25 September 2014
Ed Miliband’s appeal to hard working Brits
At this week's Labour party conference, leader Ed Miliband was tasked with inspiring voters with his vision for Britain's future and gaining their confidence and trust that a Labour Government can achieve this.
Through a narrative of "better together", Miliband set out his ambitious ten year plan as he sought to recapture Labour's core base of traditional working-class voters.
With the US announcing war on Syria and the near fracture of the union at last week's referendum, resonating with voters through a rhetoric of togetherness was no easy task.
Despite largely failing to enthuse the audience with his six point plan, and receiving wide ranging criticism from even usually friendly commentators, the policies laid out should be considered seriously.
The plan includes rewarding hard work, ensuring working families have a fair share in the growing wealth of the country, meeting the housing demand, becoming a world leader in green technology by 2025 and increasing the up-take of apprenticeships to match university up-take. Transforming the NHS with improved GP access, better preventative care and more staff was the only point to receive an enthusiastic audience response.
There is no doubt that improvements need to be made to the NHS and Labour is right to address this. However their policy solutions give the impression that buying more staff is the simple answer. It is far more complex than this which Labour must acknowledge in their policy.
Shadow chancellor Ed Balls has made a commitment that Labour would not borrow more money to fund its spending commitments. While sensible, this is a rather ambitious and challenging task given their policy proposals, namely those for the NHS and the reality of managing a cheque book highly susceptible to the slightest of changes.
If they can recoup £1 billion from tax dodgers, raise enough revenue from tobacco companies and their proposed mansion tax it might work. But it still doesn't fill the funding gap so right now this promise is no sure thing.
Due to a moment of forgetfulness Miliband didn't tackle the important issues of the economy, namely the deficit, and immigration in his speech though this information was later published online. In subsequent interviews while promising to get the deficit down and deal with debt there was unfortunately no detail as to how Labour would practically tackle this. On immigration Miliband reaffirmed Labour's position that immigration is beneficial to the UK.
Capturing the younger vote in the upcoming election is a key strategy for Miliband. He's even gone as far as setting up an Instagram account in an attempt to appear trendy and relevant to young people. In his speech the Labour leader committed to votes for 16 and 17 year olds, a policy adopted from Scotland following the referendum. Labour's bold pledge to increase apprenticeships will resonate well with young people. But it was disappointing that Labour failed to tackle unpaid internships and commit to a living wage.
However building more homes to enable twice as many people to get on the property ladder is a desperately needed policy that will benefit not only young people but many others who right now don't have a chance of owning their own home.
While their six point plan is a step in the right direction, to successfully appeal to their traditional working class core Labour also needs make sure they don't get distracted by a socially liberal agenda as is often the case. Traditional working class voters are generally quite socially conservative so this needs to be acknowledged in Labour's policy narrative as they head into the election.
Labour's ten year plan for Britain has been hailed as a government for the many rather than a government for the rich. Miliband's challenge as he embarks on what he calls an "eight month interview" is to convince the voters of this.Right now the question is not whether Labour can deliver on its ambitious 10 year plan for Britain but whether Miliband can hope to be elected in the first place.