Why I am voting for David Miliband


8:30 am - September 3rd 2010

by Don Paskini    


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I think it is an enormously encouraging sign that the so-called “heir to Blair”, “continuity New Labour” candidate for the Labour leadership believes in:

– an economic strategy which aims to halve unemployment
– a living wage
– doubling the bank levy
– a mansion tax on the wealthiest homeowners to reverse housing benefit cuts
– withdrawing charitable status from private schools to pay for an expansion of free school meals
– defending universal benefits
– marriage equality for same sex couples
– a comprehensive strategy to rid the world of nuclear weapons
– training 1,000 future leaders to campaign in their communities
– building more affordable homes and creating more green jobs as part of an industrial strategy to reduce Britain’s dependency on the City of London

*

There are all sorts of ways in which the Labour leadership contest could have turned into a total disaster for the party, but it has been good humoured and actually showed how much common ground there is within the Labour Party. Some disappointments – Andy Burnham has been hopeless on the health service, Ed Balls on immigration and Diane Abbott’s campaign has been a bit feeble. Both Ed Balls and Diane Abbott have a lot to contribute to the Labour Party in the future, but I don’t think either would be a very good leader.

The analysis of why Labour lost and how the party needs to change has had some odd outcomes. Ed Miliband’s argument is that Labour needs to appeal to more working class voters. Yet I think the people who will find him most appealing are more affluent, liberal-minded voters (like the people who form his activist base). In contrast, I can’t imagine David Miliband appealing much to the people who supported Tony Blair but don’t like Labour, but his Movement for Change is the best initiative of any of the campaigns at increasing the number of working class voters who will go and vote Labour.

I think Ed Miliband is going to win, and his team have run a very good campaign. With less money, less experience and a relatively unsympathetic media, he’s managed to articulate the values which most of the electorate share, and (with an assist from his brother’s more inept supporters) to portray his main opponent as an out of touch “right wing” candidate, despite the lack of policy differences. At the next election, Labour will face better funded, more experienced opponents who have most of the media backing them, so Ed Miliband’s skills in this regard are well worth noting.

But while I think Ed will be an excellent leader, I’m actually going to vote for David. I thought he was an excellent Cabinet Minister, in local government and in education, and I think he’s got the skills to be a very different kind of leader from Tony Blair or Gordon Brown – one who will use the talents of people from across the Labour Party rather than just a small clique. As mentioned above, the actual policies that he believes in are very different from those of Blairites such as, um, Tony Blair.

When he is elected leader, Ed Miliband will come under the most terrific pressure from the opposition, media and Blairites over his supposedly radical and left-wing policies. If David were elected leader, the main pressure which he would face would be to win over and enthuse the people who supported his brother or Ed Balls. To unite the Labour Party, Ed Miliband would need to appeal to the Right, David to the Left.

And therefore it is David, not Ed, who would have the best opportunity to change the Labour Party and achieve their and our shared goals – to build a grassroots movement to win the next election, end mass unemployment and close the gap between rich and poor.

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About the author
Don Paskini is deputy-editor of LC. He also blogs at donpaskini. He is on twitter as @donpaskini
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Elections2010 ,Labour party

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Reader comments


I think this is oddly optimistic.

I can’t think of a Labour leader since the war who has been further left as leader than in the running to become Leader, nor does it make sense from a political understanding which sees the centre ground as well to the right, and sees triangulation as a golden rule.

The examples you cite are largely DM triangulating between the perceived centre and the views of party members. In the leadership I would expect him to triangulate back to where he feels the centre ground to be. I don’t dispute that EM would play the same game (though from a different starting position and a different understanding of the centre).

I think it’s difficult to be sure about what a politician believes, deep down, from statements they make in the heat of campaign. What is a revelation is who backs whom. Absent Cruddas (with a vested interest), DM is clearly backed by the Blairite faction, and I’d be amazed if they don’t use his victory to claim the backing of the party for a further shift to the mythical centre.

There’s one clunking great policy difference between Ed M and David that I think could make all the difference over the next few years:

David has pretty much locked himself into supporting £40 billion or so of spending cuts, by insisting that we need to make £2 of cuts for every £1 we raise in taxes. (As far as I know, he supports Alistair Darling’s £19 billion of tax rises and a couple of new ones on top, so he just has no room for manoeuvre on cuts.)

Ed, on the other hand, has suggested he’s open to the idea of a 1:1 ratio of spending cuts to tax rises, so assuming he’s supportive of roughly the same level of tax rises as David – £20 billion or a little more – he’s only locked into supporting around half the cuts David’s committed to.

What’s more, given that the 2009/2010 deficit was actually £12 billion lower than Darling thought when he announced those tax rises, a £22.5 billion tax rise/£22.5 billion spending cut package would actually be enough to bring the deficit down to the level Darling thought it should be at by 2015 – so there’d be no need to backtrack on that target.

