The mystery of Miliband's caution

Andrew Marr and Ed Miliband Ed Miliband delivered pre-tested soundbites in his Andrew Marr interview

"A riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma".

Ed Miliband's performance this morning on the Andrew Marr show reminds me of that old description of Winston Churchill's.

On the one hand, the Labour leader has done what many have demanded of him. He has unveiled not just one policy but a string of them - a reversal of what critics call the "bedroom tax", the strengthening of the minimum wage and an obligation on larger firms to train an apprentice for every non-EU skilled immigrant they hire.

On the other, he spent his conference curtain-raising interview with Andrew Marr sounding evasive about many other key policy questions.

Will the public sector pay cap be lifted?

Will top rate tax rise, let alone tax on those who the party now says are not rich (ie those earning £60,000)?

Will Labour change its opposition to an EU referendum?

Will the minimum wage go up under Labour? Will immigration go down?

The answer in each case was a mixture of little more than a wish - eg "I want to see the overall level of immigration fall/minimum wage go up" - or wait and see - "we'll spell out our plans at the next election."

This can partly be put down to Ed Miliband's unwillingness to promise what he knows he can't be sure to deliver (after all the government couldn't tell you the tax or immigration rate in 3 years time);.

It's partly due to his natural caution but it's also to do with style.

The Labour leader seemed to regard today's questions as an invitation not to give an answer but to deliver a pre-tested soundbite on a vaguely related issue.

So it is that Labour risks unveiling real policy substance and still leaving people wondering what on earth the man who wants to be our next prime minister might do if he reached Number 10.


The announcement on immigration/apprenticeships - "one in, one trained" - is fascinating. It is designed to cure two problems that many have long worried about - the so-called "free rider" problem (big companies relying on someone else to train the staff they need to recruit) and British firms' addiction to hiring immigrants as a cure to skill shortages.

I can see a potential problem with the policy.

Might firms not just move abroad or outsource rather than taking on the costs and bureaucracy of taking on an apprenticeship each time they want to hire skilled overseas workers?

Won't a company that feels it needs to hire 5 computer programmers from abroad simply outsource the work? I'll pose the question and post the answer when I get it.


Labour's answer to my question is that a version of this policy has been tried in Australia but hasn't led to a cut in jobs. Australia gives firms that want to take in an immigrant the option to pay into a training levy.

What's more, one of Ed's policy wonks tells me, there are already lots of conditions attached to sponsoring a migrant (for example the job has to be advertised in the UK first) so there's no reason to think an additional skills requirement will be the thing that will trigger exit or outsourcing.

Nick Robinson, Political editor Article written by Nick Robinson Nick Robinson Political editor

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  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    Everyone not in public employment or subcontracted governmemt work, earning above 60k per year should have wages doubled and maximum tax of 42.5%.

    No one should be employed for less than 50K per year and those earning less than 60k should be taxed at 88%. NI should be flat rate 10%.

    Govt. finance sorted, economy turned around and resources available to those who deserve and can afford them

  • rate this

    Comment number 92.

    Oh dear, oh dear. Will Milliband be replaced before the next election? Its the only hope Labour have.

    Ed is a PR disaster.

  • rate this

    Comment number 91.


    "Why? Because you are transparently biased & us independant swing voters are not falling for it.....!!!!!"

    Well, you know what they say about independent swingers...full of naked ambition, always moving from one party to another and they never clean behind their fridges!

  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    Miliband is being evasive because he i trying to appeal to the left and the right.

    He's appealing to left by saying he will "bring back socialism" and he's appealing to the right by saying he will look after working families

    Unfortunately for him everyone is seeing through him as a man who has no real ideas and is just following what the New Labor spin doctors tell him to

  • rate this

    Comment number 89.

    Re 70: I'm a professional engineer with a major UK company. I've yet to see any "highly skilled immigrants" coming into my industry. I've seen plenty of mini-cab drivers, fast food vendors, and cleaners though. I've seen large areas of Oxford, Reading, Coventry, Luton, Birmingham, and London turned into monocultural ghettos. Milliband and his chums did this, yet we're wrong for questioning this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 88.

