Labour leader promises more ’tough settlements for public services’
With anger rising against the government coalition’s austerity programme, Labour is riding high in the opinion polls.
But there certainly isn’t any enthusiasm for Labour leader Ed Miliband as a future prime minister. In fact he has a lower personal approval rating than Tory leader David Cameron!
His speech at the Labour Party conference was seen as chance to re-launch his "vision".
He has been praised for his confident delivery but beyond his ability to memorise a speech and which school he went to, what have we learnt about Ed Miliband? More importantly for those drowning in Con-Dem cuts and privatisation, what would a Labour government do differently? Certainly those hoping for any new ideas will have been disappointed.
The main theme of the speech – ’One Nation’ – was the rehashing of an old idea, and an old Tory idea at that. In fact it was first raised by Tory leader Benjamin Disraeli 140 years ago.
Miliband considers himself a One Nation politician and he made sure we knew, using the phrase 46 times in his speech! He was forced to reflect the worries of ordinary people, the millions of us who can’t find work or are struggling to make ends meet.
He correctly said that the system doesn’t work for them. But the idea of ’One Nation’ cannot square the opposing interests of workers trying to improve their pay and bosses who are trying to cut it.
We live under capitalism, a system where society is divided up in to classes. Rarely is this more obvious than now when the super-rich are continuing to rake it in while working class people are expected to pay for their crisis.
With four out of five ministers in this government being millionaires it is clear who they represent.
Bosses are getting cuts to their tax and to health and safety regulations, we’re getting cuts to our pay, jobs and services.
Unfortunately, what little concrete proposals there were in Miliband’s speech made clear that fundamentally Labour will continue with the same agenda.
Listening to other speeches at the conference confirms this. Labour’s only alternative to austerity is slightly slower austerity.
In many local councils Labour councillors are already implementing huge cuts. They are another party of big business.
The ’One Nation’ rhetoric is simply a way of masking their true intent, as the claim "we’re all in it together" or the idea of the ’Big Society’ were for Cameron.
Dave Prentis, general secretary of Labour-affiliated trade union Unison, although a Labour supporter was forced to concede that the speech "offered little hope to the millions of low-paid public service workers … who are going through massive pay cuts, their jobs threatened and their services privatised." In fact Miliband did offer them something: "Tough settlements for the public services and that will make life harder for those who use them and harder for those who work in them."
Ed Miliband was elected Labour leader two years ago, largely by the votes of trade unionists. Many hoped that he would lead a return to ’Old Labour’.
This hasn’t happened. Now members of Labour-affiliated unions should be asking why their money is still going to a party that doesn’t represent them.
We desperately need a party that will stand up for working-class and middle-class people.
The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), supported by the RMT transport union and a number of leading trade unionists in other unions is an important step towards such a party.
TUSC candidates will stand in the Manchester Central byelection and the Bristol mayoral election in November on a clear programme of implacable opposition to all cuts.
Workers don’t need pious speeches about how hard things are, they need support when they fight back. TUSC supporters are proud to stand on picket lines with workers defending their standards of living. There’s no attempt to hide whose interests we stand for – it is the 99%.