Miliband’s pledge on minimum wages is a slap in the face for ‘trickle-down’ Tories

Boosting living standards and the economy: Ed Miliband announces his plan to increase the minimum wage at the Labour Women's Conference [Image: Reuters].

Boosting living standards and the economy: Ed Miliband announces his plan to increase the minimum wage at the Labour Women’s Conference [Image: Reuters].

Ed Miliband has the right idea: Increase the minimum amount working people are paid and the economy will grow faster and more sustainably than under any measure of the failed Coalition government.

His plan, announced at the Labour Women’s Conference yesterday, also lays down the gauntlet to the Conservatives: Will they match the pledge, or whine that it is unsupportable while their executive donors slither away to enjoy their inflation-busting salary increases (FTSE-100 bosses: 14 per cent per year; bankers 35 per cent; MPs will soon get an 11 per cent rise).

Boosting the minimum wage to £8 per hour during the next Parliament, providing a pay increase of about £60 per week to Britain’s lowest-paid, is a headline-grabbing scheme but once again it is the percentages that matter.

Mr Miliband wants minimum wages to reach 58 per cent of the average (from 54 per cent now) by 2020 – and then 60 per cent in the next Parliament. If you think that’s a pipe dream just remember that, if wages had remained proportionate to the situation in 1986, the minimum would currently be £18.89.

The policy is entwined with a commitment to promote the Living Wage that has recently seen Powys County Council, local authority to Yr Obdt Srvt, announce that its lowest-paid workers are to receive it, starting in the near future. The policy was put forward by the council’s Labour group and has been approved by the ruling independents.

Conservative councillors have reportedly ‘called in’ the decision, claiming that the authority has neither the funds nor the right to make such a decision. They are wrong about both, and will make fools of themselves by fighting the inevitable.

What about the national situation? Mr Miliband agrees with Vox Political that the Conservative-led Coalition’s much-mentioned ‘Long-Term Plan’ is a nightmare for the poorly-paid. George Osborne’s first decision as Chancellor was to stall economic growth for three long years; now he is telling us that the economy is picking up but all we see is the longest fall in living standards created by any government in the last 100 years, with wage rises intentionally pegged lower than inflation to provide increasingly less purchasing power for the poor.

Miliband says he wants government to set out a long-term policy on wages that gives businesses time to plan and adapt to boost productivity and support higher wages – with a safeguard built in, allowing the Low Pay Commission to advise if the goal cannot be met without risking jobs and growth in the fact of economic shocks.

Minimum wage hotspots across the country

The Tories appear to have no opposition to the plan, other than a weak appeal to an old narrative that nobody believes any more: “Labour left our… economy on its knees – and would do it all over again.”

The BBC quoted Tory Culture Secretary Sajid Javid, who claimed people – presumably he meant Tories – would not take “lectures” from Labour on helping people on low pay.

“By crashing the economy, Labour made everyone poorer and they haven’t learnt their lesson,” he said, mouthing the old lie yet again. “Ed Miliband would make people worse off with the same failed policies that got us into a mess in the first place” – policies that were rebuilding the economy in early 2010, before Javid’s former boss George Osborne turned up and trashed it.

No. The Conservatives have put the UK on its back and are carving up the body and selling it off to private-industry cannibals. This piecemeal parcelling-off of our industry and services will leave us with nothing – as has been the intention ever since Margaret Thatcher came to office in 1979.

It seems the Liberal Democrats want to “help” lower-paid workers with tax cuts, continuing the work they have done over the last four years to undermine the UK’s ability to pay its debts. Nice one, yellow perils!

Oh, and some goon called Mark Littlewood, from the free-market (read: neoliberal) thinktank the Institute of Economic Affairs reckons the move will be “dangerous” for the economy. Thanks for that, Mark. Shame you didn’t put any flesh on the skeleton of your argument.

It is Day One of the Labour Conference and already David Cameron is on his back foot. Three more days of this and he’ll simply be on his back.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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11 thoughts on “Miliband’s pledge on minimum wages is a slap in the face for ‘trickle-down’ Tories

  1. Penny Ledger

    Imagine the impact on your community of all low paid workers having an extra £60 to spend, mostly on local goods and services. Imagine people being able to pay their way without means-tested top-up benefits.

    1. Chris Mckenzie

      Left Unity press release –
      Salman Shaheen of left wing political party Left Unity said:
      “Labour says the minimum wage wouldn’t reach £8 per hour until 2020. It will be £6.50 on 1 October this year. That is a rise of just £1.50 – or 25 pence per year.
      “That is peanuts.
      “People need a living wage. With the rise in the cost of living we believe the minimum wage should be at least £10 per hour.
      “MPs are in line for a 10 per cent pay rise. We challenge Ed Miliband to only take a pay rise of 25 pence for the next six years. He can donate the rest to labour movement causes.”

      1. Mike Sivier Post author

        At £8, the minimum wage would exceed the current living wage (outside London) and would be just 80p lower than the living wage inside London.

      2. Florence


        What’s the alternative? Wait for the revolution? I’d love to, but in real terms people are hungry now. Once in power the Labour party will be able to do many things, (or not, if you hear the nay-sayers) but this is a message of hope and intent. We have to be pragmatic and there is a fine line between promising the possible and keeping the majority onside, or being realistic about what is REALLY needed, which could then be used to defeat them. And yes, there is little alternative to a vote for Labour to improve all our lives in a general election. Let’s not give the opportunity away because it’s not exactly what we want.

        In the text of the speech, it is implied that the £8 may be at today’s values, and moved in line with the expected movement on real wages. Industry & banking are behind the move to pay more because poverty pay is crippling our economies, and lives. Game on.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Council workers. It was on the front page of this week’s (September 18) edition of the Brecon and Radnor Express.

  2. Nick

    that’s a good start i have always felt it wrong for someone to start a business and then go on to exploit the employee with a low wage

    To me that should never be allowed if you cant pay a proper wage then you should do the honourable thing and stay out of business as any fool can start a business up paying peanuts at the expense of the taxpayer who then have to have there wage topped up with tax credits

  3. Nick

    of course business leaders will say that costs will have to up to pay for the shortfall in profits but that is only because the top man wants an excessive amount of profit for himself and where applicable the shareholders

    the best approach is to raise the tax threshold to take the low earner out of tax and to increase the top tax rate to 50 pence in the pound who earn over £100’000 per year to cut out the greed and selfishness on the high earners who after all are only one link in the chain of a business who make the country’s wealth

    the overall wealth should be shared equally between all of the people and not just the few who think that they deserve more because they don’t

    without those at the bottom like cleaners you have no business in the first place as nothing could function and the country would grind to a halt so the public need to get wise to these basic facts of life and not like they do at present turn a blind eye and pretend they have more to offer just because they have had a better education or they have had better luck in life

    remember there are no celebrity’s/ entrepreneurs on a mortuary slab the public across the world are all equal

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      You should already know my response but I’ll repeat it anyway: An increase to 58 per cent of average wage – and then 60 per cent – is better than anything else being offered (unless you count the Greens, and they could offer the Earth in the security of knowing they’d never have to make good on that offer).

  4. Mr.Angry

    Good on you Ed keep this up, it is what Joe public wants to hear, we are all sick of austerity and not being able to keep up with ever-rising costs. Shame on these evil tories who want to keep everyone bar themselves poor and subservient. This is the start of what voters want to hear. Keep up the pressure and give us back what Labour once stood for.

    Maybe there is a future for normal folk, not just the elite.

Comments are closed.