Tag Archives: price freeze

Why is Labour always offering too little, too late?

Announcement or admission: Labour's announcement, as it appeared on Facebook.

Announcement or admission: Labour’s announcement, as it appeared on Facebook.

A future Labour government would cap rent increases, the party has announced – around a year and a half late.

The Coalition government has chosen to keep Housing Benefit down by making it the first payment to be reduced as part of the benefit cap, and Labour’s announcement should rightly be seen as a response to this.

But the benefit cap was announced in the mists of history, back in 2012 or thereabouts, so why has Labour only just got around to telling us its counter-proposal? The rest of us were screaming it from the rooftops at the time.

Coming so late, it seems less that this policy has been announced, and more that it has been admitted.

Perhaps this is the influence of new election advisor David Axelrod, and maybe it signals the start of regular announcements in the run-up to the general election next year. If so, this would go some way towards saving Ed Miliband’s blushes.

Certainly today we were presented with a 10-step ‘cost of living’ contract, stuffed with promises Labour has made to help beleaguered consumers keep prices down – and these are (mostly) good steps.

First is the popular scheme to freeze gas and electricity bills while the energy market is reformed.

Then there’s Labour’s plan to have 200,000 new homes built every year by 2020, relieving the housing shortage and lowering the cost of a new home.

Next comes the rent cap, plus a pledge to help families that rent plan for the future with new, long-term, predictable tenancies.

There’s the pledge to cut income tax with a 10p starting tax rate. This may be seen as an admission that Labour’s decision to end the original 10p tax rate (even though I seem to recall it was intended to be temporary) was a mistake. But isn’t it better to admit our mistakes, put them right, and move on? The plan to restore the 50p top rate has been lambasted by posh Tories and business executives, who say it won’t achieve anything (they would, wouldn’t they?) but is a good symbolic gesture.

Fifth is a pledge to ban zero-hour contracts altogether. This may seem problematic, as the evidence shows that there are working people who benefit from these contracts’ flexibility. The trouble is that unscrupulous firms were using these contracts to exploit workers who deserved better from them. Labour’s attitude – that these firms will have to manage without them if they won’t use them properly – is a bit ‘nannyish’ but makes a strong point.

Then comes Labour’s pledge to “Make work pay”. Some may criticise the use of words that have been tainted by Conservative spin. The Tories want you to believe that they’ll “make work pay” by cutting out-of-work and in-work benefits, but we all know that this won’t make anybody better-off; quite the opposite. Labour’s idea is to boost the minimum wage and encourage firms that are able, to increase their pay rates to the Living Wage, cutting the benefit bill that way.

Seventh is a little-known plan to cut business rates and make banks lend to small businesses (at least, that’s the only interpretation of “reforming the banks” that makes any sense in this context).

There’s a pledge to give working parents 25 hours’ free childcare (presumably this is per week) for kids aged three and four, and one to tackle abuses of immigrant workers by banning recruitment agencies that only hire people from abroad and pushing Europe for stronger controls. This would present problems for the Conservative-run NHS, as the BBC News has just announced that it is recruiting heavily from Portugal!

Finally we have the weakest promise – the job guarantee for the young unemployed, coupled with more apprenticeships. This has been met with opposition from the very people who were expected to welcome it, as it seems nobody outside the Labour front bench believes it has the remotest chance of success.

Unmentioned is Labour’s plan to change the assessment system for sickness and disability benefit ESA, which earned instant toxicity because it sports only cosmetic differences from the current Conservative scheme that has been fatal for thousands. The plan was announced at around the same time as a Labour inquiry into these benefits called for preventative investment that the party leadership is unwilling to countenance, and a group of mostly-disabled people called Spartacus provided a far more enlightening overview of the problems with the benefit, and the steps needed to remedy them, that clashed with what Labour is saying.

More concerning still is the fact that all of these measures are responses to Coalition policies that have harmed people during the course of this Parliament – or situations that the Tories and Tory Democrats have allowed to continue because they support the overall plan.

Where is the inspiration to transform Britain and return prosperity to everybody, rather than limiting it to people who own smart suits and big houses? When can we expect a hint that this is coming?

