It looks increasingly likely that David Cameron will go into the 2015 general election as the first prime minister in living memory to leave the country less well off in real terms than when he took office.
As we reported yesterday, living standards have been sinking fast over the course of this parliament, and with the economy blighted by high inflation, the squeezed middle will be squashed even further between the twin evils of frozen wages and rising prices before the country goes to the polls in 2015.
We on the left have identified what the problem is – the government’s ‘Plan A’, as was predicted by many (including the shadow chancellor), has left the economy in a noticeably more fragile state than it was in when the coalition took office in 2010.
George Osborne was warned he could not take billions out of the economy without it effecting unemployment and growth. He was warned and he chose to ignore the warnings in favour of an ideologically-driven plan to radically shrink the state.
The result is a flat-lining economy that only narrowly missed a triple-dip recession.
Ironically the deficit – i.e. public sector net borrowing – which has been thrown at Labour whenever it has dared to criticise the government, has gone up – it was £15.4bn in December 2012, £0.6bn higher than in December 2011.
And yet still Osborne continues with his failed strategy.
To paraphrase John Maynard Keynes: to suggest to George Osborne an economic alternative is like discussing The Origin of Species with a Bishop 100 years ago.
It is against this backdrop that Ed Miliband will today give a taste of the Labour alternative.
Speaking in Bedford, where in 1957 former tory prime minister Harold MacMillan gave his famous ‘never had it so good’ speech, Miliband will contrast the seemingly boundless optimism of the MacMillan era with the bleak outlook facing hard working families today, where the life chances of the many are held back by a government hellbent on sticking to its failed policies.
Importantly, Miliband will highlight the way in which the coalition’s economic agenda is benefiting only a small section of the electorate rather than the majority of working people – the people who have built and sustained Britain’s economic success.
Turning his ire to the economic consensus which has predominated in Britain since the time of Margaret Thatcher, Miliband will point out that over the last three decades an entire half of the population has earned less than 15 pence of every additional pound Britain has made, while 24 pence in every pound has gone to the top 1% of earners.
He will also highlight what many consider to be one of the government’s weak spots – its gift of a tax break to 13,000 millionaires who will each get a tax cut of £100,000 from this April.
As well as criticising coalition policy, which, let’s be honest, has become increasingly easy due to the government’s economic credulity, Miliband will also set out some of the things Labour will focus on if elected.
The priorities for a Labour government will be:
Reintroducing the 10p tax rate funded by a mansion tax, breaking the stranglehold of the big six energy suppliers, stopping the train company price rip-off, introducing new rules to stop unfair bank charges and capping interest on payday loans.
Miliband will also set out plans to work with companies to encourage a living wage, create a new technical baccaluarate to complement A-levels, and legislate to split up the banks if they don’t lend to small businesses.
As well as Miliband’s speech, today will also see the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) launch its research programme into the ‘Condition of Britain‘, which will be launched by John Cruddas in East London.
The eventual report which will come out of the investigation could be hugely influential on Labour’s long-term plans for social policy, providing a Labour alternative to David Cameron’s clapped out Big Society agenda. Think the pre-97 Social Justice Commission.
All in all today is a huge day for the Labour movement. Monday’s Guardian/ICM poll gave Labour a 12 point lead over the Tories for the first time in almost a decade.
It’s time to press home the advantage.
Left Foot Forward will have more on Ed Miliband’s speech and the Condition of Britain later today.