Talking to LFF, Ed Miliband said greater income equality should be an "explicit goal" for the party. He expressed his concern with the date of the planned AV referendum.
Ed Miliband is the third of the five leadership candidates to answer Left Foot Forward’s questions crowd-sourced with our readership. Over 45 minutes in his office in Westminster, the former Cabinet Minister expressed his concern with the date of the planned Alternative Vote referendum; set out his desire for greater income equality to be an “explicit goal” for the Labour party; and placed his faith in the party’s membership as “the link to the members of the public”.
Discussing Nick Clegg’s announcement this week of a referendum on May 5th next year, the younger Miliband brother set out that he shared his colleagues concerns with the date – which will coincide with the Scottish parliament and Welsh assembly elections – but said he was “more concerned about the sort of gerrymandering that is going on”. He outlined that he was not in favour of the proposal by Douglas Carswell for the public to be given a wider choice of voting systems. On the Coalition’s plans for five year fixed parliaments, he said, “Again this doesn’t keep me awake at night but I’m more sympathetic to four-year fixed terms.”
Turning to the economy, Mr Miliband said the Labour party “should take responsibility for the fact that our economy was too significantly based around financial services and then that made us, particularly our tax base, more exposed to the crash than it might otherwise have been.” He hinted that if elected leader he might consider a ratio of spending cuts to tax rises closer to 50:50 and set out that “whoever is the Labour leader will, by the time of the spending review, have to show that they have an alternative plan [for deficit reduction]”.
He stated that “it is important that [the pursuit of less income inequality] is an explicit goal” with policies like the living wage to help the lower paid “but also action at the top which is why I said we should have this high pay commission”. He said, “the fact that we are the most unequal society in western Europe, all of the evidence is it makes for less wellbeing, less happiness, all of those things, and so I think those things have to be addressed and have to change. And why does time matter, time at the workplace? It matters not just for people’s quality of life, it matters for their kids, and whether their kids are going to be part of gangs and gang culture.”
Turning to climate change, the former Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change suggested that the environmental movement had lost momentum after Copenhagen: “I think there does need to be more of a permanent movement, if you like, of climate change advocates. The movement sort of grew at the time, pre-Copenhagen, it’s sort of gone away and I think it needs to be maintained but I think you’ve got to appreciate that this is a long hard slog.”
Speaking frankly about his own candidacy for Labour leader, Mr Miliband said, “I want people with me head and heart in this leadership election because I actually think that I am the candidate who can speak to this question of values and what we stand for. I think I’m also the candidate who can best win people back, and it is a very complicated fractured electorate.” He suggested a three-point plan for party renewal based on “[creating] a movement that people can be proud of” , “building a party of change”, and spreading best practice on “organisational techniques” that have been effective. Of the party’s membership, he said, “let’s not make the mistake of thinking that party members are a sort of an eccentric breed who don’t actually provide the link to members of the electorate because they do.”
Read the full transcript below
The Conservatives are trying to frame the cuts as a consequence of “Labour’s debt crisis”. Do you think Labour has to take any of the blame at all for the financial crash and the subsequent recession?
I think that we should take responsibility for the fact that our economy was too significantly based around financial services and then that made us, particularly our tax base, more exposed to the crash than it might otherwise have been. But I think we should defend absolutely the fact that this was not a crisis of public sector irresponsibility, this was a crisis of banking sector irresponsibility, and I think it’s really important to say that, and the question now of course is where we go from here. So I think we can accept responsibility around financial regulation and I think we should accept responsibility that we need a broader industrial base but I don’t think we should accept responsibility that we spent too much or the usual clichés that the Tories and Liberals throw at us.
So where should we go from here?
I think there are three things that we’ve got to do, I think first of all we should not be cutting this year, and I think it’s so dangerous what they’re doing. Take the Building Schools for the Future example. That is going to be terrible for the construction industry, and that gives the lie to the idea that somehow these public sector jobs float in their own biosphere separate from the private sector.
Secondly, we do need to reduce the deficit although I do think we’ve got to take on the idea that the deficit is the only thing that matters in our society, because if you accept the idea that the deficit is the only thing that matters and it doesn’t matter what kind of society or what kind of economy we end up with at the end of all this, then you do end up going for this sort of mad cap deficit plan which they are employing.