That puts Ed in a far stronger position that David to oppose the bulk of the coalition’s cuts – maybe three quarters of them rather than half of them. And while identifying £22.5 billion of progressive cuts wouldn’t be easy, it’d be a damned sight easier that identifying £40 billion.

“an economic strategy which aims to halve unemployment
– a living wage”

Oooh, wow, that’s going to be fun to watch.

You’re going to raise the price of labour and then see people hiring more of it, are you?

Tim W,

Just remember that all the leadership contenders bar one were in a cabinet where Gordon Brown dominated the economic issues, so they may never had had to try to understand such difficult issues as supply and demand (first day of economics A-Level isn’t it?).

“(first day of economics A-Level isn’t it?).”

Actually, there’s a GCSE in economics these days

http://tutor2u.net/economics/gcse/revision_notes/demand_supply_demand_intro.htm

“You’re going to raise the price of labour and then see people hiring more of it, are you?”

Yes. Just like we did in 1997, when you made the same tediously wrong prediction.

First day for me was production possibility graphs 😉

“Just remember that all the leadership contenders bar one were in a cabinet where Gordon Brown dominated the economic issues, so they may never had had to try to understand such difficult issues as supply and demand”

Now come on, do you actually think somebody rises to cabinet level and not understand the basics of economics?

Here is some homework for you – find out what Yvette Cooper’s masters degree is in.

Tim,

We did this same argument on a recent comments thread, it is kind of naughty to keep trying to troll any article which mentions the term “living wage” with the same objections.

To pick up where we left off:

“is it really the case that high morale is a zero sum game and that staff morale amongst cleaners wouldn’t increase if all cleaners were paid a living wage?

You’ve moved from economic theory (theory where, contra Worstall but in line with the real world, the centrist consensus is that “the effects are small and swamped by other forces”) to anecdotes and question dodging. I can see why you find this discussion annoying.”

G.O.

One slightly troubling thing, though, is that Ed M on the channel 4 debate said that he wasn’t going to set out what his preferred ratio of tax rises: spending cuts was.

This makes political sense in terms of the leadership election, but it is going to be the obvious first question about our response to the CSR, and there aren’t any easy answers:

1. Stick with Darling’s plans and accept the bulk of the cuts (though can always change course because Labour’s plans depended on the state of the economy, unlike Osborne’s).

2. Pay down the deficit over a longer period like Ed Balls.

3. Go for a different ratio of spending cuts: tax rises. Then we have to explain what taxes we would raise (particularly if we want to reverse the VAT cut).

I don’t actually know which of these Ed M would go for. And getting the answer wrong could be very very bad for us.

“I think it’s difficult to be sure about what a politician believes, deep down, from statements they make in the heat of campaign.”

But there is also their record as a minister to help us decide. David M brought in the Climate Change Act, Building Schools for the Future, sensible ideas about how to improve local government, and stayed clear of the ultra-Blairite drivel on public sector “reform”. It is hard to imagine him doing the knuckle-dragging authoritarian stuff either.

I worry that if Ed M wins, the Blairites [defined here as the friends of Tony Blair, rather than everyone on the right of the party] will immediately throw all their toys out of the pram and have an absolutely colossal tantrum which will mean either that Ed has to shift to appease them, or the party gets dragged down into civil war. They are much less likely to do that to David. If we’re getting roughly the same set of policies, plus a whole approach to local organising which over the next few years will weaken the Blairites, then I think that gives us the best chance in government.

The alternative view, which I understand, is that the Blairites are in fact so poisonous that it is worth fighting a civil war to get rid of them, a la the Militant Tendency. But I think this is last resort option – hopefully with time most of them will get bored and drift away, and with each year that passes they become a smaller and more irrelevant group.

@ Don OP

“I think it is an enormously encouraging sign that the so-called “heir to Blair”, “continuity New Labour” candidate for the Labour leadership believes in…”

I think it is enormously DIScouraging that you feel the best that is on offer, and perhaps worse the best actual option, is someone that you can describe as an heir to Blair or continuity Blair without throwing up.

However much he might now try to distance himself from the nauseating New Labour project, or however fast he rows to put some clear pink water between him and his past, none of the policies he now supports makes me think he’d be a good party leader, still less a good PM in the (hopefully) unlikely event he ever got the chance.

So-called leftie in Labour supports most right-wing candidate – I think that says all that needs to be said about Labour and how it won’t ever offer anything to the “left”

No mention of all that torture stuff David Miliband endorsed whilst foreign secretary?

“So-called leftie in Labour supports most right-wing candidate – I think that says all that needs to be said about Labour and how it won’t ever offer anything to the “left””

Mhm.

Your party wants to make people homeless by cutting their housing benefit in a cruel attempt to use the threat of destitution to force them into work.

David Miliband wants to tax people who own homes worth more than £2 million a little bit in order to reverse these cuts. Just like the Lib Dems used to believe, one month before year zero.

Which do you support?

(theory where, contra Worstall but in line with the real world, the centrist consensus is that “the effects are small and swamped by other forces”)

Err, no, that isn’t “contra Worstall” at all.

