change' candidate, securing the backing of three of the four biggest trade unions - Unite, Unison and the GMB."

    When the unions bankroll your party and hand-pick you, you jump when they say.

    Ed picks up the phone: "yes Bob, absolutely Bob. You too Bob."
    Puts down the phone: "we're backing the strike"

  • Comment number 5.

    If he has got any sense Ed Miliband will hound the government into disarray on the cuts to public services because there is no certainty that they will reduce the deficit and might even make it worse. This is something the whole party can unite over and produce electoral dividends in local government polls.
    As official undertaker to New Labour he has to figure out Labour's identity and programme that suits this century not the last - it must be green, equality of opportunity and redistributive of wealth. The self inflicted age of austerity and post Blairite era will not tolerate champagne socialists.

  • Comment number 6.

    @4 Ben

    There is something in what you say, but it was the union MEMBERS, tens of thousands of them, in public AND private sectors, who voted for Ed Miliband. It was a secret ballot.

    On the other hand, I doubt whether the hedge funds who bankrolled Mr Osborne's team pre-election are now devoid of influence.

    Also, people who have private pensions will find that their money supports political parties whether they like it or not. At least trades unionists have a choice.

  • Comment number 7.

    fairness is an idol that demands human sacrifice. it is part of the pig philosophy that refuses to see the good as the highest idea of the mind. A thief who robs everyone is fair, equal and multicultural without any bias on race colour or sexuality.

    This is also where the fraud of climate justice come from. See how people through no fault of their own that live in cold climates must pay a tax to those whose climate needs no heating to survive. surely if justice was the true aim it should be the other way round? those who have no need of heating bills have greater benefit than those who do? So in practice this fairness results in most the money going to china who build a new coal power station a week.

    fairness, in practice, is just another word for lowest common denominator. thus it is anti excellence [which is an antonym for fair], anti the best and proves itself unjust. It pays no respect to the individual but everything to the general. Where natural skill and talent and its subsequent rewards are unfair and must be 'punished' in some way and ignorance, lazyness and stupidity must be rewarded because they are victims of the talent 'system'

    can anyone imagine what 'fair' art would look like? [soviet realist?] or 'fair' food? or fair clothes. Under communism everyone has an accommodation quota in square metres.[15 i think]

    fair is a word that has been hijacked by politicians because it sounds like it has good in it when in fact it is just the same old pig philosophy that results in a pig society.

    socialists are clever at the jedi mind trick game at making something sound harmless when in fact its just more of the dangerous pig philosophy that has trashed the uk.

  • Comment number 8.

    "The key question within Labour now is whether war breaks out between the centre left and the Blairite wing which so narrowly, and yet so decisively, lost power within the party tonight."

    A faux-storm in kids' tea-party or Ed's great wind-farm take your pick.
    There's no statism in these statesmen, just theatrical distraction as corporates like Tesco buy up the country on the cheap.

    That's what British politics has been about for decades (whether in power or opposition). if Mason, Flanders, Peston etc don't see that, they've either been brought on board or conveniently don't see it. For statism see the 1945 Labour manifesto or the USSR in the 30s and 40s etc, or China today.

    Someone's got to say it as it is: Too many undergraduates have been groomed to be wind-farmers by 'Americans' over the decades whilst corporates do their town thing.

  • Comment number 9.

    Ed Milliband does seem like a bit of a kid, who is there because of his dad. I guess people are still just reacting against Blair/Brown, and voting accordingly.

    Its hard to see what Ed M has experienced outside of Oxford and politics, and the latter has been mostly in the shadow of his dad or his brother.

    The increasing prevalence of dynasty is retrograde and dismal. (Its particularly strong in the BBC - and it shouldnt be!)

    The first thing any Labour leader trying to establish Party relevance needs to do, is to be open with the UK public about the Brussels agenda - because thats where the action is, and this is real life, not the proverbial dress rehearsal. And then to formulate policy according to what an informed UK public wants for its own country. Doesn't seem that difficult or outlandish does it?

