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Star Comment: Ed’s first step in a fightback

Miliband was right to make challenging inequality the key plank of his fightback speech

ED MILIBAND was right to make challenging inequality the key plank of his fightback speech yesterday.

The Labour leader’s call for party members to “focus our eyes on the prize of changing this country” should shame the Blairite goons trying to undermine him into shutting up for a while.

And, coming so shortly after shadow health secretary Andy Burnham’s reference to “vested interests” lurking behind attacks on the opposition, Miliband is correct to identify the fear of a Labour victory as the motive for increasingly hysterical attacks on him personally.

But winning over his own party will not be enough to get that victory.

Miliband talked very well about what is wrong with Britain — and the roll-call of problems imply that he is beginning to understand that a challenge to Con-Dem Britain can only be mounted from the left.

Pledges to tackle zero-hours contracts and low pay speak to millions of British workers.

And there was clear red water between yesterday’s speech and the new Labour nonsense that has shrivelled the party and decimated its support since the 1990s. Tony Blair would not have attacked soaring pay for company bosses as Miliband did yesterday.


Nor would he have challenged “the idea that markets will always get the right outcome.”

Miliband’s attacks on the Tories for seeing no problem with inequality hit home, and taking the fight to Ukip over its medieval attitude to women’s rights and not-so-secret plans to privatise the health service was overdue.

“The Tories have no answers to the discontent people feel. Ukip have wildly wrong answers to that discontent,” he declared.

What he has yet to clarify, however, is whether Labour has the answers people are looking for.

Identifying the problems is only the beginning. The most welcome commitments in the speech had been given before — repealing Andrew Lansley’s NHS-wrecking Health and Social Care Act, scrapping the bedroom tax and freezing energy bills.

They are all important, but Labour needs to get a lot more radical if it is to turn anger at the Establishment into votes for what most people see, with good reason, as just another Establishment party.

Other pledges do not go far enough.

Building 200,000 new homes a year falls way short of demand.

The £8 minimum wage pledge is undermined by Labour’s feeble decision to introduce it gradually over five years, by which point much of the value of the increase will have been eaten away by inflation.


And “reforming” banks should mean nationalisation so Britain’s financial sector can be used to invest in restructuring our economy, but in Labour’s playbook it clearly doesn’t.

Miliband says he is about “big reform, not big spending,” repeating the Tory lie that Britain is broke rather than addressing the key question: who owns Britain’s wealth?

Clearly he seeks to fend off accusations that Labour will spend beyond the country’s means, accusations all too common in the Tory press.

But in doing so he feeds the myth that public-sector spending caused the economic crash when in fact it — with the bulk of Britain’s debt — was the result of reckless financial gambling by the big banks and their subsequent bail-out by the public.

He would do better to pick apart the Conservatives’ reputation for fiscal prudence by pointing to the vast sums that are spent on subsidising the privatised railways, outsourcing huge chunks of the NHS and bombing foreign countries.

Miliband has come out fighting, and he didn’t do a bad job yesterday. But there still isn’t enough red meat in the Labour sandwich to seal the deal next year.


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