Thirdly, you’ve got to have a different balance of tax and spending. We had a plan at the election which was a 2:1 ratio, they have an 80:20 plan, I think we need to look at what the right balance was. I point out that Norman Lamont had a 50:50 balance between taxation and spending to reduce the deficit. Growth is obviously a key to it as well. I think whoever is the Labour leader will, by the time of the spending review, have to show that they have an alternative plan, because I don’t think that we can just simply rest on where we were at the manifesto. I think we’ve got to show, looking at the way the figures have been updated, the way the fiscal position has changed, what’s happened in relation to our economy, that we’ve got an updated plan and I would make sure that we did that as the leader
Do you support the Labour government’s plans in the March Budget that there would be roughly £40 billion of spending cuts and £20 billion of tax rises?
I think we need to look at what the right mix is. I don’t think we should just simply say, that was what we said at the time of the election so we should automatically stick to it. I do think that, broadly speaking, the pace of deficit reduction was right, but I think you need to look at exactly what the right balance is given the way that the deficit numbers themselves will have changed. We need to look at the implications of that and I think that whoever is the leader will need to go through a process whereby they get to what their alternative is. So, as I say, I stick, broadly speaking, by the the four-year plan to halve the deficit, but I think it’s right to look. And that’s what I’m going to be doing over the coming period, to look at what the precisely the right balance is.
Do you have in mind some things which you look at and think ‘yes we could cut that, that would be OK’?
You mean do I have specific examples? I think you have to go through a process because I think anyone who pretends there are easy cuts out there is not telling the truth, I think all of us have to go through a process – and that’s what I’m going to do – of looking at where are the areas which cause least pain but I mean I don’t think we should pretend that it’s easy, because it’s not easy.
Does that process come before the leadership result or does that come between the announcement of a leader on September 25th and the spending review on October 20th or is it something that Labour does in response to the spending review?
The precise tactics are not something I will get into. I think all of us need to set out a clear sense of direction of how we’re going to oppose these cuts but I think certainly by the time of the spending review on October 20th Labour needs a pretty clear alternative way forward.
On the issue of growth. Do you have a sense of what a different sectoral mix in the economy would look like and what sort of industrial and innovation policies you need?
I think we were too exposed to financial services. It’s not just the fact that it made us financially exposed in terms of the tax base, I think it’s also that if you think about the old jobs of the past, some of the manufacturing jobs which have been lost, they haven’t been replaced by, in the main, high skill, high wage jobs. A lot of them have been replaced by low wage jobs, and there is a sort of social and economic implication of this. Now what is the solution? I think we started to go in the right direction in terms of an active industrial policy but we need to massively deepen and broaden that. Deepen it because frankly the scale of intervention was quite small, broaden it because I think we’ve got to think about the banking system in particular, and what does a banking system look like which is properly going to promote the kind of industrial base of the future. Personally I think it’s not a no-brainer that we should send the banks back into private ownership. There are mutual ideas, public-private ideas, I think we should think about all of those. We’ve got to wake up and recognise the historic British problem which was the dominance of finance over every industry, and unless we wake up and understand that then I think we’re not going to succeed.
I think there’s something else there which is not just simply thinking that labour market flexibility in all circumstances is the right thing to do. One person’s labour market flexibility is another person’s lower wages and another signal to employers that we’re going to compete on the basis of cost and not on the basis of quality and I think we need to accept that we have been to some extent sending out that signal about Britain and we were the party of the minimum wage which is the ultimate in inflexibility, and I don’t say that in a pejorative sense, I’m obviously a supporter of the minimum wage, but I think it shows that we got into a certain mindset and I think that mindset does need to change. So on agency workers I think we weren’t right. On posted workers I think we weren’t right. And I think we need to look again at what our economic model looks like going forward. So I think it’s about a broader industrial base, I think it’s about creating higher skilled and higher wage jobs which we talked about a lot in the nineties and didn’t necessarily do, and I think it’s understanding that skills on their own aren’t enough, you’ve got to have the interventions that are going to actually create these jobs.
In a speech last week you talked about “quality of life” . Does that mean you don’t think that crude GDP growth is the be-all and end-all measure?
Definitely not, definitely not. I mean it was Robert Kennedy who said, you measure all the things in life except those that matter when we talk about our economic welfare, and I think that is a really, really important point. Y’know, the fact that we are the most unequal society in western Europe, all of the evidence is it makes for less wellbeing, less happiness, all of those things, and so I think those things have to be addressed and have to change. And why does time matter, time at the workplace? It matters not just for people’s quality of life, it matters for their kids, and whether their kids are going to be part of gangs and gang culture. I was talking to Chuka [Umunna, MP for Streatham] about this in terms of what are the influences on people and how can you make those influences the right influences. Well part of it is people not having to do two or three jobs in order to make ends meet so I think there are quite big questions that we’ve got to face up to as a society.