    You, Paul, glibly and mistakenly identify the Living Wage campaign as 'Left'. I wish people would wake up to how Non Left it is. It gives people slightly more money than the minimum wage, but undercuts industrially agreed pay rates.It is almost entirely a migrant labour campaign (including illegal labour), strongly supported by the churches who see new customers in it - now that people here have grown out of all that.

    The Olympics has had the 'Living Wage pledge'. It has been built with cheap almost entirely migrant labour, undercutting unionised workers who have not been able to get near the site.

    The LW campaign may sound like motherhood/apple pie, but surely for anyone with their eyes open, the fact that Boris Johnson and the Corporation of London love it (the army of very low paid illegal workers are still available) provides a pretty big fat clue to how Left the LW isn't???

  • Comment number 10.

    Social democracy (a bit of wealth redistribution in a capitalist economy) is not socialism.

    The Labour party, under Ed Miliband, will talk about 'fairness' instead of promoting socialism.

  • Comment number 11.

    Sasha - hedge funds were not the major donor to the Tories so this is not a point of equal weight. Labour messed up our finances, not hedge funds. That's how it appears and that's how it is, no conspiracies, just a bunch of useless socialists running us into the ground (again).

    Stayingcool - agree with you about nepotism. It amazes me how dynastic socialists are. They love it! Nu Labour also give all the crap jobs to the roots and have a core of Oxford boys to run the show. D Milliband "lending" votes to Abbott is probably the most humiliating/patronizing thing I've ever seen. I can't believe she accepted. No shame.

    It's a criticism of both sides that they have no real-world experience, which I agree is dire.

    As for BBC nepotism: About as balanced as the 10 o'clock news, and as childish.

    Amazingly this 50p thing doesn't show up with the following search terms:
    " 50p coin 2012 chief blue peter jackson"

    but gets loads of hits when you remove the bbc bit:

    "50p coin 2012 chief blue peter jackson"

    Good scrubbing big brother! Let's hope they index this page and it shows up.

  • Comment number 12.

    With so many claiming means-tested benefits while working, it's strange that none of our current government have noticed that increasing the minimum wage (up towards the minimum required to support life) would cut the welfare bill substantially.

    Instead, they're floating the following:

    "Do you think that we should have a system of conditionality which aims to maximise the amount of work a person does, consistent with their personal circumstances?"
    (Invited comments on IDS' discussion document "21st Century Welfare")

    Or in other words, in work and claiming benefit, should you be pushed around by the DWP, just as if you were unemployed? First steps to a conscript workforce?

  • Comment number 13.


    "The Labour party, under Ed Miliband, will talk about 'fairness' instead of promoting socialism."

    I'd say the key thing is whether they "do" anything about it. Nu Labour talked about mobility for 13 years while it tanked under their watch. What's that we're having for tea? Socialist rhetoric - not again mum!

  • Comment number 14.


    When a man of forty affects an ex-leader's affected speech, he is not showing maturity.

    In the Marr interview, Limited Ed spoke in feudal leadership terms, not consensual. The Westminster Malaise endures.

    Limited Ed praised Blair Brown Campbell Mandelson as having 'wisdom' while trumpeting change and declaring HUMILITY his watchword. There's a non-sequitur!

    Will Limited Ed close the Westminster bars and remove the unearned title 'Honourable' from MPs? Thought not.

    As for John Scarlett: apparently there are moral imperatives in his line of work. I'd like to see the dossier that could convince me on that one . . .

  • Comment number 15.


    Fundamental CULTURAL change is needed. Britain could achieve this Euro-Brit, not a hope.

    As above so below. Obama was 'bought in' and must pay back - so it is with Ed. So it is with parties who buy elections through 'donations' media and advertising.

    Our culture is the result several generations of negative feedback. I doubt Ed would have a clue what that means in HUMAN terms.

    Jaunty: nice!

    Ignoring our EU masters is part of 'living within the lie'. But Westminster is also a lie within the lie. Now we are at war with debt, climate, Terror (and stupidity) but STILL party politicians hang on to their games.


