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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19 Responses to “Labour’s opposition to austerity began with Ed Miliband – not Jeremy Corbyn”

  1. Jon Knox

    I was all for Ed Miliband. I kept urging him to remember his Dad and stay hard-line LEFT, and he definitely did propose some excellent things, like his promised energy bills freeze for example…! BUT he threw the election away with his refusal to emphasise his intentions and force the issue – which is what he should have done. He also allowed himself to be made a figure of fun with those press pictures, which he should have replied to, in kind, against Cameron…!! He just wouldn’t fight tough. And while Corbyn may seem anything but tough – he doesn’t cave-in with his proposals but sticks to them like glue. And the people have noticed that – and love it…!!!

  2. G Jones

    The verb to herald does not require the preposition in. I do find an accurate command of the English language integral to commentary and critique.

  3. Roosterous

    If you’re going to make a claim (eg that Milliband’s Labour was anti-austerity) then you do need to back it up with some evidence and/or facts. When JC points out that Labour stood on an austerity-lite, not anti-austerity platform, you can’t just say ‘oh no they didn’t’ and expect to be taken seriously. Make your case, show us the evidence. Otherwise, it just comes across as random Corbyn-bashing, and that doesn’t work any more.

  4. john

    Sam, an interesting analysis – but why would you post a link to ‘misogny’ then attempt to use the linked article to imply that it is Corbyn’s supporters that are sending the vile abuse.

    As you know, abuse comes from all sides, and is always to be condemned; and yet you still imply that it only comes from one side – this is a simple smear, and does your overall argument no good, because people can see right through it.

  5. Alasdair Macdonald

    Mr Miliband’s big error was allowing the mainstream media and the Labour troglodytes to back him into an anti-SNP corner. Labour was already in dire straits in Scotland following the independence referendum and its 41 MPs in Scotland vanished like ‘snaw aff a dyke’ in the General Election and were reduced to a single union-Jack suited individual who was elected on the strength of Tory voters in Morningside switching to keep the SNP candidate out, a candidate who had already queered his pitch by some stupid statements. Usually, to form the government of the UK with a workable majority, Labour needs a big tranche of Scottish seats. Mr Miliband’s ineptitude in responding to being seen in Mr Salmond’s pocket and in his risible claim of customs posts at Carlisle, simply confirmed the judgement of the hundreds of thousands of voters in Scotland who had left Labour. The same thing is happening in the Midlands and North of England and was a factor in the strength of the Leave vote in the EU referendum.
    This leadership election is about the Blairites scrabbling to keep their snouts in the trough and get billets with privatised health companies when their electorates turf them out.

  6. Michael WALKER

    Poor Ed. I think you are all very unfair to him. A seasoned politician would have struggled in his position.. As it was he had neither the experience nor the ability to win an election.

  7. Alex Wilson

    Left Foot Forward, today is the day I unsub from you. You are now a corporatist mouthpiece (even if unwittingly). I’m not angry about it; I’m just sad that I’ve lost what used to be a decent media source.

  8. Dave

    My understanding is that Corbyn’s fiscal rule is not the same as Milliband’s or Osborne’s. I believe Corbyn has only promised to balance the revenue budget and not the capital budget. There is an assumption that the capital budget would balance itself but this is considered automatic and not part of a fiscal rule. My interpretation may be incorrect but Simon Wren-Lewis stated that Corbyn’s fiscal rule was the major achievement of Corbyn’s economic advisory committee. The economic advisory committee includes world renowned economists. You appear to be accusing them of plagiarism.

  9. Lorfarius

    Alex Wilson – I feel the same way. Good bye LFF I won’t be back.

  10. paul ewart

    A perfectly reasonable position: sadly not one the electorate shared.

  11. Paul Watson

    A bit of a nasty little introduction. However Miliband did offer hope of a slow journey to the left eg freeze on energy prices and as such was preferable to other candidates at the time. His big mistake was his (and the rest of the party) non rebuttal to the financial crisis being blamed on previous Labour spending and not the banks.
    So in a way the article is partly right but I disagree with the main drift. And now we have JC the real thing.

  12. Steve Mizzy

    Ed was on the right track during the GE campaign. Problem was he didnt start his pitch a couple of years out and really got stuck into the Govt. Labour should have seriously challenge the Govt on austerity from day one. Letting the Tories get away with the lie that public spending caused the financial crash was negligent.
    Ed’s Labour was on the whole far too timid.