The pursuit of less income inequality was never an explicit goal of new Labour Party. Do you think it should be?
Yes. Definitely. It’s such a hard task in the modern economy that unless you make it a central goal of policy you are going to come a cropper on it. It’s very interesting this, because Cameron is quite vulnerable because he has sort of set it as a goal of policy but he’s got absolutely no chance of achieving a more equal society given the direction in which he’s heading. And I think that it is important that it’s an explicit goal and I think it does require both action on the lower paid like the living wage but also action at the top which is why I said we should have this high pay commission you have to look at these issues. I think this must be a matter of public debate and public discourse and public action and I don’t think that the culture that says you can just make what you like as a chief executive is the right culture.
So how do you do achieve greater income equality? In the good years during the 1990s, with lots of money in the Treasury, lots of redistribution, Labour did some good stuff in tackling child poverty and pensioner poverty but the UK basically stood still on income inequality.
That’s because we were only focusing on the redistribution part of it and we weren’t willing to talk about the top, so we weren’t willing to say we were for a higher top rate of tax, we weren’t willing to say actually there is an issue about how much chief executives pay themselves and how much of it is spread to the rest of the people in the organisation, and just paying themselves what the market will bear is not acceptable. There is an issue about how much transparency there is, about how much they’re paid as against other people in the organisation. Someone was telling me the other day the Royal Navy has a – I’m not proposing this – but has a maximum ratio of 12:1 between the top and the bottom paid because they say it’s bad for morale if the number goes above that. Now, y’know, if people in the private sector economy operate under the Royal Navy principle you’d have a lot of much worse paid chief executives or you’ll have much better paid low-paid employees. It’s quite interesting this and if you look back to 1950s and 60s it was a very different culture and that culture is not just about tax it’s also about the culture that government seeks to create.
Turning now to some questions about society. The Phillip Blond critique is that there was essentially a continuity from the Thatcher years into the New Labour years because policy encouraged the individualisation of society at the expense of community. Do you accept that there’s some truth in his argument or do you reject it?
Yes, I think I do accept it. I’m not sure I accept much of Phillip Blond generally but I think I sort of accept that point! I think we didn’t talk enough about the things in life that matter, which are about our relationships with each other and our relationships with the wider community. I was saying earlier this week at the Christian Socialist Movement hustings that if you think about what became of the New Labour words – “prosperity”, “competitiveness”, “flexibility” – they were sort of words about the economy, but words like “love” and “compassion” and “caring” they stopped being part of our lexicon somehow. And I remember one manifesto was like, y’know, all about your family, your health, your education, and actually that’s fine but you’ve got to talk about our, our relationship with each other, our relationship with society, because I think that makes a big impact on people’s quality of life.
David Cameron has come up with this concept of the Big Society as part of his answer to this. There’s an easy criticism to make, which is that this is either cuts on the cheap or do it yourself public services. But do you think there’s something in this notion?
Let me just answer the question in a sort of roundabout way. I think, what was Cameron saying in the election, “Broken Britain”? None of us think that Britain is broken. I think it is a ludicrous concept. Boris Johnson thinks it is too, so just to get that out of the way. But, let’s be honest, did we have a good analysis of society? I don’t think we did have a particularly good analysis of society. We were either silent on society or we said everything was quite good really. We said we need some more projects. Now actually I think that the distinctive analysis we have about society is the reach of markets into our society.
Now, it’s not the only explanation for some of the problems in society. But the reach of markets – by which I mean inequality, advertising to children, the time people work – all of those things profoundly affect the society you’re trying to create, and in a way we left those things in the background. Now, Labour used to say, y’know, it’s really a story you tell about people’s lives. So Labour used to tell the story that capitalism is the problem, we’re not really going to abolish capitalism in the short term, but in the meantime we’ll do some ameliorating things. We then, what is the story we were telling people at the last election, I don’t think the story was clear enough about our society. Now I do think we’ve got to tell a story about the sort of pervasive role that markets play in our society and the way in which they deprive people, for example, of time with their kids, which is a small point, to try and kind of construct the sort of society, the sort of family they want to see, so I don’t really buy the big society because I think it’s just a whole load of old sort of hot air really but I think that we’ve got to talk about society and we’ve got talk about our vision of society.