  • Comment number 16.

    duvin rouge and Ben use the word "socialist" in a completely different sense. You Ben use it as an emotionally loaded insult and have no clear idea as to what it means. I suspect that in your sense the LibDems too are socialists. I bet if you read a list of RA Butler conservative policies you might think they were socialist too. The trouble with emotionally loaded language is that either you cause fights, or you only communicate with people who share your point of view. So you might as well talk to yourself.

    I don't take the same position as duvinrouge, but so far as I'm concerned the Labour Party has not been socialist in any sense for a long time. At best, the last Labour government tried and failed to manage modern oligarchic capitalism and throw a few crumbs to the poor to keep them quiet. On the other hand, by making higher education so expensive, they pulled up the ladder which enabled many of them to rise in the first place.

    Economically, they didn't have a clue, but were in the pockets of their corporate "friends" who were looting the public purse via expensive outsourcing and PFI contracts. With no opposition from the Tories, they espoused the "light touch" financial regulation concept which has brought this country and much of the Western world to its knees. Nothing at all socialist about any of that. Ted Heath's government was rabidly left by comparison - so was Disraeli's probably.

    Politicians generally have no time or inclination to THINK. What we need is an analysis of cause and effect as to how the financial system affects the British economy as a whole. Then we need an assessment of what kind of productive capacity we need to give a reasonable and SUSTAINABLE standard of living to the population. We also need to be honest about what size population is economically and environmentally sustainable. Then we need to put in place long term industrial, agricultural strategy and social strategies to ensure a secure future for our descendants. It has to be said, I'm deeply pessimistic, but failure do do this will mean that Britain's social structure and economy will lurch from crisis to crisis.

  • Comment number 17.

    Harold McMillan was asked why he failed to deliver on his manifesto - he replied "events, dear boy, events".

    We are about to see - short of declaring war - what is likely to be THE event of our generation - the huge cut in public spending planned by the ConDems to be announced within a few weeks.

    There will be a sterile debate around whether this, that or the other quango should be culled before that one, there will be a fulsome debate about welfare reform, defence will be interesting although Cameron has gone on the record as overruling 20k soldiers going - we'll see just what is going to be left of the other government departments - in local government redundancies are running between 1 in 4 and 1 in 6 - Suffolk offers the model for emasulating town halls.

    Ed Miliband needs to dust off his economics textbooks and being to construct a serious critique of the economic policy agenda - Paul's analysis of the Office for Budgetary Responsibility's forecast would be a good place to start, combined with a comparison with the experience in Eire, which embarked on a similar deep public spending cut exercise last year.

    The bald facts are that for the ConDem economic strategy to work, the UK private sector MUST deliver 2.7m new jobs and invest £400Bn in new capacity, as well as boosting exports by a third. Who thinks this is even vaguely credible? Leaked treasury forecasts put the loss of public sector jobs @ 1.2M. In Scotland the Scottish CBI has publically stated that the private sector will not be able to replace the lost public sector jobs, let alone increase overall employment levels.

    We only have to cast our eyes across the Irish to sea to find out what lies in store for the UK. One year into their austerity programme and the Irish economy has shrunk by nearly 12% and Government debt increased to 64% of GDP, having been just 25% in 2007 and the unemployment rate is now 13.2%. Property prices have fallen 35% from their height. There is now a real risk of a second banking crisis, brought on by the level of private debt defaults.

    If the Irish experience was repeated in the UK, that translates into 5M unemployed, steeply rising government AND private debt, with the additional risk of a run on the pound as we are not in the Euro. A 35% fall in house prices would have a similar effect on British banks to that in Eire - a second banking crisis that the Government would not be able to bail out given the state of the finances.

    This analysis must be the bedrock of Labour's critique of the spending cuts. The ConDem deep, rapid spending cuts programme must be shown to be a MASSIVE gamble with all our futures - and then we can move on to address the REAL problem - our trade imbalance and the state of British manufacturing industry.

    I agree with other posters that "fair" is a pretty fluffycloud concept - let's start talking about a SUSTAINABLE economy, society and environment - one where we produce what we consume, we create our own renewable energy and we stop piling up the debt to fund our consumption.

    A sustainable society is the key to this - one where everyone contributes, where government recognises the need for a decent living wage, where companies run their businesses for the longterm, where we invest for the future in factories, in social housing and in protecting our environment, where untenable and unsustainable greed is rejected just as roundly as child deprivation and poverty in old age.

