Warning for Miliband: you're losing the debate on the economy


Ed Miliband is given a stark warning today that Labour is losing the crucial political battle on the economy despite growing fears that the Coalition Government's tough deficit reduction programme is hurting but not working.

In a pamphlet published on the eve of Labour's annual conference in Liverpool, two Labour figures warn that the party has gone backwards in Mr Miliband's first year as leader and "lacks credibility on the economy".

It says: "Voters have even less idea about what Labour stands for now than a year ago, despite the election of a new leader. There is a general sense that New Labour had been abandoned, but very little idea of what this means in practice."

While Mr Miliband is seen as decent and not extreme or out of touch, he is not regarded as a potential Prime Minister.

The pamphlet, Southern Discomfort One Year On, is written by Patrick Diamond, a former aide to Tony Blair and Gordon Brown who wrote last year's election manifesto with Mr Miliband, and Lord Radice, a former Labour MP who first diagnosed Labour's "southern problem" in the 1990s.

Their research in the South and the Midlands concludes that Labour's position is "weak", particularly among the skilled and white collar workers of "Middle Britain" who helped both Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair win three elections.

Labour holds only 49 of the 302 parliamentary seats in the South (excluding London) and Midlands, which includes many key marginals. "The party cannot win without doing much better in the South and Midlands, nor can it rely on David Cameron's failure to make further inroads in the North and Scotland," says the pamphlet published by the Policy Network think-tank.

It warns that the Conservatives could win the next general election by default even if George Osborne's strategy fails because Labour has lost voters' trust on the economy. "While voters still see Labour as caring and fair, they no longer believe the party is capable of running the economy," it says. "Even more importantly, they do not consider that Labour understands, respects or rewards those who want to get on. Far from encouraging and rewarding talent and opportunity, Labour is still seen as a party likely to 'clobber' those who want to make the most of new opportunities."

The authors suggest Labour has not been able to capitalise on the feelings of anxiety and insecurity among wavering Labour voters which have replaced "aspiration" as their main concern. These people still want politicians to recognise the importance of enabling people to get on in life and do well for themselves and their families.

Mr Diamond and Lord Radice warn: "The heightened mood of pessimism and anxiety may encourage voters to take refuge in what they know, namely the apparent certainties of the Conservative approach based on sound money, smaller government, hostility to Europe and a punitive approach on immigration and crime which may have added resonance among some voters given the prevailing sentiment of insecurity."

The research found that immigration is a serious weakness for Labour, but that the Tories are seen as "more interested in looking after the rich than the British people as a whole". David Cameron is "not loved but he is respected as a capable leader".

Voters remain open-minded about the Government, not least because Labour is not offering an alternative.

Some voters fear that Labour would revert to a "tax and spend" policy. The pamphlet proposes that Labour reduce regressive taxes such as council tax and stamp duty by tackling unearned capital and wealth, by adopting the "mansion tax" on homes worth more than £2m, favoured by Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat Business Secretary. They also propose "earmarked" taxes to raise money directly for health and education.

The authors say that Labour needs to show "fairness and competence" to win back the confidence of voters.

"The Conservatives have successfully defined Labour as the party of economic incompetence, financial profligacy and recession, recalling images of past Labour governments swept from office after one kind or another," they concluded.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Floyd Mayweather will relinquish his five world titles after beating Manny Pacquiao
Arts and Entertainment
tvGame of Thrones season 5 ep 4, review - WARNING: contains major spoiliers!
Tottenham legend Jimmy Greaves has defended fans use of the word 'Yid'
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living