So what’s Labour’s response then, in terms of greater sense of community, greater sense of solidarity in society, what are the things that Labour could do to enhance those notions?
You see, I actually think that when you think about it, the problem of the ‘big society’ is it is basically saying to people it’s your fault. It shouldn’t be about saying it’s your fault, you haven’t done enough to help us build the big society. It should be about saying, what does government need to do to create the space for people to build this kind of, a better society, a community that they want. Part of what Government has to do is, say, enable people to spend less time in the workplace. This is a very small example, you’ve got to try and create the spaces that don’t have markets kind of marauding into them. I think it’s about what government does to create those spaces. I also think you’ve got to make local democracy part of this, because in a way that is part of what creates a vibrant, local civic society. If you’ve got strong local democracy, I think that’s sort of part of the answer. You’ve also got to create the sites at which society can be built. I think one of the impressive things about Sure Start is not the care it provides for young kids but it does provide ways to build community. I’ve always thought the way you use services should be the next phase of that. So I think it’s about recognising the state’s role as, if you like, holding back markets and creating the sites at which community can be built but also recognising that people are going to do it for themselves.
Some people, like David Goodhart, argue that immigration is part of the problem here – that there’s a trade-off between immigration and solidarity. Some of the candidates in the leadership race have taken that a step further with one or two policy suggestions including the suggestion Andy Burnham made about child benefit and immigrants. Do you share that critique of multiculturalism?
No, not really, not really. I mean if that’s what they said not really. I just think it’s a sort of, I think it’s a slightly dead end argument. I don’t think the issue about eastern European workers was an issue about whether you can build a strong society, I think the issue for people was are my wages being cut, is my daughter or son going to get a house and, y’know, the BNP unfortunately told people that story about their lives which is if your wages are falling, if you’re not going to get a house it’s to do with immigrants. It’s a grotesque story by and large, we’ve got to tell a different story to people about their lives. I think the advantages of diversity are such that to sort of say well we can’t have diversity because it allows us not to build strong communities, it’s just belied by lots of parts of London and Bradford and Leicester, I’m just thinking of places that I’ve been to, y’know, which have strong communities which are multicultural and diverse communities.
You’re on the record saying you’d support the AV referendum. Do you share the concerns of some Labour MPs about the date that’s been set?
Yes. We had this unfortunate experience in the Scottish elections three years ago in relation to having different debates, different votes on the same day in different ways. It’s worth saying in Wales, as I understand it, in Scotland too, I just happen to know because I was in Wales, the people who are eligible to vote in the Welsh Assembly elections will be different from the people eligible to vote in the referendum because if you are a European Union citizen you can vote. You can already start to see the potential chaos that those kind of things could cause, so I think we need to look very hard at this. I think the other thing to say is that there’s a claim that there will be a culture of respect shown towards the people of Scotland and Wales by the new Government, and of course they have actually come in and just without consultation set this date. So I think we need to scrutinise this hard. In a way I’m concerned about the date but I’m more concerned about the sort of gerrymandering that is going on, which is to short circuit the normal boundary commission process, the normal review, to sort of hurry this through on old registration, on the old basis of registration which excludes three-and-a-half-million electors, to try and basically seek party political advantage for the Tories and the Lib Dems, so I think both issues are massive concerns.
And then other people including Alan Johnson and Douglas Carswell, have suggested by that the referendum should have a longer list of options…
An unholy alliance!
It is, isn’t it! But suggesting that you might have a longer list of options including STV or AV+. Do you think there should be more questions?
I’m not in favour of that. We’ve had a very clear manifesto commitment which is to have a referendum on AV, that’s what I want, that’s the best preservation of the constituency link combined with greater accountability.
What about five-year fixed terms?
I’m more sympathetic to four years, I’m more sympathetic to four-year fixed terms. Again this doesn’t keep me awake at night but I’m more sympathetic to four-year fixed terms.
On the environment, there’s been this rise in public scepticism in recent years. How do you think we can inject some urgency into the debate and take on the challenges to the credibility of the science?
I think that this is a long term mission and I think you’ve got to understand it’s a long term mission. I think there does need to be more of a permanent movement, if you like, of climate change advocates. The movement sort of grew at the time, pre-Copenhagen, it’s sort of gone away and I think it needs to be maintained but I think you’ve got to appreciate that this is a long hard slog.
