Why vote Labour if they plan to keep all the Tories’ policies?

With no distinct ideas to promote, Ed Miliband is bound to come over as pointless

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The Independent Online

It’s time for people to come to the defence of Ed Miliband, against critics who say he’s useless. Because it should be obvious that while he is completely useless, it isn’t entirely his fault.

The trouble is he’s not allowed to say anything that might be useful. For example, other Labour figures such as Ed Balls insist the party won’t take any part of the railways away from the private companies. You can see why they’re cautious on this issue, because Labour mustn’t fall into the trap of proposing ideas that are popular.

I suppose the idea is it’s all very well winning the votes of people who are sick of the rail companies, but the more important thing is to win the votes of the chief executives of those rail companies. Because a vast number of crucial marginal constituencies are populated entirely by the board of Great Western Trains, and the critical seat of Basildon includes over 5,000 Richard Bransons.

It seems to be the strategy, that to ensure Labour doesn’t appear anti-business, it must do all it can to support businessmen who are hated by everyone. The next policy announcement will be that Ed Miliband and Harriet Harman are going round to the houses of the board of Wonga to mow their lawns.

Miliband is also stuck with this idea that a Labour government would stick to Tory spending plans. So what’s the point of voting Labour then? They might as well say “And to prove we can be trusted, if we’re elected, we promise to let the Tories carry on running the country for at least five more years. That’s why every one of our candidates has pledged that if they’re elected they’ll go and live in Argentina until 2020, so as not to be a nuisance”.

The promise on spending means even if they do oppose one of the Tory cuts, they’ve got to find an extra one somewhere else to make it balance. So they’ve promised to abolish the bedroom tax, but to make the figures add up they’ll introduce a rule that if you’re on benefits and have a spare room you have to rent it out as a helipad to Russian oligarchs.

Ed Miliband doesn’t seem able to prevent this. Decisions just get made such as when Ed Balls announced Labour would freeze child benefit for two years. This seems a slightly unusual method for forming a party’s policy, but I suppose it saves on bureaucracy if the way it works is Ed Balls makes it up by announcing what he fancies on television.

It could be awkward, if a candidate isn’t aware the party’s policy changed, when Ed Balls declares that Labour would save 3 million pounds for the NHS by insisting diabetics share one liver between two, in an interview on CBeebies earlier that morning. But it ensures Labour can be trusted on the economy so it’s worth it.

It appears there are plenty of characters at the centre of the Labour Party who wish Tony Blair was still leader, and won’t allow anything to slip past that their hero wouldn’t have approved of. They even wish one of Tony’s old friends was in charge, and would probably settle for President Assad or a dug up Gaddafi. So Ed Miliband can’t put forward any idea this clique doesn’t support without confronting them, which he won’t consider. 

Yet the point at which he appeared most in control and energised was a year ago when he proposed the freeze on energy prices. The Conservative press and Tory MPs went berserk, even calling his dad a traitor, but they had to back down and his ratings improved. But it was decided that was enough excitement for one century and since then it’s been back to normal.

No wonder he couldn’t remember half his conference speech, as it contained nothing with any sense of purpose. Because you don’t forget the points you want to make if you’re clear what they are. That’s why, on the whole, when people call 999 to report their house is on fire, they tend to remember the important points of what they want to say, even if they’re doing it without notes. Very few people, when asked which emergency service they require, say “One thing I DO know is I met a tree surgeon called Bill, and he told me he wants a fairer Britain, that’s less unfair, and more fair”. Until they put the phone down and think “Oh sod it, I forgot to mention I’m trapped on the ninth floor in a raging inferno”.

With no distinct set of ideas to promote, it doesn’t matter how Ed Miliband presents himself, he’s bound to come over as pointless. He could make his speeches while on a trapeze, or from space, or rap his speech from the side of a swimming pool, and no one would notice.

He could still win the election, by winning over the bulk of voters they lost to the Liberal Democrats. This shouldn’t be hard, as the Liberal Democrat cause seems so hopeless that Nick Clegg might as well have opened their conference by saying, “There’s not really any point in this, so you can all bring in games.”

But Labour’s strategy for retrieving these voters is like a man trying to win back his ex-wife by saying, “Come back love. I’m still an arsehole, but I’m not as bad as the arsehole you left me for.”

Maybe that should be their slogan for the election. At least Miliband would be likely to remember it.

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