Labour’s missed opportunity

A potential springboard to launch Labour ahead of the election has been wasted by a set of standard, uninspiring ideas on a decade timeframe.

A potential springboard to launch Labour ahead of the election has been wasted by a set of standard, uninspiring ideas on a decade timeframe

This week, Labour leader Ed Miliband outlined his party’s 10-year plan for Britain should they win the general election next May. Addressing the Labour Party Conference in Manchester, Miliband laid out six key points that he believes will help bring the country back together.

The two standout policies are plans to raise the minimum wage to £8 an hour by the end of the next parliament and helping fund the NHS through proceeds from a mansion tax. 

It is true that all these ideas are arguably agreeable in their own individual right, however I can’t help feeling that Labour have missed a trick here. It is their last opportunity before the general election to really take the spotlight and spell out their vision to the general public – to offer something radical and inspiring. Unfortunately, they have failed to do so.

Some media outlets have picked up on the proposal to raise the minimum wage to £8 an hour, which is encroaching on radical territory but it isn’t nearly bold enough. Currently, the London living wage is £8.80 an hour, and £7.65 outside of the capital. Factor in an annual inflation rise of around 2 per cent forecast by the Bank of England and it’s clear that such a figure should be closer to £10 an hour by 2020 in order to sustain a living.

Instead, Labour should have proposed an immediate rise to £8 and then have the rate pegged to inflation. As James Bloodworth writes, a move would not be regarded as anti-business because workers are essentially consumers too, and the more money they have in their pocket the more likely they are to spend it.

Similarly, Miliband has tinkered with boldness before, toying with the idea of renationalising the railways. Unfortunately though, he only aggravated many voters and businesses by proposing a half-hearted approach, therefore missing out on a policy that would have chimed with many. Such lack of conviction could come back to haunt Miliband and Labour come next May.

In what is one of the tightest elections to date to predict, Labour and its leader need a distinctive narrative. Miliband’s personal ratings are woeful, and when it comes to the economy the Conservatives are strides ahead on an issue that is fundamental in deciding elections – the Scottish referendum is evidence of that. Labour needs its trump card.

And it would have come with a pledge to, say, renationalise the railways, reform drug policy, or take a firmer stance on the minimum wage. There is evidence of major public support for all these policies.

But not only that, Miliband would have something to personally stand for; and his party would have a narrative and direction that they could portray to the electorate.

It’s a shame then that what could have been a springboard to really launch Labour ahead of the election has instead been wasted by a set of standard, uninspiring ideas on a decade timeframe.

Of course it is beneficial to have a long-term plan, but voters also want something to rally around now, to get behind and really feel passionate about. This week Labour could have given them that.

Luke Nightingale is a freelance journalist and founding editor of The Looking Glass Liverpool. He also blogs

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