I think that any objective report on the science [as with the Muir Russell Report] will conclude that the science is very clear that climate change is happening and man-made and real and I think partly scientists need to be out there more to be honest, talking about this, because I think people are more likely to believe scientists than me, despite my A Level physics. So I think people are more likely to believe scientists than us. I think they need to be out there more. I think you’ve also got to show people the positive vision of the good society that comes out of tackling climate change but it’s got to then become central to everything we do, the Treasury, the business department. I think it did under Peter [Mandelson]. I think he moved it forward a lot on this and made green [policy] a central part of our industrial strategy. You’ve got to take a massive leap forward on all of this.
The Coalition put a shopping list of green measures they wanted to do in the Coalition programme including some things where Labour hadn’t been prepared to go, like Heathrow, for example. Do you think there’s enough in there to meet the targets in the Climate Change Act?
The problem is that on the central issue of de-carbonising energy, they’ve got a bad mix of Liberal Democrat dogma and Tory dogma. So Liberal Democrat dogma on nuclear power, which makes them very ambivalent on nuclear power, and Tory dogma on wind farms, which means they’ve removed all of the targets local authorities are gonna have to achieve. And so the problem is that I think you may end up getting the worst of both worlds so y’know, I’m quite worried about whether they’ve got any chance of meeting their targets because I think on those two fundamental issues it’s a very, very flaky coalition. And, y’know, they’re not gonna make any more progress on onshore wind farms I don’t think because they’re not willing to, in any sense, persuade local authorities to sign up to it. The Lib Dems have sold out to the NIMBYs fundamentally.
What’s your of view of why we lost the election? Why has Labour lost 5 million votes since ’97?
Five million votes, of which a million went to the Tories, I think 1.6 million went to the Lib Dems, and two-and-a-half-million either went to not voting or to other parties. It’s important that. Often people think there was a big swing from us to the Tories. Well, actually, in terms of number of voters it’s more complicated than that.
I think, fundamentally, people lost the sense of who we were and what we believed, and, I think, unless you get that back, people will not vote for us again, and that’s why I keep talking about values because I think people need a sense of where you are anchored and I think people didn’t have that sense about us anymore. One of the most depressing things for me at the election was people just sort of thought we were all the same, all the parties were the same. Now there are other issues beneath that, like immigration and so on, but I think that is a really important central insight. What’s interesting is that in 1997, actually, I think you can genuinely say we were at our most radical and we won our biggest majority. Now, of course, we were coming up against a Conservative Party that people wanted out so I think that’s really, really important.
I want people with me head and heart in this leadership election because I actually think that I am the candidate who can speak to this question of values and what we stand for. I think I’m also the candidate who can best win people back, and it is a very complicated fractured electorate. This is not the electorate of the 1950s where the pendulum swings between us and the Tories. It’s much much more complicated than that and I think the other thing is that, my regret is that after the financial crisis we talked a lot about this is the first election of the post-crisis era. I don’t think we can genuinely say that we stood for that. I don’t think we sufficiently re-imagined the future, and I don’t think people actually wanted business as usual. I think there was a yearning for something else. Now, it’s hard to get to that but I think it’s a combination of industrial policy, a different sort of economy, a different sort of society, really majoring on reform of our politics and I think the combination of those things.
Just to go back to your breakdown of Labour’s lost 5 million voters. Unfortunately, under the electoral system we have at the moment, not everyone’s vote counts equally and when you look at where Labour has lost seats rather than votes, they’re predominantly in the south and the East Midlands, and they’re predominantly Tory-Labour marginals. Does that change the calculus?
Well it depends where people are voting. I mean, look, I want to win Tories back and I want to be very clear about that, and I actually think you don’t need to be a Liberal Democrat voter to think what happened with the banks was scandalous. You don’t need to be a Liberal Democrat voter, you can be a Tory voter. And thinking actually people need a decent day’s pay for a hard day’s work or thinking that tuition fees is a problem and you need to find a different system, so I think sort of, I think stereotyping different parts of the coalition if you like and saying, well, y’know, Tories believe this and Liberal Democrats believe that, is wrong. I think the other thing I would say is, remember, there are lots of colleagues who lost seats, particularly in 2005, because the Liberal Democrats took votes from us, the Tories didn’t particularly put on votes. So I think you’ve got to do both of these things, but I don’t think it’s just a Labour-Tory electorate we’re dealing with, even though it might be Labour-Tory seats that we’re dealing with.
