The key is convincing voters that Miliband has the a better solution than George Osborne without creating a rod for his own back by claiming that he can completely 'fix' the economy.
A key theme of Ed Miliband’s speech today will be growth for all. This theme, as well as the ‘cost of living crisis’, get a number of mentions in the speech for the simple reason that they are fairly solid political ground.
This partly explains George Osborne’s announcement yesterday that the minimum wage will be rising to £7 – it was an attempt to steal Miliband’s thunder but a move onto cost of living territory.
Despite growth returning to the economy, living standards have fallen behind in recent years and will take some time to catch up. This, ultimately, is more important to most people than how many percentage points GDP has gone up. People ask themselves whether they feel better off than they did one, two, three years ago; they don’t talk about ‘green shoots’ in the same way the political class tends to.
Miliband will describe the cost of living as the “single greatest challenge our country faces because not since the century before last have we seen such a sustained fall in living standards”.
To those who are doing well this will sound like hyperbole. However it will strike a chord with the sorts of people Miliband will need to attract if he is to win the election next year: aspirational voters who feel like they are treading water because they are working hard for less money.
It won’t feel like the economy is ‘back on track’ for those scraping ice from the inside of their windows this winter because of rising energy bills – Britain now has the second highest level of fuel poverty in Europe. Nor for those who, despite finding employment, are stuck in insecure low-paying work – four in five jobs created since 2010 have been low paying, according to the TUC.
Today’s speech understandably focuses on tackling some of the long-term problems with Britain’s economy. The key is convincing voters that Miliband has the a better solution than George Osborne without creating a rod for his own back by claiming that he can completely ‘fix’ the economy (a bit like saying there will be no more boom and bust).
The focus on banking is wise in addressing the long-term problems with Britain’s economy that led to the 2008 crash (something Osborne has seemingly side-lined). The difficulty will be translating cost of living rhetoric into policy, especially when the chancellor is making canny political moves like boosting the minimum wage.
Another worry with today’s speech is this: come Sunday, will people be talking about banking reform or the chancellor’s minimum wage announcement? Probably neither, but you get the idea.
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