Unless you are one of the aforementioned people with smart suits and big houses, the Conservatives sidled into government with a plan to diddle you out of as many of your Parliament-supported rights, privileges and benefits as they could possibly fit into a five-year term in office, all the while telling you it was for your own good.

As you can tell from today’s previous Vox Political article, that has gone astonishingly well for them.

Of course, the Tories didn’t announce this plan, because they knew it would turn the electorate away in their millions – the classic example of this in practice is the way Andrew Lansley was forbidden from mentioning his privatisation plan for the National Health Service, as this would be toxic to the Tory election campaign.

But times have changed. People are suffering. They need Labour to offer something more than a promise to rub ointment on their wounds.

They want to see Labour turn the tables on the Tories. And they want to know how that’s to be achieved.

Saying Labour will “transform Britain” won’t work as we’ve all heard about such miraculous transformations before, and they have always benefited the suit-and-house people.

So come on, Ed.

When can we have it?

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

Join the Vox Political Facebook page.

Vox Political needs your help!
This independent blog’s only funding comes from readers’ contributions.
Without YOUR help, we cannot keep going.
You can make a one-off donation here:

Donate Button with Credit Cards

Alternatively, you can buy the first Vox Political book,
Strong Words and Hard Times
in either print or eBook format here:

SWAHTprint SWAHTeBook

The Tories have run out of momentum, ideas and even arguments

Old Labour: Oversaw the longest periods of economic growth in British history and DIDN'T cause the biggest crash (that was neoliberalism, beloved of Conservatives). There is nothing wrong with it.

Old Labour: Oversaw the longest periods of economic growth in British history and DIDN’T cause the biggest crash (that was neoliberalism, beloved of Conservatives). There is nothing wrong with it.

Dear old Fraser Nelson has been trying to generate some momentum against Ed Miliband’s plans for a Labour government.

But, bless ‘im, not only did he hit the nail on the head when he wrote (in The Spectator), “Tories seem to have lost interest in ideas”, he might just as well have been talking about the Tory press because – other than the parts in which he praises Miliband for his political acumen and perception, Fraser has nothing new to say at all.

“Why, if he is such a joke, has Labour led in the opinion polls for three years solidly? And why has he been the bookmakers’ favourite to win the next general election for even longer?” These are the questions Fraser asks, and then goes on to answer in the most glowing terms possible.

“His agenda is clear, radical, populist and … popular. His speeches are intellectually coherent, and clearly address the new problems of inequality,” writes Fraser.

“His analysis is potent because he correctly identifies the problem. There is [a] major problem with the recovery, he says, in that the spoils are going to the richest, and it’s time to act… George Osborne does not talk about this. He prefers to avoid the wider issue of inequality. This leaves one of the most interesting debates of our times entirely open to Miliband.”

All of the above is a gift to the Labour leadership. Fraser has scored a huge own-goal by admitting the Labour leader – far from being “a joke”, has correctly identified the problem and can say what he likes because the Tories won’t even discuss it!

Worse still (for Fraser), he seems to think that telling us Ed Miliband is mining Labour’s past policies to get future success will put us off.

Hasn’t anybody told Fraser – yet – that it is current neoliberal policies, as practised by both Labour and the Tories, that caused the crash of 2007 onwards? With that as our context, why not go back and resurrect policies that offer a plausible alternative?

As a Conservative, Fraser should appreciate the irony that it is Labour who are now looking at the past to create the future.

“The philosophical underpinning is rehabilitated: that the free enterprise system does not work, and should be put under greater government control,” writes Fraser. “That companies, bankers and markets have buggered up Britain — and it’s time for people, through Big Government, to fight back.” Who could argue with that?

Then Fraser goes into some of those policies, like the plan to revive the 50 per cent tax rate. “But Miliband isn’t taxing for revenue. He’s taxing for the applause of the electorate and he calculates that the more he beats up on bankers and the rich, the louder the masses will cheer.” The answer to that is yes! What’s wrong with that? The Coalition came into office on a ticket that said bankers would pay for the damage they caused, and yet bankers have been among the principal beneficiaries of the ongoing raid on the public finances that the Coalition calls its “long-term economic plan”. In the face of dishonesty on that scale, Fraser should be more surprised that the North hasn’t invaded the Square Mile and strung anybody in a suit up on a lamppost – yet.

