One of the main problems besetting the modern Labour party is their lack of credibility about economic injustice; when Ed Miliband pledges to clamp down on tax avoidance by multi-billionaires people usually remind him of Tony Blair’s dreadful record of holding the super rich to account. Under such a climate, its becomes shamefully easy for the Tories to portray themselves as fair and competent compared to the extravagance of the New Labour years.
This conveniently sidesteps the real issue; which is that New Labour was as blue as Margaret Thatcher; they shared her adoration for those who have “worked hard to get to the top”. They shared her reluctance for government to have any hand in enforcing basic decency. The Labour Party bowed down to the consensus that was so strongly laid down in the Thatcher years.
The obvious retort to this is that the Conservatives can’t be held to account for things done in someone else’s government; but if that’s the case, why has the Labour Party’s legacy been blamed for every single one of the Coalition’s problems? Why has everyone so unreservedly fallen in step with the Tory re-writing of history which holds that it was by spending too much money on nurses and schools, rather than the irresponsible actions of megalomaniacs in the City of London, encouraged by the government’s of Thatcher, Major, Blair and Brown alike, which precipitated an international financial crisis? Why have the poorest been held disproportionately to account for their drain on the public purse when the real leakage comes from a soft government attitude towards exploitative foreign elites?
These are questions I would expect Miliband to answer and in doing so win the respect of everyone who’s feeling the pinch in Cameron’s Britain (a demographic which looks set to expand to within 99.9% of the population if the Tories are re-elected). But in this, as in so much else, I have been woefully let down by the Labour leadership, who prefers to bravely tackle a bacon sandwich than the big issues.
But in all seriousness, they have failed completely and utterly to provide any answers, to even identify the problem: namely a bloated and unaccountable financial sector which imagines itself to be “master of the universe” as Owen Jones put it. The have differentiated slightly from the failed free-market consensus, but they now approach the run-up to the 2015 election neck-and-neck with the Tories; any embarrassing PR mishap could disfigure their already directionless campaign, and of course we know just how prone Ed Miliband is to those, and we know just how gleeful the Tory press would be to have something more meaty to get their hands into rather than having to fabricate non-stories all the time.