    Cameron's "big Society" sounds like something we should support - but we already do our bit on PTAs, sports clubs, parish councils, etc. The problems our society faces are not ones that this self-help anarchic model can address - should we club together to buy a new policeman - what about a new factory, or a road? The issues to be addressed can ONLY be dealt with by some form of government - yes sometimes government is aloof, patronising and unresponsive - yes it needs reform and even pruning in places, community activism is often a force for good but is also often reactionary, but self-help is of limited relevance and threatens a return to the Victorian mindset of "philanthropy".

    I think there is too much political capital invested in the ConDem's austerity programme for them to back down from it, so Labour needs to nail this critique to the mast and clearly call it what it is - a high risk strategy that is driven by the Tories' desire to slash public spending that is only justified by the debt crisis, but if all it does is to dig us deeper into debt, cause a collapse in house prices and rocketing unemployment and DRIVE UP government spending and debt, then it is totally irresponsible and counter productive.

    Ed Miliband needs to avoid the emotional blackmail of being accused of "talking the economy down" - he needs to point up the risk being taken and thereby open the real agenda of trade and resusitating the UK's industrial production. This means taking on the rigged markets as Obama is about to do with the Chinese and investing in import substitution to create jobs in the UK, cut our imports, enabling us to cut our unemployment bill and begin to dig ourselves out of the debt mountain.

    A consumer-led economy that is dependent on imported goods, food and energy is simply not sustainable. When the City brought in enough invisible exports to fund the gap we were living or borrowed time - now post banking crisis and the credit crunch, those days are over. The City isn't going to be able to bring in that sort of money anymore - there is no alternative but to slash our imports and get our people employed in producing what we need.

  • Comment number 18.

    Mrs Clinton will be disappointed!

  • Comment number 19.

    This was posted in another place.

    It's more accurate than the "Money As Debt" videos. I can't fault the logic, though I would want the source of the detailed figures and calculations.

  • Comment number 20.

    Back in 1989 when the Berlin Wall collapsed I expressed a hope that the blind alley the Left had been in since October 1917 would disappear so that we could get back to dealing with poverty and how wealth was distributed without the consideration of power politics.

    I never understood those who argued that the failure of the Soviet state socialist model demonstrated that capitalism had won. Then when outwardly sane lunatics turned up in Moscow saying the Russian economy must be immediately privatised I knew we were all in trouble. The fact that the Russian economy virtually collapsed from the rigour of such a conversion should have been a warning to us all. It was scarey. Now the same is happening to us. Capitalism did not win, but state socialism lost. Now capitalism has in turn quite adequately demonstrated its own capacity for getting it wrong.

    So the two great -isms of the post-1945 world have failed us. Hurrah!

    However the problem that the Labour Party has is that their social-democratic interpretation of state socialism has also failed as it needed the surplus value generated by the capitalists to make it function. The turbo-welfare model of New Labour needed turbo-capitalism to generate the funds that paid all the bills. What a stupid economic model!

    This is where the Labour Party now finds itself: no strategy, no idea, little public support but with the interests of a massive public sector client state to protect. I don't envy Ed Milliband his task: he will find sewing sand together a whole lot easier.

    It would have been better if there had been a candidate in the Labour Party leadership race that clearly and unequivocally declared for a return to the simple ideas of co-operation, mutual aid and common identity which was the hallmark of what was once known as the labour movement. This is where Labour needs to be but it would seem that the Liberal Democrats are busy setting up camp in that area.

    The best option for Labour was in 2009; dump Brown and go into coalition with everyone else just to sort things out so that the country could start again. Now they find themselves outside government, without any sensible policies, defending indefensible interests with a whole load of heavyweight egos to polish. This is not a good place to be.

    Ed Milliband has his work cut out. I think brother David has had a narrow escape. He should look for a position at the EU: he will do well there.

  • Comment number 21.

    @17 Richard.

    I agree with all of your main points here. But it's also time to bring money reform onto the mainstream agenda.