  13. CJ

    2015 Manifesto
    We will balance the books without extreme spending cuts
    • We will cut the deficit every year with a surplus on the current budget and get the national debt falling as soon as possible in the next Parliament.
    • We will make fair and sensible spending decisions, including capping social security spending so that it is properly controlled, stopping the payment of the winter fuel allowance to the wealthiest five per cent of pensioners and capping child benefit rises for the next two years.
    • There is not a single policy in this manifesto that is funded by additional borrowing. There are tough decisions to be taken and we haven’t made any commitments that we can’t keep.
    • We will make sure that any profits made from returning the bailed-out banks to the private sector are used to reduce the national debt.
    • We will save money by reforming old government bureaucracies, devolving power and services to our towns and cities, and redesigning public services.
    We will create a fairer tax system
    • We will reverse the Government’s top-rate tax cut, so that those with incomes over £150,000 contribute a little more to help get the deficit down.
    • We will abolish the non-dom rules so that those who live permanently in the UK pay tax in the same way as the rest of us.
    • We will close tax loopholes that cost the public billions of pounds a year, and we will bring in tough penalties for those who abuse the tax system. This will include ending unfair tax breaks used by hedge funds, and cracking down on disguised employment. We will make it harder for tax dodgers to hide their identities by making country-by-country reporting information publicly available.
    • We will introduce a lower 10p starting tax rate to help those on middle and lower incomes, which will be funded by ending the Conservatives’ Marriage Tax Allowance. We will not increase the basic or higher rates of income tax or national insurance.
    • We will not raise VAT, nor extend it to food, children’s clothes, books, newspapers or public transport fares. This is the tax that hits pensioners and the poorest hardest.
    We will make sure hard work is fairly rewarded
    • We will increase the National Minimum Wage to more than £8 an hour by October 2019 to help ensure that those doing a hard day’s work are rewarded for doing so.
    • We will ban exploitative zero-hours contracts so that anyone working regular hours for 12 weeks or more will have the right to a regular contract. This sort of job insecurity creates an unnecessary strain on family life.
    • We will promote the Living Wage by giving a tax rebate to companies that sign up to become Living Wage employers in the first year of the next Parliament. We will also require listed companies to report on whether or not they pay the Living Wage and use government procurement to encourage more employers to pay it, following the lead of Labour councils across the country.
    We will fix the broken markets that fail the millions of families who rely on them
    • We will freeze gas and electricity prices until 2017 and give the regulator the power to cut bills this winter. We will reform the broken energy market so that families and businesses get a fair deal.
    • We will introduce a fairer deal for renters, including a ceiling on excessive rent rises, and we will make stable three-year tenancies the rule, not the exception. We will ban rip-off letting fees.
    We will back our entrepreneurs and businesses
    • We will build a strong economic foundation, cutting the deficit every year with a surplus on the current budget and national debt falling as soon as possible in the next Parliament.
    • We will tackle rising business costs, by maintaining the most competitive corporation tax rate in the G7, cutting and then freezing business rates for more than 1.5 million small business properties and freezing their energy bills.
    • We will make it easier for firms to get the finance they need to grow and create jobs, by establishing a British Investment Bank with a mission to lend money to small- and medium-sized businesses and support a network of regional banks.
    • We will meet Britain’s long-term infrastructure needs by setting up an independent National Infrastructure Commission to plan for those needs and hold government to account.
    • We will tackle skills shortages, ensuring all young people study English and maths to 18 and introducing a gold standard vocational route, including a plan to create thousands of new apprenticeships.
    • We will support access to international markets by returning Britain to a leadership role in a reformed European Union.
    They were only ever going to cap the current budget not the capital budget, seems familiar to what MacDonald keeps saying to me

  14. Mason Dixon, Autistic

    ‘Kinder politics’ was an offer, not a promise. It requires the snivelling weasels of Labour’s Right to stop shitting on the carpet.

  15. BigDave

    Oh come on! Miliband’s Labour (and Harman’s) continued not to oppose the Tories’ austerity measures in Parliament, especially the attacks on benefit claimants. Still, the NHS survives, as this site seems to have become Left Foot Amputated.

  16. Josephine Bacon

    Funny how the Tories’ austerity is only aimed at Labour local councils and services for which they hope Labour councils will be blamed. No austerity if you live in Surrey! So much for austerity. The Tories’ austerity agenda is just another of their tricks for grinding the faces of the poor. As for Jeremy Corbyn’s “kinder politics” that is another myth, he will continue to be a leading antisemite and Holocaust denier, as he was before his fan club elected him leader.

  17. Angus Lindsay

    Just read this in an article by Steve Topple [ _ _ ] “As The Canary previously reported, most of Ed Balls’ economic policy came from think-tanking with the likes of former US Treasury Secretary Larry Summers (a man considered to be one of the Bill Clinton-era policy architects that led to the 2008 financial crash). The ideology which dominated Miliband’s Labour was based around Balls’ and Summers’ conclusions. An overarching ideal called ‘Inclusive Prosperity’.

    Simply put, it was the notion that wealth hadn’t been trickling down and that it was time to redress the balance, via various methods. It impacted nearly every other area of Labour’s manifesto. But the nuts and bolts of the mantra weren’t that at all. As I wrote in January 2015, Inclusive Prosperity actually had its roots in a joint project between the management consultants at McKinsey & Company and right-wing think-tank The Henry Jackson Society:

    “Inclusive Capitalism” is described as a “long-term” way of “maximizing the extent to which capitalism can heal its own ills”, in the hope that “the capitalist system that has made our societies great will continue to do so”.

    Inclusive Capitalism was, in turn, based on the findings of a group called ‘Focusing Capital on the Long-Term’, a think-tank dedicated to ‘value creation’ for investors and markets, whose members included Barclays, AXA, and Unilever. Essentially, what underscored most of Miliband’s policies were the wishes of those sat in corporate boardrooms.

    There was, in short, nothing socialist about Miliband’s Labour Party, apart from a cleverly constructed PR operation that talked of equality, ‘predistribution‘, and a One Nation Labour.”

  18. Robert Petulengro

    First of all I am appalled that two people should unsub because they do not agree. It is vital to go on all sites – especially the ones you disagree with. Ever heard of groupthink? Or conspiracy theories?
    Secondly George Osborne increased the national debt to £1.5 trillion. And that is austerity?
    I suppose you mean cutting back on all those non-jobs? Like the 40,000 police people. Well I reckon that is a good thing. Non jobs are insulting, expensive and they simply add to the weight of bureaucracy on teachers, nurses, police and doctors.

  19. Caramella

    Ed Miliband sought to stop the rot.

    Unfortunately he couldn’t deliver on the changes promised, and was undermined from within by certain sections of the Labour Party, as well as the right-wing mainstream media, and even the BeeB at the end of the GE2015 campaign.

    Agree much that he was too timid – especially about the “Crash of 2008”, but with all of his faults, I would cautiously support Ed-M’s return to high office if he was a little less polite, more congruent politically and stopped supporting Owen Smith, as the gentleman is clearly not a democrat.

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