David Miliband’s father was a Marxist academic who, throughout his writing career, was sceptical of the Labour Party; it wasn’t Left enough and conceded too much to vested interests, opting for a ‘Labourist’ platform with trade unions and the coalition of Christian Socialists, New Liberals and Fabians within the Labour Party. Given that, what would he make of his son David's manifesto in today’s Guardian, I wonder?
Two things come clear from Miliband’s article. The first is that they’re still intent on running a negative campaign against the Conservatives to smother their big government record. Miliband posts question after question about what the Conservatives stand for. In his analysis Miliband strikes a confused line, stating the Tories as both reactionary (opposing most of the social legislation brought forth by Labour) and as an empty vessel. If that’s strategy, Miliband better opt out of the Labour leadership. Labour’s campaign in Crewe, fighting a vicious class war, failed miserably. Some people, clearly, never learn.
The intriguing parts come when Miliband attempts to espouse what Labour stand for. On public services, he asserts that NHS reform should have been implemented sooner. This, when we look at Labour’s ‘super surgery’ policy as well as years of promised reform, shows how Labour's record is wrapped in a rhetoric of change without any real delivery and choice in our public services.
On tax, Miliband wades into the Brown stuff. Triumphantly lauding the windfall tax on privatised industries, he still charts an unpopular high-tax and regulatory course. Did he not listen when Denis McShane and Gisela Stuart – both Labour MPs – called for lower taxes? Was it not a warning when Shire Pharmaceuticals announced they were leaving the UK owing to our high tax burden? From all this you can only assume an Oxford and Harvard education isn’t what it used to be.
On immigration and asylum he claims success, despite rising numbers of new entrants. On crime he asserts a fall in offences. We'd know this for sure if the government had acted sooner to introduce crime mapping. On the same issue – again exposing the contradiction within his desire to decentralise – there is nothing about allowing communities to hold police chiefs to account as the Direct Democracy group has argued.
The whole thing reads like an apologia rather than a leadership bid. The muddled analytical confusion – not just of the Tories, but of the current situation within the British political economy – shows how the contradictions in New Labour are coming to fruition and opens the way for a Left critique and definite challenge should Miliband stand.