My point was actually this: that at the level the minimum wage was introduced the effects were small and swamped by other forces (see Chris Dillow on the Low Pay Commission report).

And everyone, but everyone, agrees that there is a point at which the effects won’t be small and will not be swamped by other forces. To be absurd for a moment, £100 an hour minimum wage would indeed put the vast majority of the labour force on the dole.

So, what Worstall actually said was, where is the dividing line? Where is that point at which effects become large and not swamped?

From Worthwhile Canadian Initiative (yes, a very good indeed economics blog, just like Chris Dillow) we seem to find that it’s about 45% of median wages which is that point or line. And moving from the current minimum to the proposed living wage takes us from under or about to over that line…..

Please don’t forget the third rule of economics (the first two being incentives matter and TANSTAAFL), the answer to almost every question is “it depends”.

“I don’t actually know which of these Ed M would go for”

He’s been fairly clear at his meetings that he broadly supports the Ed Balls line, that in the short to medium term the way to get the deficit down is to ensure that the economy grows. Or that’s what I’ve taken away from them, at least.

Meh. The way I see it Ed has had the wisdom to apologise for the catastrophe in Iraq and the assaults on civil libs caused by new Lab over the past few years and wants to set the party of on the right (no homophone intended) direction. Dave has done nothing of the sort and when in gov aquiesced (sp) in torture…

17. Chaise Guevara

If by “believes in marriage equality for same sex couples” you actually mean “probably has no problem with gay marriage but is too much of a coward to publically support it until all his opponents do so before him and he’s left looking like a political dinosaur with no convictions…”

Then yes.

“From Worthwhile Canadian Initiative (yes, a very good indeed economics blog, just like Chris Dillow) we seem to find that it’s about 45% of median wages which is that point or line. And moving from the current minimum to the proposed living wage takes us from under or about to over that line…..”

That’s interesting.

From ONS, 45% of median earnings in London is £8.06 per hour (slightly higher than LLW), though as you say, lower in other parts of the country.

This is where we also need the Worstall/Paskini policy of cutting taxes for lower earners, which would in turn lower the Living Wage threshold 🙂

“To be absurd for a moment, £100 an hour minimum wage would indeed put the vast majority of the labour force on the dole.”

Or it would be inflationary. Which at the moment wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing.

“This is where we also need the Worstall/Paskini policy of cutting taxes for lower earners, which would in turn lower the Living Wage threshold”

Indeed, if we actually did the Worstall/ASI/Oxfam thing of tying the NI and personal allowance to the minimum wage then the current minimum wage would be that living wage….

As I have repeatedly pointed out.

the labour right can defect if they wish, many people have left the labour party or have given their vote elsewhere because in trying to unite right and left they have missed the mark. The Labour party is a left wing party with focus, it is not club house trying to please the loudest or most influential people, it is a democratic socialist party – right wingers hop it.

Don –

“3. Go for a different ratio of spending cuts: tax rises. Then we have to explain what taxes we would raise (particularly if we want to reverse the VAT cut).”

But as noted, you’re only talking about maybe £3.5 billion of extra tax rises (from an existing £19 billion to £22.5 billion, say). So a couple of headline policies – Mansion Tax, bank levy – would suffice.

On VAT, we’d simply have to announce our intention to reverse the Coalition’s own regressive tax cuts (the threshold rise, corporation tax cuts etc.), which if memory serves were worth around £12.5 billion in total – this was covered at Left Foot Forward. As a slightly harder sell, we could also propose to reverse the £2.5 billion rise in Child Tax Credits for the poorest (given that the aim of that policy was simply to soften the effect of the VAT hike.)

If David were elected leader, the main pressure which he would face would be to win over and enthuse the people who supported his brother or Ed Balls.

To be honest I doubt it – his supporters will see it as a sign that their policies and views have won the intellectual / political battle. And they’ll continue to ignore the left.

It would be far easier to try and get Ed to live up to promises he made than to David on promises he never made or will make.

24. Chris Baldwin

Don, what about Iraq?

Probably the best, most balanced article I’ve read on the Labour leadership contest so far. Nice one Don.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    http://liberalconspiracy.org/2010/09/03/17327/

  2. Louise Johnson

    RT @libcon: http://bit.ly/cLoHxv

  3. Liz K

    RT @libcon: http://bit.ly/cLoHxv

  4. John Halton

    RT @libcon: http://bit.ly/cLoHxv /// Don Paskini on why he's supporting @DMiliband – though he thinks @Ed_Miliband will win.

  5. David Morris

    Persuasive and interesting. http://liberalconspiracy.org/2010/09/03/17327/ I for one cannot make up my mind about Labour atm.

  6. Hal Berstram

    Don Paskini in Liberal Conspiracy offers best & most balanced assessment I've yet seen of the Lab leadership campaign – http://bit.ly/d8Lt9L

  7. Ali

    Hmm. http://tinyurl.com/2vhpz3e http://tinyurl.com/3yc7aev





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