Today’s the day Ed Miliband answers his Blairite critics - UK Politics - UK - The Independent

Today’s the day Ed Miliband answers his Blairite critics

Inside Westminster

A month ago, George Osborne set what looked like a clever trap for Labour by announcing a Bill to cap rises in most state benefits at 1 per cent for the next three years. This week, Ed Miliband marched his troops into the trap by opposing the measure in the Commons. But the mood was very different to the one the Chancellor had imagined.

Some Labour MPs initially thought Mr Miliband had taken leave of his senses by putting the party on the wrong side of the crude but effective “strivers versus scroungers” argument framed by Mr Osborne. Now they praise their leader’s bravery in swimming against the tide of public opinion on welfare.

Labour managed to halt it by pointing out that two thirds of those affected by the cap are in work and on tax credits, and by announcing a “tough but fair” policy – that people out of work for two years would lose benefits if they refused a guaranteed government job offer.

It seems that public opinion is a more nuanced than the Chancellor bargained for. Significantly, some Conservative MPs and ministers urged their leaders to stop implying that all benefit claimants are “scroungers”. Even Iain Duncan Smith, the Work and Pensions Secretary who is implementing the Bill, has urged his Tory Cabinet colleagues to mind their language.

In an important speech today, Mr Miliband will go further, arguing that David Cameron’s “attempt to divide the country between scroungers and strivers” and play “divide and rule politics” proves he has abandoned the compassionate Conservatism which was once his trademark.

The Labour leader will use his speech to the Fabian Society to flesh out the “One Nation” traditional Conservative theme he stole last September. There has been little definition since, apart from hundreds of Labour press releases littered with the “One Nation” phrase, which say nothing about what the party would actually do. “It’s retro policy making,” one Labour frontbencher told me. “Think of a theme first, and then fit the policies to it. We should have had some ready to roll out immediately.”

Labour remains risk-averse on policy, anxious not to tie its hands yet. But the clever announcement on the long-term jobless by Ed Balls and Liam Byrne, the shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, showed that declaring its hand can work. Other shadow Cabinet members looked on jealously: Mr Balls, the shadow Chancellor, has banned them from making policy commitments – even when they would save money. “It’s one rule for him, and another for the rest of us,” snarled one.

The Opposition needs to say more about welfare, on which it is too defensive. It’s not enough to say that the answer is to get more people back into work, that the problem is not the unemployed but unemployment. Labour is in danger of being the last main party to defend winter fuel payments, free bus passes and television licences for wealthy pensioners.

It thought that Mr Cameron’s pledge to maintain them gave it cover, but Nick Clegg and several Tory ministers are now in favour of these benefits being means-tested after 2015 – what Mr Clegg rightly bills “the first full-blown scarcity election”.

It might feel like good politics to Labour to pitch for the pensioners’ vote, especially as they do vote in large numbers. But Mr Miliband would look unrealistic to millions of other voters if he defends the indefensible pensioner perks for all. “If we win the election, we’d be in the same boat as Cameron now and we’d have to keep them,” said one Labour frontbencher.

Mr Miliband’s problem is that, so far, One Nation Labour has embraced universal benefits. Yet the world has moved on: this week, child benefit is no longer universal, since families with one earner on £60,000 a year lost it. So Labour needs a rethink. As David Miliband told the Commons in a powerful speech opposing the benefits cap on Tuesday: “Expanding childcare versus higher child benefit; housing benefit versus housebuilding and long-term care versus reliefs and benefits for old age. In each case, we need to choose.”

In today’s speech, Ed Miliband will seek to answer Blairites who complained that, when he pronounced New Labour dead, he had nothing to put in its place.

He will argue that New Labour was right to break with Old Labour and made millions of lives better, but was “too timid in enforcing rights and responsibilities, especially at the top, and was too sanguine about the consequences of rampant free markets.”

So Labour needs to move on from New Labour, as well as the Coalition’s “trickle-down, divisive ideology which cuts taxes for the richest and benefits for the poorest,” Mr Miliband will say. “The answer is not simply to carry on where we left off in government,” he will admit.

A Labour government in 2015 would not be able to spend “the proceeds of growth” like the Blair and Brown administrations. One Nation Labour means reshaping the economy to give everybody the opportunity to play their part; reforming society so all, especially powerful vested interests and the rich, accept their responsibility to play their part, and changing politics so people feel they have power and control over their lives.

The well-argued speech will lift some of the fog surrounding One Nation Labour. It provides a solid platform for Mr Miliband. Now he needs to build some policies on top of it.

Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape
music
News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
filmMatt Damon in talks to return
News
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Life and Style
tech... and together they're worth at least £100 million
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig is believed to be donning skies as 007 for the first time
Arts and Entertainment
Fringe show: 'Cilla', with Sheridan Smith in the title role and Aneurin Barnard as her future husband Bobby Willis
tvEllen E Jones on ITV's 'Cilla'
Life and Style
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch
tech(but you can't escape: Bono is always on your iPhone)
Sport
Tim Wiese
sport
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Programme Test Manager

£400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client are currently seekin...

IT Network Manager - Shepherd's Bush, London

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Network Manager - Shepherd's Bush...

Secondary supply teachers needed in Peterborough

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Secondary supply teac...

Modern Foreign Languages Teacher

£100 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Group: Full time German Supply Teacher...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week