Labour’s lack of vision

And there it was. Labour’s big opportunity get the gears of the 2015 election campaign into motion. You may have missed it, but Ed Miliband set out his vision for a New Jerusalem. One where energy prices won’t rise for two whole years and people won’t be out of pocket if they have an extra room in their council flat. As much as these policies do have their individual merits, they are typical of the propensity of political parties’ attempts to not annoy too many people at all costs and avoid big decisions.

Take the freezing of energy prices. Prices are high and will only get higher, but by saying that merely forcing the energy companies to freeze prices can solve the problem, Ed has dodged a difficult decision, instead choosing to make big business a scapegoat for people’s problems. It has been known for a long time that Britain lacks an energy policy and needs one quickly if spiralling wholesale and retail costs are to be avoided. Even if the UK meets the target of generating 20% of its energy needs from renewable sources by 2020 that still leaves 80% to be generated from other sources, namely nuclear and fossil fuels. To really bring energy prices down, Miliband would have to commit to a programme of building these large power stations to quickly replace the capacity lost when two further nuclear power stations close within the life of the next parliament.

Miliband’s second flagship policy, reversing the ‘bedroom tax’ is little but a nod to the housing crisis. Reversing the spare room subsidy will be good for the small proportion of the population it affects, but does nothing at all the make it easier for people on low and average wages to afford to rent, never mind buy, houses. Left wing commentators such as Owen Jones in the Independent have long been calling for Labour to confront the crisis head on with programme of social housing building, the only way to diffuse the crisis in the long-term, but Ed is obviously hesitant about this.

Is this it from Labour?

Chances are that this week’s announcements are just a first round in the two years of sparring, leading up to the election. But Miliband’s failure to even hint at a broader, bigger vision for Britain after 2015 is worrying. So far it seems Labour is offering voters a vision that is broadly the same as the Conservative option, but with a few minor tweaks.

Ed clearly doesn’t want to annoy the middle classes by threatening to build power stations, wind farms and housing estates in their back yards. This is understandable as he needs their votes if Labour is to win, as they did in 1997, 2001 and 2005. But there is a risk that, although inoffensive Labour’s vision for Britain post-2015 is, it’s just too dull to tempt voters away from the Tories or out of their houses at all. Great leaders take bold decisions and win voters by inspiring people with visions. No one is ever considered great just because they never offended anybody.

3 responses to “Labour’s lack of vision”

  1. Rob Ridley says:

    I don’t know what is going to be announced by Labour in the run up to 2015 but I hope that they are keeping the big policy statements in reserve. Labour will not have to tempt all voters either as the Tories are having pretty dire time in the media. There is nothing innovative or inspiring happening with the Tories either. The important thing is that Labour is no longer afraid to use the word socialism in case of upsetting paricular groups in the electorate. The pragmatic socialism I hope to see will have to be bold to differentiate itself from any policies set out by other political parties. The policies need to be realistic and not a seeming silver bullet that in practice achieves little. In my view the Tory party has little to fight the election with and will resort to personal attacks on individuals (Boris Johnson has already started). The Tory party will also announce policies that will veer to the right and make them appear reactionary. Labour simply need to show what they can do for the middle class voter as well as its traditional voter. For example we all consume energy and we are demonstrably being overcharged. It is Labour who is standing up for the consumer. We all want decent housing and access to the some. Labour again recognise this and will not stand idly by or they are going to lose their credibility with their own supporters. No visionary politics yet but Labour backs the consumer when others do not. Labour is also bound by its socialist principles and can be pressured by its membership. Here is the vision because rather than stick with the status quo or a return to the past Labour has by its nature got to innovate or lose its support. This means that Labour has to be a party for the future because that is where vision will take you. 

    • Philip Brooks says:

      Perhaps you are right in that Labour may not need to do much more than appear competent to beat the Tories in 2015, especially as the Tories seem increasingly obsessed with wooing a certain strain of reactionary, social conservatives, who’s views the Daily Mail has successfully portrayed as representing consensus opinion.
      However, I personally wonder, not whether Labour will win enough votes to win the election, but whether many young people will turn out to vote at all. My reservation with Labour is that they simply don’t have the determination to take painful decisions for the good of future generations. The Tories, by relying on help to buy to help young people on the property ladder, rather than taking action to bring prices down, have already shown they don’t have the desire to take these tough decisions, whilst Labour have hinted they may have the desire but no the nerve.
      I am generally very engaged with politics but I have no idea who I will vote for in 2015. No one has come out and said the will solve the nation’s structural and long term problems. I hope that this is just the beginning and not the extent of Labour’s vision for 2015. Many people are relying on them.

  2. Rob Ridley says:

    Labour are going to have to look more than competent and need to deliver a vision the other parties constrained by their dogma cannot. This why they are going to get my vote. If they deliver more of the same then their credibility is lost. I don’t think the Labour team can afford to disappoint during or after the next election.