What Miliband will tell his party today

"More of the same from us won't work"

Ed Miliband finds himself in the unique position as an opposition leader: ahead in the polls (or at the very least neck-and-neck) yet seemingly fighting for his political life. Some honeymoon for a man chosen to head his party just two months ago.

Miliband hasn't always played his cards right over the last eight or nine weeks: his promising PMQs debut was followed by several duds (although he seemed to be more assured last Wednesday); he has opened himself up to criticism over tuition fees; he has allowed his "enforcer" Alan Johnson to undermine him on 50p tax and on the graduate tax; and appears to be pulled left and right by a party in desperate need of an Alastair Campbell figure -- or so we are told. Notwithstanding all these criticisms one should, as Mehdi Hasan warns us in this week's magazine, always beware of conventional wisdom.

Today, he starts a two-year policy renewal process aware that he may have to junk many of the policies that made up the party's 2010 election manifesto, the manifesto he authored. (In this, of course, he won't be alone; after all, David Cameron was responsible for compiling Michael Howard's manifesto prior to the 2005 general election).

Judging by the lines made available to the media overnight, Miliband will continue to seek to represent the interests of the "squeezed middle" but accept that some of that squeezing began long before the coalition took over. This is what he'll tell the national policy forum:

Over the last 13 years we saw a tremendous expansion in opportunity. But people's ability to take advantage of those opportunities did not keep pace. And so, even before the financial crisis, people came to feel squeezed - by an economy that demanded more and more of them, by public services which didn't keep pace with their rising expectations, by the pressures on family and community life outside of their control.

The hard truth is that New Labour, which set out to help people have a better life, lost its way and people felt that we were no longer offering them a route to a better life."

More of the same from us will not close the gap between what people want out of life and what they can achieve at the moment. That is why we need to move beyond New Labour.

 

 

 

Jon Bernstein, former deputy editor of New Statesman, is a digital strategist and editor. He tweets @Jon_Bernstein. 

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The 5 things the Tories aren't telling you about their manifesto

Turns out the NHS is something you really have to pay for after all. 

When Theresa May launched the Conservative 2017 manifesto, she borrowed the most popular policies from across the political spectrum. Some anti-immigrant rhetoric? Some strong action on rip-off energy firms? The message is clear - you can have it all if you vote Tory.

But can you? The respected thinktank the Institute for Fiscal Studies has now been through the manifesto with a fine tooth comb, and it turns out there are some things the Tory manifesto just doesn't mention...

1. How budgeting works

They say: "a balanced budget by the middle of the next decade"

What they don't say: The Conservatives don't talk very much about new taxes or spending commitments in the manifesto. But the IFS argues that balancing the budget "would likely require more spending cuts or tax rises even beyond the end of the next parliament."

2. How this isn't the end of austerity

They say: "We will always be guided by what matters to the ordinary, working families of this nation."

What they don't say: The manifesto does not backtrack on existing planned cuts to working-age welfare benefits. According to the IFS, these cuts will "reduce the incomes of the lowest income working age households significantly – and by more than the cuts seen since 2010".

3. Why some policies don't make a difference

They say: "The Triple Lock has worked: it is now time to set pensions on an even course."

What they don't say: The argument behind scrapping the "triple lock" on pensions is that it provides an unneccessarily generous subsidy to pensioners (including superbly wealthy ones) at the expense of the taxpayer.

However, the IFS found that the Conservatives' proposed solution - a "double lock" which rises with earnings or inflation - will cost the taxpayer just as much over the coming Parliament. After all, Brexit has caused a drop in the value of sterling, which is now causing price inflation...

4. That healthcare can't be done cheap

They say: "The next Conservative government will give the NHS the resources it needs."

What they don't say: The £8bn more promised for the NHS over the next five years is a continuation of underinvestment in the NHS. The IFS says: "Conservative plans for NHS spending look very tight indeed and may well be undeliverable."

5. Cutting immigration costs us

They say: "We will therefore establish an immigration policy that allows us to reduce and control the number of people who come to Britain from the European Union, while still allowing us to attract the skilled workers our economy needs." 

What they don't say: The Office for Budget Responsibility has already calculated that lower immigration as a result of the Brexit vote could reduce tax revenues by £6bn a year in four years' time. The IFS calculates that getting net immigration down to the tens of thousands, as the Tories pledge, could double that loss.

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines. 

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