    The mystery of Miliband's caution

    What mystery.

    Come on Nick, you full know that all Ed or any politician has to do is sneeze & media will twist that sneeze into some negative deathly virus & even BBC would run out their experts on sneezing to work out costs of tissues or who is likely to be affected.

  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    The global banking crisis caused the deficit not Labour. The economy began to recover under Labour until the coalition got into government and choked off the recovery by cutting too fast and too deep. Then the UK had to endure 3 unnecessary years of a flatlining economy under the coalition- we could instead have had 3 years of growth.

  • rate this

    Comment number 86.

    If he gets in he'll change everything. He likes train sets. He's choosing his words. He'll choose revolutionary policies in the same way but only with power in his hands. Can't drive in the fast lane until you are in it. A wildcard this one. Beware the quiet man.

  • rate this

    Comment number 85.

    Housing shortages arising from the burgeoning working population which cannot afford rents or mortgages is easily addressed by alloting public land and Crown estates as temporary (less than 999 years) allotments, rent free upon which tents can accomodate the work force and its dependants. Huge savings in capital investment are made, wages can be kept down. Spending and saving should increase.

  • rate this

    Comment number 84.

    I will never trust a Labour government on the economy, immigration or the EU again; they lied and lied and lied and Miliband, Balls, Harman & co. were right at the heart of it. Nobody wants a broke Britain where more cities have Brits as an ethnic minority; it really is insulting our intelligence to expect us to forget what they did and to trust them again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 83.

    A question for the rich little Tory boys declaiming Lab/Ed M for not having a full a minfesto yet.....

    ....why did NOT ONE OF YOU criticise the Tories/Slasher Cameron when they were in opposition & had no policies until 8 motnhs prior ot the last election...???

    Why? Because you are tranparently biased & us independant swing voters are not falling for it.....!!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 82.

    The coalition has wasted a lot of money on undersubscribed free schools while other schools have not been repaired. They have also wasted money on a tax cut for the very rich and have not prioritised tax evasion and avoidance enough. Instead they have prioritised cutting benefits for the poor.

  • rate this

    Comment number 81.

    On education it is blatantly obvious that our the shambles of our schools and teachers continue to deteriorate in disaster, unable to educate students and pupils.

    Technology is now able to teach at home and the obscenely stupid investment in teaching can be done away with. Schoola and colleges are defunct. Learn at home saving tax payers a fortune. We turn out idiots and import labour.

  • Comment number 80.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 79.

    Cameron said that reducing the top rate of tax would increase the tax take - has it done so?
    Milliband said that he will increase the top tax rate - will it increase the tax take?
    They can't both be right can they?
    Yes - because they're not talking about the same thing e.g. rate, timescale etc etc.
    That's politics.Party conferences are boring, too many vested interests. Hurrah for UKIP - Oops

  • rate this

    Comment number 78.


    No, it won't be. He'll borrow to fund it, then leave the bill to be paid by higher taxes down the road. The deceptive Miliband makes Cameron look like a saint.

  • rate this

    Comment number 77.

    While browsing this item by Nick Robinson WONT GET FOOLED AGAIN by the WHO was played............... Hows that for spooky !

  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    The more one hears about Ed Miliband the more one gets the confirmation that he must be one of the biggest clowns on the Britihs political scene. To laugh off at a serious question of a 27bn+ black hole, it is all fine for him. It is OK because he is the opposition, they don't make the rules. However, if Labour ever comes to power, if if Ed is the best leader they can come up with, we are doomed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 75.

    Clegg and Cameron were both deceptive promising " no tuition fees" and "no top down reorganisation of the NHS" respectively before the last election.

  • rate this

    Comment number 74.

    Why is it that politicians (of any colour) refuse to give simple, straightforward answers to questions put to them? Try asking a politician to give a simple "Yes" or "No" to the question "Will your government reduce tax for the low paid and increase tax for the top echelon?"... and listen to the inability to say "Yes"/"No" without additional waffle and compromising claptrap!
    I do love Nick!!


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