The New Statesman’s rolling politics blog

RSS

Ed Miliband says Labour behaved like “squatters in power”

Labour leadership candidate says the party was too hesitant while in office.

In my Sunday Mirror column today I offer a gently mocking end-of-first-term assessment of the coalition government. I also quote something from Ed Miliband, the Labour leadership contender.

When I spoke to him he contrasted the confidence of David Cameron and his coalition partners with the hesitancy and lack of confidence of New Labour in power, in spite of their landslide victories. It's as if New Labour always felt like imposters, as if they had somehow tricked their way into government and didn't quite belong.

In some ways, they did trick their way in to power and behaved as such. The whole New Labour period can look more and more like an elaborate confidence trick, in retrospect.

By contrast, David Cameron and George Osborne -- especially the latter, who, though you may disagree with him, is a very impressive conviction politician (as is Ed Miliband, it so happens) -- behave in the way of Conservatives of old. They act as if theirs is the natural party of government and it is the historic duty and role of the Conservatives to rescue the country from the irresponsibility and misrule of lesser parties.

Call it noblesse oblige or, perhaps, the entitlement of privilege. Whatever you call it, Ed Miliband is bothered by how the Tories, using the Lib Dems as cover, can be so radical and so bold, even though they didn't win a majority at the election in May.

This is what Ed said to me:

It's very interesting what the coalition has done, a bit like George Bush in 2000. The coalition, like Bush, has won a very questionable mandate and yet they act like they own the place. The cuts [in public spending] David Cameron is making are going well beyond what he needed to do. He could have chosen a different course. He didn't. Yet when Labour wins an emphatic mandate we act sometimes like we are squatters in power. That has to change, surely?