Amol Rajan: Why Ed Miliband wants us to be more like Germany

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Last week I asked a question about Britain's workforce: how Chinese are we prepared to be? Recent reports from factories in China have shown its workers to be astonishingly productive – often because they are basically slaves.

In a global economy, where businesses have instant access to cheap labour, cheap technology, and cheap innovation in emerging markets, Western workers can't compete. If we're not prepared to be much more Chinese, I suggested, your average Brit is going to find it harder and harder to get by.

It's right and natural that in an age of ultra-globalisation, political leaders look overseas for ideas and inspiration. Before the last election, David Cameron dispatched two of his most senior advisers, Steve Hilton and Rohan Silva, to America, to learn from the wunderkinds of Silicon Valley, and the digital campaigners who masterminded Barack Obama's extraordinary fundraising campaign.

Ed Miliband, pictured, a far more thoughtful and prescient politician than he is generally given credit for, also takes guidance from an overseas example, albeit one closer to home. He has analysed the implications of globalisation, stitched them on to his ideological antipathy towards inequality, and decided that his goal in life is to make Britain not more like China, but more like Germany. The reasons for his doing so have been outlined by Philip Collins, a former adviser to Tony Blair now writing superb columns for The Times. He annoyingly beat me to it.

Here's the deal. The two most interesting thinkers in Ed Miliband's tent are Dr Stewart Wood and Dr Maurice Glasman. Both men are very clever. And both men are obsessed with the German economy, having spent chunks of their academic lives researching it.

Miliband is a democratic socialist pretending to be a social democrat. Germany is quite social democratic. It has regional banks, encourages worker representation on company boards, boasts a large manufacturing sector (where the ratio of pay at the top to pay at the bottom is small) and a relatively subdued financial sector (where it is big). All of the best and most original thinking of Miliband's leadership seeks to imitate this.

It follows that Milibandism is the gradual Germanification of Britain. Knowing we cannot compete with China, Miliband wants us to copy Germany. Widely misunderstood as repudiating New Labour in favour of Old Labour, he is in fact repudiating both in favour of Neue Labour.

How German do we want to be? The answer will determine the fate not just of Miliband and Labour, but Britain's workers, too.

 

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