    Ed M is the one party leader who has the background to claim credibly that the ConDem government doesn't understand economics. Has he the courage to take on the City?

  • Comment number 22.

    21. - thanks for that!

    If our prognosis for the ConDem economic policy is right then a second, irreparable banking crisis will mean that much of the City will go bust because there cannot be another bail out and the BoE will nationise the wreckage to keep the financial system functioning. At this point the public's attitude to the City will be unprintable, so other than leaning on their mates in the Tory Party, no one is going to listen to them.

    On the other hand, if we simply slip into stagflation and mass unemployment, the ConDem "hands off" approach to the economy will play into Labour's hands, as electoral support evaporates, but something will have to give, one way or the other.

    If we get into the spending cuts "liquidity trap" - where cutting spending deflates the economy, so reducing tax income and increasing welfare costs thereby increasing government spending and debt - then there will have to be a plan B because cutting even further would simply make the situation even worse - as in Eire.

    But the option of reflating through increased public spending and borrowing would also be shut off, so there would be no arrows left in the conDem quiver to fire at "the problem" of growing debt.

    At this point a different analysis of the causes and possible solutions to our economic morass will be taken much more seriously - we need to make sure that the options on the table do really offer the prospect of positive change - economic growth, rising living standards and employment.

  • Comment number 23.


    "let's start talking about a SUSTAINABLE economy, society and environment - one where we produce what we consume, we create our own renewable energy and we stop piling up the debt to fund our consumption."

    Agreed (as I have posted ad nauseam). But the Westminster Ethos is embedded, and we are Lisbonised. The juvenile minds who govern us (UK and EU) just love to play. The nations they purport to represent are pawns on the Globopoly board. Listen out for the number of times 'Britain's place in the world' is mentioned. I doubt the man on the Clapham Bendybus cares a dead cyclist about Britain's place in the world. He cares about his fare and the fact no bugger takes any notice of him. (And if he phones to complain about that, he gets some Ethnik, speaking Manglish, whom he can't understand!)

    Ed'll fix it.

  • Comment number 24.

    Let's try and get some handle on all this.

    The Irish austerity programme is driven by a debt-fueled banking crash within the framework of a fixed currency. Friends in the Republic describe economic conditions there as brutal. This process will continue in all Euro-fringe economies which are in some degree or other indebted.

    In the UK we do not have a fixed currency so the situation is not identical.

    Sterling exchange rates collapsed in later 2008 and have not recovered. However, partly as a consequence of the government's commitment to austerity the sterling exchange rate is slowly improving. This has not yet detracted against exports but if this process is unchecked, it will in due course.

    At the same time the Japanese are allowing the yen to depreciate against the US dollar and the Chinese are sitting on their hands, divesting themselves of dollars as fast as is prudent without endangering the value of the US dollar to them.

    This suggests that the rush to the bottom has started.

    The arguments against the UK government austerity drive is that it will cause unemployment and thus drive down the level of demand within the economy possibly inducing a recession. In itself this is a bad thing but within a wider context of reducing future taxpayer liabilities and the cost of servicing government borrowing in the medium term, this should eventually have a positive effect for as long as sterling does not appreciate in value.

    However, there is a clear credibility gap between what is the immediate term and the medium term. This is the period in which we need to rebalance our economy from a reliance for employment from government and financial services to private sector value added employment. This period could easily last as long as five years, always assuming commercial opportunities are forthcoming. If sterling significantly appreciates then this interim period could be a lot longer.

    There is no quick and easy solution. To me it looks like a choice between a lethal injection and being shot. I doubt if there even is a solution to our difficulties which does not mean someone or other getting badly hurt. Sadly, the only ideal outcome would have been not to have got into this mess in the first place.

    However, despite this there is no future for our country without rebalancing the economy at some point very soon. What I would like to see is some sort of plan as jobs won't grow on trees. Also blind faith that the private sector will generate employment out of nothing is insufficient.

    From here, those aircraft carriers look pretty good. They are value adding public sector employment. Perhaps this might be a way of squaring what is a pretty unpleasant circle?

    Our circumstances suggest that we cannot prevent damage but we could try to limit it.

  • Comment number 25.

