One of the strangest by products of conference season has been the claim that Ed Milliband is now proposing to bring Socialism back into British public life. This claim says more about those making the claim than it does about a leader taking his party 5 millimetres to the left of New Labour.
The claim is based on two policy announcements made during Milliband’s speech. The announcement of a freeze in energy prices for the first 18 months of the next parliament should Labour win and the taking back of land from owners who do not develop the site after a set period of ownership. Both policies are claimed to be a return to socialism. Both policies are not even remotely a return to, as the press have been saying, the dreaded ‘70’s.
With the freeze in energy prices, this is to enable the incoming government to restructure the energy market. There has been unproven claims of a cartel between the energy companies for years now, this restructuring is designed to shake up this market. Yet polling evidence suggests that the British public would like to see the political parties go further to help consumers. The big problem with Milliband’s policy is that this policy is likely to be unworkable thanks to green subsidies. Miliband’s other policy was originally proposed by that well known leftie, Boris Johnson.
Yet if you looked at the press in this country, they have reacted in horror to Milliband’s proposals – dubbing Milliband’s proposals a return to ‘70’s style socialism. Yet not a word has been raised regarding the Energy companies bullying tones regarding the lights going out or the popularity of this proposal. Of course, most of the anglocentric print media seems to support Cameron’s Conservatives. The rubbishing of Milliband’s policies clearly falls into this narrative. While it’s one thing for the press to be aghast at the return of what they see as socialism and for Cameron to fall into this trap, it’s another for one of the Anglocentric print media to… ah… play the man and not the ball.
The Daily Mail’s opinion piece on Milliband’s father – with the strap line “The Man Who Hated Britain” – was an utterly low blow and showed the desperation of the Mail. Even more despicable was the defence put up by journalists working for the Mail. Their editor Paul “double see you next Tuesday” Dacre justified it with Milliband’s constant referencing of his father in his speeches. Except that, as I have said, Milliband’s speech wasn’t particularly socialist which kind of torpedo’s the Mail’s argument straight away.
The interesting thing though is that the whole “Red Ed” tag has been really shown up with the current referendum debate. The CommonWeal proposals caught the attention of the “Yes” campaigners. The proposals – with the aim of bringing in Nordic quality of life to Scotland – are infinitely more left wing that anything circulating around the British Labour party. Yet it’s only in the last couple of weeks that “Scottish” Labour has thought of looking at the Common Weal proposals. In the meantime, the main UK Labour party runs away from any policies that could be construed as being socialist. Red Ed? More like Pink Ed to me.