Ed Miliband can’t see the wood for the trees.
Perhaps not so unfortunately, I managed to miss Ed Miliband’s speech to the Labour Party Conference in Brighton last week. Whilst it’s unbelievable that I would have anything better to do, a little bird informed me afterwards that the 1970’s were back.
I rushed home, brimming with excitement, expecting to see Miliband take to the stage in flares to the sound of Donna Summer. Alas, it seems it’s the 1970’s feature about which I’m least nostalgic that’s back in vogue.
You can forget sexy; Ed Miliband is bringing socialism back.
I won’t bore you by outlining the speech. Those who watched will be aware of the details and those who didn’t, well you’re not exactly missing much. Suffice to say Ed Miliband didn’t get the memo detailing why, having been comprehensively rejected by the electorate in the 1980’s, emulating Michael Foot is probably not the best tact to take.
But somewhere between hectoring the audience with his finger and orating as though his mouth were full of saliva, he did it anyway; perhaps because he has nothing left to lose.
The worst thing about the speech was not how Red Ed burst out in a fashion that would make the Incredible Hulk jealous; rather that speeches and policies such as this have an insidious effect on society. Presenting the state as the medicine to cure problems, of which it is the cause, pollutes politics to the detriment of us all.
All of the problems he rightly identified are caused by state action, not by a lack of it. Miliband cannot offer the correct solution to a problem because he refuses to accept the cause; he cannot see the wood for the trees.
Take house building. The council levies punishing taxes, in the form of Section 106 agreements and Community Infrastructure Levies, adding £1 billion per annum to the cost of housebuilding, to which it is not liable when it builds homes. Councils also enjoy favourable planning regimes, courtesy of their chums in the councils planning department, whilst private individuals are crippled by a myriad of rules and regulations.
That’s a distorted market for you and it’s the state that’s responsible. Miliband’s solution to this problem is for more state action in the form of land seizures – a ‘use it or lose it’ policy reminiscent of Mugabe’s Zimbabwe. The state has caused a problem to which it now masquerades as the solution, with the result being a vast transfer of power from the individual to the state.
Put simply, the only effect of this policy would be a reduction in people owning and buying land, mainly out of fear of losing it to state control, not more house building.
In another policy area, the illiteracy was even more palpable. Stop the World; the Labour party wants to get off. That was the essence of Miliband’s energy price freeze promise. The Labour leader, who sounded more like a doorstep salesman than Prime Minister in waiting, seems to believe he possesses the power to defy the laws of supply and demand. With global commodity and energy prices rising, Labour will make the modern world go away.
This is, of course, madness. Not only is it economically illiterate to insist that the UK government could have any control over global energy prices, but ignorant at best or deceitful at worst, to ignore meanwhile the sizeable cost imposed on the bill payer by that same government.
Dwarfing profit at 5%, taxation accounts for 20% of the average energy bill, something made vastly worse by Mr Miliband, with his deeply flawed and unimaginably costly Climate Change Act. When you break down the figures, it’s not the energy companies taking the bill payer for a ride; it’s the Treasury.
To relieve the cost of living crisis, Mr Miliband will do anything and everything except relinquish the power of the state.
Growing up in the 90’s, I have always viewed the Labour Party like an eccentric old aunt who had mellowed in old age. Ed Miliband showed this past week that this was more childhood naïvety than fact. Miliband really is bringing socialism back, and as always it will be the cause of more problems than it is the solution.
This shift to the left may not be all bad news however. To counter this new narrative, The Conservative Party will be pushed to the right, most likely by its own MPs; knowing that if Cameron tries to fight Miliband on his own terms, there would only be one winner.
In order to defeat Miliband’s cynical populism and restore some semblance of truth to our polluted political discourse, the Tories must expose the state for the poison it is, not the medicine it masquerades as.
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