    10. At 08:56am on 26 Sep 2010, duvinrouge wrote:
    Social democracy (a bit of wealth redistribution in a capitalist
    economy) is not socialism.

    The Labour party, under Ed Miliband, will talk about 'fairness' instead of promoting socialism."

    That's because New Labour's New Left is Social Democratic (aka Trotskyist). This is essentially a New York/Chicago invention to facilitate capitalism and frustrate statism. New York isn't only the centre of capitalism in the world, but was where Trotsky (along with many others) travelled from to drive the 1917 revolution. These people give unions a bad name in order to put the majority off (national) socialism.

    Surely you can see that after nearly 13 years of them doing effectively nothing different from team A under Thatcher and Major?

    Social Democracy was an American export to distract youth from socialism across the Liberal-Democracies, especially after WWII. Think Germany.
    Think the SI.

  • Comment number 26.

    Sasha - good reply. I agree with your points about Labour, they were not socialist in any sense of the word. I just get a little tired of seeing all this "bash the bankers" stuff. It's just an abdication of responsibility. I should say New Labour and leave it at that, as even I would agree that socialism is far nicer than what they did.

    I think one of the worst things that happened to this country was a weak opposition. Whatever tact Milliband takes, lets hope he is at least able to lead a rigorous opposition that holds power to account.

    I doubt he will do this as I the vast majority of Labour's staff (elected and unelected) remain in their jobs and I'm not sure they can drop their spin habits.

    I think a 35% drop in house prices would be sustainable. The rise post-1997 (and before that) was clearly silly. We now know the boom wasn't a boom but a bust in the making. We have yet to deleverage from the crisis. America have let prices drop, but here savers subsidize homeowners. Interest rates will go up some time in the future so this crisis is simply being postponed at a massive cost.

    Agree with others that when the dust settles, it's got to be sustainable. The problem is the average voter won't vote for this and every major party knows it. The only way to break that deadlock is for voters to grow up. Like others, I won't be holding my breath.

    ps I hardly think a degree gives Milliband any authority to speak on a topic. Do you work in a field that hires graduates? Do people in your field, who have years of experience and are perhaps graduates themselves think "oh lets hear what the grad thinks?". They don't in mine because education plus experience is required for the top job. Ed has as much real-world experience as Osborne, which is a missed opportunity for Labour.

  • Comment number 27.

    stallinic - agree with your post but would add that there is also a "least ugly contest" amongst debtor states who are avoiding being at the top of the market's list to default. Being at the top of that list puts pressure on borrowing costs, and the government's action to promise cuts took us off this list. If they renege on cuts borrowing costs will go up, which will mean cuts by another path.

    I totally agree that the best course of action is not to get into this mess. The money was borrowed and spent, and you are right to say there is no easy solution. I do see a lot of posts to the effect that we can somehow borrow and spend our way out of this, using an economic slight of hand little different to Labour's approach of managing perception, not reality.

    Many people seem to think we because we have our own currency we can just turn the spending tap back on and we can grow our way out. This would push borrowing costs up so it's not that simple.

    We do need to spend on useful projects. I take it we agree that it's not useful for the state to pay half the unemployed to dig a hole and the other half to fill it back in. At the other end of the scale one could say spending on an R&D plant that will educate the next generation is a great investment. The question is, in a world where Britain is becoming every more irrelevant on the global military scale, where on that continuum is building two aircraft carriers? Where the alternative is tax cuts surely any state spending has to be judged by this yardstick?

  • Comment number 28.

    Dear Ben, thank you for the thoughtful reply. :-)

    My comments on Ed Milibands education referred to my view that it's actually a bit more rigorous than a PPE degree alone.

    I agree with your implied point about youth v experience. Although, a constructive dialogue between youth and experience may be of advantage to both! (I'm 55 by the way.) I certainly think that school to university to politics is a bad idea. Aspiring politicians need to experience significant real life. Although a friend of mine who taught in Haverstock at the time of the Milibros assures me that the school would have been a good introduction to the real world for those from a more privileged background.

    Like you I suspect, my attitude now is cautiously pessimistic wait and see! :-)

  • Comment number 29.

