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.

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  • rate this

    Comment number 413.

    The coalition stopped the recovery, that was occurring under Labour, in its tracks. The country then had to endure 3 unnecessary years of no growth under the coalition. I don't call that good financial management.

  • rate this

    Comment number 412.

    409 where

    '"Ed Balls asks watchdog (OBR) to check Labour's policy 'sums'"

    Ned Balls has gone into stealth mode since the double a and triple dip failed to materialise and the economy started growing again.

    It really is as if he was proven completely wrong on every call.

    He's no longer Toxic Ned. He's Invisible Ned.

  • rate this

    Comment number 411.

    'I am afraid there is no money.' How Labour laughed after ruining Britain. Criminal charges should have followed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 410.

    You're sounding very Farage esque this evening - have you defected to the fruitcakes?

    Short on precision long on opinion - keep going though, it's a chuckle.

  • rate this

    Comment number 409.

    "Ed Balls asks watchdog (OBR) to check Labour's policy 'sums'"

  • rate this

    Comment number 408.

    400.TruffleShuffle "Labour had failed entirely in bolstering the public purse during the most unprecedented periods of growth, ever. Why? because they spent money indiscriminately"

    Just to add to that - spent money in the wrong places in an effort to buy the votes of the public sector and benefit claimants.

  • rate this

    Comment number 407.

    The Labour Party are good on sound bites, but short on economic management. The present fall in living standards is due to the enormous debt they left behind when the Coalition took over.

  • rate this

    Comment number 406.

    Ed Miliband's performance on the Andrew Marr show this morning was shifty, no substance, only promises to appease the left wing union barons . How that man believes he has the ability to run the Country just beggars belief.

  • rate this

    Comment number 405.

    Oh all the Tory/UKIP/BNP/EDL Klan are on here tonight with their multiple accounts and down voting of any comment that's not to the Right of Ghengis Khan !
    Yes Brook's and Coulson's trial is waiting in the wings ,and it's all going to spill out like a grey sludge of a Tory/Murdoch conspiracy so vile and vulgar that it would make the Faustian Pact look as innocent as a child.

  • rate this

    Comment number 404.

    Small Heathen Big Villan - you really must walk around with tunnelled vision if you think the Liebour are the best for this country. Your history as per usual is very economical with the truth. But then again all Liebour voters would say that.

    I remember in the 70's power cuts and walking down the end of the street to get our water. That was under wilson/callaghan.

  • rate this

    Comment number 403.

    Oh, I SEE.

    When at #375 someone accuses today's UK right-wing politics of being like the Nazi's that's OK.

    But when at #382 I accuse today's UK left-wing politics of being like the Nazi's that breaks the mods rules.

    I guess that's what passes for political neutrality at the BBC these days.

  • rate this

    Comment number 402.

    390 Sarah

    'The deficit was caused by a global banking crisis not by Labour'

    The teeny problem with that statement is that it simply not true. And, despite Labour 's best efforts, more and more people realise it isn't true and are understanding the truly dreadful legacy and incompetence during The Imbecility.

    The McBride revelations will remind all just how wicked and malicious Labour are.

  • rate this

    Comment number 401.

    Gordon and Tony were nasty and I was a white knight.Gordon and Tony were nasty and I was a white knight.
    Repeat as many times as is necessary for you to believe that it is really, really true.
    Probably twice.

  • rate this

    Comment number 400.

    390. Sarah
    What you have failed to mention, is that this nation was verifiably (IFS) one of the worst placed countries to cope with the crash when it came, when gauged by fiscal ability to avoid borrowing. Essentially, there was no money. Labour had failed entirely in bolstering the public purse during the most unprecedented periods of growth, ever. Why? because they spent money indiscriminately

  • rate this

    Comment number 399.

    Looking back at the last 40 or so years, Tory Governments generally poor, Labour Governments generally worse. The current crop are no different!

  • rate this

    Comment number 398.

    Ed Milliband and I have a 1-2-1 meeting set up - not for a week or so but I am sure it will be great as we have lots in common. He's a jovial soul and comes out with some stellar (unfunded) ideas in such a charismatic way. C U Next Tuesday Ed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 397.


    The deficit was caused by a global banking crisis not by Labour."


    The 'Global' banking crisis affected predominantly the UK and US. There were huge areas of the world where banks had been properly regulated and didn't fail.

    The deficit was caused by spending more then tax income, Labour's speciality whatever the state of the world economy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 396.

    393. At least the rich pay for their Champagne. Oh and their Lobsters.

  • rate this

    Comment number 395.

    deficit caused by global banking crisis not by Labour. The economy was recovering until the coalition took over and choked off the recovery
    That may be true but during a peak that had to end they spent and borrowed as much as they could instead of saving and investing. And it flat lined because the Eurozone collapsed. You may have noticed? Ed does like to ignore the outside world

  • rate this

    Comment number 394.

    @390.Sarah "The deficit was caused by a global banking crisis not by Labour. The economy was recovering under Labour until the coalition took over and choked off the recovery by cutting too fast and too deeply."

    Yet another socialist copy & paste merchant. Stop parroting the Daily Mirror bile and open yer mind luv!


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