Next up, Fraser tries to attack Miliband’s proposed revival of a Kinnock plan for a state-run ‘British Investment Bank’ and two new high street bank chains. To this writer, the prospect of two new, state-run and regulated, banks is a brilliant idea! No more rip-off charges for services that should be free! Investment in growth, rather than short-term profit! And all run the way banks should be run – prudently and with the interests of the customer – rather than the shareholder – at heart. How can Fraser (bless ‘im) argue with that?

Argue he does. He writes: “As Simon Walker, head of the Institute of Directors, put it: ‘The last time the government told a bank what to do, Lloyds was ordered to sell branches to the Co-op’s Reverend Flowers. And we all know how that ended.’ Wrong. European regulators ordered the government (then principle shareholder in Lloyds) to sell the branches, and it happened on the Coalition government’s watch. In fact, George Osborne welcomed the deal. That’s an argument against Conservative mismanagement.

Fraser goes on to claim that Miliband doesn’t care how his bank project will work out – he just wants it done. He’s on an ideological crusade. Again, this provokes comparisons with the Tories that are (for the Tories) extremely uncomfortable. The Tories (and their little yellow Tory Democrat friends) have spent the last four years on an ideological crusade that has robbed the poorest people in the UK of almost everything they have, and are now starting to attack people who are better off (but still not posh enough) – they can hardly criticise Labour for having an ideology of its own.

The line about green policies which cost nine jobs for every four created – in Spain – is risible. Fraser has chosen a country where green policies have not worked well. How are they managing in Scandinavia?

Fraser says Labour’s energy price freeze “magically” makes good a 1983 pledge for everyone to afford adequate heat and light at home – without commenting on the fact that energy companies have been ripping us all off for many years and failing to invest in the future of power generation; they are an example of the worst kind of industrial privatisation.

Fraser says Labour has revived a 1983 demand for “a supply of appropriately qualified teachers” as though that is a bad idea (it isn’t. Bringing in unqualified people to act as teachers in Michael Gove’s silly ‘free schools’ sandpit was the bad idea). Note he says Labour wants “union-approved” qualified teachers – depending on mention of the unions to get a knee-jerk reaction from his readers, no doubt.

Fraser says Miliband attacks “predator” companies – moneylenders who offer short-term loans; people who make fixed-odds betting machines; landowners who stand accused of hoarding and thwarting housebuilding. “When Miliband talks about the future, he says very little about what he’d do with government. He talks about what he’d do to British business. All this amounts to a blitz of regulation, edicts and interference,” he writes.

This is to suggest that “regulation” is a dirty word – a synonym for “interference”. Let’s help Fraser out by suggesting a word he can use instead of “regulation” or “interference”.

That word is “help” – and it exemplifies what regulation is, in fact, about – helping companies to provide the best service possible, with the least possible corruption or profiteering, to ensure that customers get what they want and are happy to come back – boosting prosperity for everybody.

Substitute that word for the others and Fraser’s remaining rhetoric looks very different:

“All this amounts to a blitz of help” evokes the response, about time too!

“[Tristram] Hunt does not pretend that help at this level is being attempted in any free country” begs the question, why not?

While Fraser may have set out to write an assassination piece on Ed Miliband’s Labour, there can be no doubt that he ended up doing the exact opposite. It wasn’t his intention – look at his final few lines: “Miliband is bold enough to think that, in a country midway through the worst recovery in history, there may be a market for all this now. And most terrifyingly of all, he might be right.”

This botched attempt at scaremongering only exposes right-wing ideology for what it is: Out-argued, outclassed and badly out-of-step with the thoughts of the British people.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

Join the Vox Political Facebook page.

Vox Political needs your help!
This independent blog’s only funding comes from readers’ contributions.
Without YOUR help, we cannot keep going.
You can make a one-off donation here:

Donate Button with Credit Cards

Alternatively, you can buy the first Vox Political book,
Strong Words and Hard Times
in either print or eBook format here:

SWAHTprint SWAHTeBook