David Miliband has a noteworthy piece in today's Guardian, arguing for a series of left-wing, progressive policies as an alternative to drastic spending cuts. It should lay to rest the misleading and unfair claim that Miliband is a "Blairite".
Here is a breakdown of the policies he advocates:
- Ending charitable status for private schools.
- Extending the bankers' bonus tax rather than raising VAT.
- Supporting the mansion tax on £2m houses.
- The introduction of a international transaction tax -- the so-called Robin Hood tax.
- Reducing the deficit through a 2:1 ratio of spending cuts to tax rises. The Tories propose a 4:1 split.
Diane Abbott's presence in the Labour leadership race has shifted the contest to the left and Miliband's piece must be interpreted as a response to that. He is keenly aware that in order to win and to unite the party he must win over many of the centre-left members who at present favour alternative candidates, not least his brother.
Then again, the description of Miliband as a "Blairite" has always been a lazy journalistic shorthand. Many know that he served as head of the No 10 Policy Unit during the Blair years, far fewer that he left because he was considered insufficiently reformist. In an interview with the NS editor, Jason Cowley, he memorably spoke of the "red thread" that should run through Labour policy.
It was also Miliband, as my colleague James Macintyre recalls this week, who led cabinet opposition to Israel's bombardment of Lebanon.
I doubt that Miliband's left-wing pitch will assuage figures such as Derek Simpson who, with typical eloquence, described Miliband as "thick" and a "Tory". But it may lead some members to think again. If he is to avoid snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, Miliband must hope as much.