    BTW Paul, and bloggers with a longer memory; eg Jericoa, Barrie et al.

    I am beginning to suspect that there has been some dark necromancy afoot. I may be totally wrong, but I seem to detect evidence that, Voldemort-like, JadedJean has been reincarnated. What do you think?

  • Comment number 30.


    Has our culture got the same problem with notional money (not metals) as it has with 'life'?

    I suggest neither has any existence OF ITSELF.

    Money should only ever be a way of storing and transferring something other, of real worth. Life is just a description of a molecular configuration - with attitude.
    We have become obsessed with 'the right to life' - a concept that dissolves when rational thought is applied. And we have magicked notional money into an existence that it simply does not have OF ITSELF.

    All this is not a million lightyears from 'Hawking Reality', which exists only as mathematical symbols. Perhaps that is the clue.

    We are no longer real.

  • Comment number 31.


    You might say that - I couldn't possibly comment. But necromancy fits well with my #30 perhaps.

    One thing about Limited Ed - I don't think he has a magic bone in his body.

  • Comment number 32.


    Is what we are talking about "immaterialism"?

    "A Philosopher, one Bishop Berkeley
    remarked metaphysically, darkly,
    that what we cannot see,
    cannot possibly be;
    and the rest is altogether unlarkely*.

    *old fashioned BBC pronunciation. ;-D

  • Comment number 33.

    @30 Barrie

    People used to talk about "making their money work". But how can it work in so many accounts and places at once? Surely it cannot do do many things simultaneously?

    But I think I've found the answer, with the help of a well known television Doctor:

  • Comment number 34.


    I shall sleep with a smile on my face Sasha. I had never heard of the venerable gent. Stay close, you might just save my sanity.

    As for Dr Who, he more or less plagiarised Richard Feynman who said that (from memory) all matter, when minutely inspected, is 'screwy'. 'Who' simply replaced matter with time, which as every schoolboy knows can be done daily using a Hawking conversion equation and the God factor.

  • Comment number 35.

    Re: 24

    A 35% fall in house prices would cause another banking crisis - the government will not be able to bail the banks out again - UK bank nationalisation would follow - and there will be a full scale run on the pound, driving the costs of borrowing and imports to impossible levels. 5m unemployed will mean MUCH lower tax take and MUCH higher welfare payments, so INCREASING our public and private debt - not cutting it, which is the ONLY stated aim of the spending cuts.

    Thank you for agreeing that the forecasted increase in private sector jobs, investment and export growth are pie in the sky and suggesting we do something to rebalance our economy away from finanical services towards industry - quite right.

    But I really don't understand why you are prepared to run the risk in makingh such deep public spending cuts so quickly in the current environment - this is high risk - very high risk - why do it?

  • Comment number 36.

    29 Sasha

    JadedJean only left the building for a short while.

    I have never been one for pointing fingers but have noted at least four incarnations since. I have even seen two debate with each other.

  • Comment number 37.


    'I have even seen two debate with each other'

    Now you're just being paranoid :)

    It is of course an AI program from the students at MIT, if you engage it with the correct logical connundrum it crashes and has to be reincarnated :)

    There is a another one that comments occasionally on the Register who is not from this world.

  • Comment number 38.

    Having returned from a brief meander through the heart of England on a narrowboat, I have to remark on the significant amount of public works that were undertaken in the 1930's to restore, improve and maintain the hard assets of the country. Much of the concrete canalside works (canalbanks, bridges etc.) I saw on my trip were dated between 1931 and 1938 reminding us all that in the last "Great Depression", government (or the Grand Union Canal Company) was eventually forced to employ people on public works and investment. This time too, we may have some wrong calls in terms of strategic investment (canals never again challenged rail and then road as the arteries of internal trade). There has to be an opportunity for the country to produce something with the spending public or private - I have to support public works and investment as against paying welfare that is dissipated on the feckless whiling away the hours on daytime TV (sorry Beeb!). There has to be an alternative theme than purely cutting for mendacious ideological reasons and I hope the Ed-ists take this up in crystallising a strategy which they don't yet appear to have. We need an economic plan for the future, possibly with Balls!.


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