Labour’s opposition to austerity began with Ed Miliband – not Jeremy Corbyn

Corbyn's 'austerity lite' claim is a myth


We hear it again and again about the kinder Politics that Jeremy Corbyn’s era will herald in.

No more adversarial politics. No more political attacks. No more grandstanding. But from John McDonnell’s comments about MP’s being ‘f**king useless to the misogyny shown toward female MP’s on social media, the face of the new self-righteous but pernicious politics is emerging.

However, one of the long standing abuses that has gone overlooked is how Corbyn’s team have typecast Ed Miliband as a sell out to austerity, when Miliband, in terms of Economics, was one of the most radical leaders of the Labour Party we have seen since the Foot or even Attlee era.

The anti-austerity agenda did not begin with Corbyn but with Miliband. Manuel Cortes asserts on LabourList that is Corbyn who ‘seized his moment with his opposition to austerity’. But as John Lansman admits it was Miliband who laid the ground for Corbyn.

It was Miliband who took the membership towards the left. If it was not for him, Corbyn would not have won with the majority of the membership in 2015.

Corbyn was eager to court Miliband for support once he won the election but throughout his labour leadership campaign in 2015, he sought to belittle Miliband’s legacy. This quote typified Corbyn and his team’s approach to Miliband during the campaign:

“In the last election we were offering a form of austerity-lite, albeit we did very well on zero hour contracts and a number of other issues, but we were in effect offering austerity-lite”

In the Labour leadership hustings he continues to pedal this myth:

“It’s not good enough to go on the doorstep and say we’ll have less cuts than they will, that we’ll be austerity-lite”.

If we go by this logic, Corbyn himself must be offering austerity-lite as well, because on economics, he’s are standing on the same platform as Miliband. If anything, he’s copied and pasted wholesale from Miliband’s 2015 manifesto.

As Owen Jones forensically points out in his brave and passionate plea for answers from the Corbyn team, all the landmark policies Corbyn is standing on are the same as Miliband’s: the same fiscal rule, the same proposal around railways, the same regarding  British investment banks, the list goes on.

In Corbyn’s recent interview with Jones he declared his admiration for the German social democratic model. But interestingly this is the model that ran through the spine of Milband’s policies. Miliband was much closer to the founder of the German Social Democratic Party Eduard Bernstein, than he was to Blair.

The fundamental myth that has been propped up Jeremy Corbyn during his time as leader is that he instigated the anti-austerity agenda. It was only he who could truly stand up to big business and reshape our economy to create security for workers, except it was Ed Miliband that got there first.  

Corbyn’s attacks on Miliband, and then his quickness to champion him, show the disingenuous nature of the new Kinder Politics.

If only Corbyn could learn from the Miliband era, that it was his style and lack of coherent narrative that were his failing, not that he was following some quasi-austerity agenda.  

Sam Pallis is a Labour member on the executive of his local CLP and an active Young Fabian. Follw him on Twitter

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