Ed Miliband's "lost decade" speech will be planted firmly in the scare category

Labour leader will warn of a Japan-style crisis.

The government's economic plan is failing, and the UK faces a "lost decade", Ed Miliband will say in a speech in Birmingham today.

He will warn that the UK could go the way of Japan during the 1990s unless something is done to turn it around, and will argue that there's a way this can be done.

Japan never quite recovered from its burst bubble of 1989 - and the crisis brought its economy to a standstill for about 10 years, as it watched rivals China and South Korea expand. Miliband's message - which also will stress that Britain is in the slowest recovery for 100 years - is planted firmly in the scare category. It will also echo Vince Cable, who warned of a "lost decade" back in December.

In an interview with the Times Miliband said:

This Government is now leading Britain into that lost decade. They’re shrugging their shoulders. They have run out of ideas. They are resigned. It is One Nation Labour’s task to show people it does not have to be this way. Not promising overnight answers. Not promising that things will be easy.

He will also attempt to make a distinction between public faith in David Cameron and public faith in politics in general:

I know that however discredited, divided and damaging this Government is, I will not assume that their unpopularity will mean people turn to Labour. Indeed, many people will believe that the failure of this Government means they should give up on politics altogether.

...and lay the groundwork for rebuilding trust in Labour:

I have sought to understand why people left Labour. From banking regulation to immigration to Iraq, I have been clear about what we got wrong.

Miliband's alternative measures, he told the Times, will include an apprenticeship programme, reforming banks and the energy market, a 10p income tax, and a "real jobs guarantee" for the young. 

Ed Miliband. Photograph: Getty Images
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Owen Smith is naïve if he thinks misogynist abuse in Labour started with Jeremy Corbyn

“We didn’t have this sort of abuse before Jeremy Corbyn became the leader.”

Owen Smith, the MP challenging Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour leadership contest, has told BBC News that the party’s nastier side is a result of its leader.

He said:

“I think Jeremy should take a little more responsibility for what’s going on in the Labour party. After all, we didn’t have this sort of abuse and intolerance, misogyny, antisemitism in the Labour party before Jeremy Corbyn became the leader.

“It’s now become something that is being talked about on television, on radio, and in newspapers. And Angela is right, it has been effectively licenced within the last nine months.

“We’re the Labour party. We’ve got to be about fairness, and tolerance, and equality. It’s in our DNA. So for us to be reduced to this infighting is awful. Now, I understand why people feel passionately about the future of our party – I feel passionately about that. I feel we’re in danger of splitting and being destroyed.

“But we can’t tolerate it. And it isn’t good enough for Jeremy simply to say he has threats too. Well, I’ve had death threats, I’ve had threats too, but I’m telling him, it’s got to be stamped out. We’ve got to have zero tolerance of this in the Labour party.”

While Smith’s conclusion is correct, his analysis is worryingly wrong.

Whether it is out of incompetence or an unwillingness to see the extent of the situation, Corbyn has done very little to stamp out abuse in his party, which has thus been allowed to escalate. It is fair enough of Smith to criticise him for his failure to stem the flow and punish the perpetrators.

It is also reasonable to condemn Corbyn's inability to stop allies like Chancellor John McDonnell and Unite leader Len McCluskey using violent language (“lynch mob”, “fucking useless”, etc) about their opponents, which feeds into the aggressive atmosphere. Though, as I’ve written before, Labour politicians on all sides have a duty to watch their words.

But it’s when we see how Smith came to the point of urging Corbyn to take more responsibility that we should worry. Smith confidently argues that there wasn’t “this sort of abuse and intolerance, misogyny, antisemitism” in the party before Corbyn was voted in. (I assume when he says “this sort”, he means online, death threats, letters, and abuse at protests. The sort that has been high-profile recently).

This is naïve. Anyone involved in Labour politics – or anything close to it – for longer than Corbyn’s leadership could tell Smith that misogyny and antisemitism have been around for a pretty long time. Perhaps because Smith isn’t the prime target, he hasn’t been paying close enough attention. Sexism wasn’t just invented nine months ago, and we shouldn’t let the belief set in that it did – then it simply becomes a useful tool for Corbyn’s detractors to bash him with, rather than a longstanding, structural problem to solve.

Smith's lament that “it’s now become something that is being talked about” is also jarring. Isnt it a good thing that such abuse is now being called out so publicly, and closely scrutinised by the media?

In my eyes, this is a bit like the argument that Corbyn has lost Labour’s heartlands. No, he hasn’t. They have been slowly slipping away for years – and we all noticed when Labour took a beating in the last general election (way before Corbyn had anything to do with the Labour leadership). As with the abuse, Corbyn hasn’t done much to address this, and his inaction has therefore exacerbated it. But if we tell ourselves that it started with him, then we’re grasping for a very, very simple solution (remove Corbyn = automatic win in the North, and immediate erasure of misogyny and antisemitism) to a problem we have catastrophically failed to analyse.

Anoosh Chakelian is deputy web editor at the New Statesman.