So it’s fundamentally different from the Southern Discomfort analysis that we had after ’92?
I think it’s a fundamentally different electorate, I think it’s a fundamentally different electorate.
In terms of the Labour party itself, there were these impressive results in places like Birmingham Edgbaston, in parts of London, in Oxford East and so on. Do you think it’s the job of the central party to get local parties to behave in a vibrant way or should we just need to leave it down to local parties to learn from each other?
What does vibrancy come from? It comes from starting off with a movement that people can be proud of and where people think what you’re doing is something I’m proud of, and what you stand for is something I’m proud of. And I think that is really, really important. And I think you’re bound to lose that more in government than you are in opposition, but I think you’ve got to win people back. People join organisations whose ideals and values they agree with, and having members is the sort of pre-condition.
Secondly, I do genuinely think it’s about being a party that changes things, not just at election times but all year round, and it’s hard to do, but building a party of change, and that’s why I chose this living wage campaign, that genuinely is a kind of party that is in people’s neighbourhoods, making a difference in people’s neighbourhoods.
And then thirdly there’s organisational techniques that we can learn and I actually think that as a party we’ve been quite bad, the leadership have been quite bad at transmitting those lessons from one MP or one local party to another and we need to do a lot better job of that. Gisela Stuart has a fantastic reputation, but she also had a fantastic organiser, and if you can reproduce that, it makes an enormous difference. The reason we had a 1992-like result on a 1983 share of the vote is partly because of the fantastic work that was done and I definitely think it is the job of the central party to adapt this, to spread and learn those lessons.
There’s an elephant in the room with this party reform agenda, which is that people are reluctant to talk about the role of Labour members in policy making. No-one wants to go back to the 1980s where the leadership and the membership throw stuff at each other during conference, but it does seem that there needs to be a greater balance, and a greater role for members in policy making?
I think it’s easy to say and hard to achieve. I mean, I’m in favour of the proposition that was originally put forward by Jon Cruddas for an elected chair. I’m in favour of making conference a proper site for debate and discussion. I think you then get to the question of how do you make the National Policy Forum and other bodies work better, and I don’t think there’s an easy answer on that, but I think it is absolutely necessary. I think if party members had felt that some of their major issues like housing, like agency workers, minimum wage issues had been dealt with more I think people would have felt, well actually we are being listened to.
I found when I coordinated the manifesto process, OK, different people had different views on things, but it wasn’t like it was a sort of rocket science question or that people were demanding wild and impossible things, actually they were pretty consistent and there was quite a lot of consistency and I’m actually quite proud of a lot of the things that we had in the manifesto, the minimum wage linked to earnings, a cap on interest rates, some of the stuff around public services, things on green issues. I felt like we did lots and lots of meetings and it actually produced quite a lot more consensus than people might imagine, actually. And there were some things, free school meals, which I’d liked to have done but we didn’t have the money to do. So in that sense I think it’s sort of important to, I think it’s actually about the party feeling that there is genuine, that they are, the party members are the link to the members of the public, and it’s not like you can either talk to party members or you can talk to the public. At its best, party members provide that link to what members of the public are feeling.
It’s interesting you say that because MPs sometimes see themselves as the conduit between their party members and the public. You sometimes hear MPs saying to their members, look, it’s alright for you lot to come up with this but when people come in to my surgery or when I talk to members of the public because I’ve got to get elected they have a different view.
But the funny thing is, if I think about my own constituency and what are the issues that people at my GC or my local party are talking about, I mean they were not, sort of, wild and eccentric issues, they’re mainstream issues. Housing will have been the biggest thing, if it was said once at GC it was said at every GC which is when are we gonna act on council housing. Now we did, but, it was in the manifesto. Welfare reform, actually, big issue that came up, y’know, people getting a proper day’s pay. Interesting, I really remember clearly from one of my early GCs, someone saying to me, look the people at the local factory have been replaced by a whole set of Polish workers on lower wages, it’s a real issue, and they’re not being paid the minimum wage, and I remember I went back, it was actually at the time when I was a backbench MP and I remember going back to Gordon and saying you’ve got to improve minimum wage enforcement, and he did do stuff on it. So, I think, let’s not make the mistake of thinking that party members are a sort of an eccentric breed who don’t actually provide the link to members of the electorate because they do.Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by becoming a Left Foot Forward Supporter today.