Thursday, 19 January 2012

In defence of Ed Miliband

One of the problems I've experienced of being a dedicated Liberal/Liberal Democrat supporter is that I've spent a lot of time defending the Labour party from unjust accusations from the Tories and unfair distortions from the overwhelmingly right-wing press. Such is the situation at the moment. The trouble is that it is then difficult to explain that you are not actually a Labour supporter because there is a "more excellent way," Liberalism.

Such is the situation at the moment. I've tried to enumerate some of the many faults of the last Labour government in a previous post but gross economic mismanagement and a casual disregard of the viability of the public finances is not one of them. In fact many of us believed at the time that Gordon Brown, in his early years as Chancellor of the Exchequer, was too "prudent" in sticking to Tory spending plans and this paying off chunks of the National Debt. Yet the Tory PR machine has managed to convince the nation, and even parts of the Labour party itself, that Labour financial irresponsibility is the cause of our present economic woes.

Although not prepared to apologise for Labours economic errors (and why should he?) Ed Balls has now cravenly agreed to the absolute necessity of cuts in the public services (when in his campaign for the Labour leadership he issued an impeccable Keynesian manifesto) and his leader Ed Miliband is pilloried for ineffective leadership. Unfortunately for the latter Ed, much of the criticism comes not just from the Tories and the right wing press, but from his own party, some sections of which seem to have a suicide wish.

To paraphrase R A Butler's famous remark about his leader Harold Macmillan, Ed Milliband is "the best leader they've got." He is slightly ahead in the opinion polls, the election is three years away and what he needs to do is craft a series of policies to create a fairer, greener economic system and a fairer and more participatory constitution, on which he can fight an election in 2015. In the meantime, rather than making predictions about what he can and can't promise for the public service in 2015, he should concentrate on hammering away at the truth that the best way of repairing the public finances now is not by cutting government expenditure but by growth which will revive the tax take and thus the government's income.

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