Mark Steel: What do we want? More of the same!

Labour might as well have their policy unit run by an expert strategist from 1793

Share

Now that parties supporting cuts are losing elections across Europe, I wonder if the Labour Party will consider a policy of opposing cuts. At the moment, they sort of oppose them, so if the Government announces 200 libraries are closing next Wednesday morning, Labour says: "This is typical of this callous administration. They ought to wait until the afternoon." Their slogan seems to be "We agree there have to be cuts but they're doing it too fast", which isn't likely to galvanise people. That's why there's never been a demonstration where people have chanted: "What do we want? What they're already doing anyway. When do we want it? Over a slightly lengthier period."

Even after their success in the local elections, whenever a Labour leader is asked what they would do instead of cuts, they say: "We wouldn't have done it in the same way as this." They should at least be specific, and say something like: "Instead of making haphazard cuts, we would make them in alphabetical order. So we'd start with antenatal clinics and work our way through to zoos and that way, we'd all know where we were."

They fear making any promise that could be portrayed as too socialist, but the French have just elected a President on a programme that Labour leaders would dismiss as making it impossible to ever win again. If they were in France on election day, Ed Balls and Harriet Harman would have been yelling: "Don't all vote for François Hollande, you idiots. Can't you see he's unelectable?"

They still seem frozen with fear because of how they lost in 1992, when the Tories claimed that Labour would rob everyone in tax. But they don't appear to have noticed that was 20 years ago, and ideas have changed. They might as well have their policy unit run by an expert strategist from 1793, who says: "Be careful about looking radical because if they portray us as TOO anti-slavery we're stuffed."

It's not always easy for Ed Miliband to tap into the disaffection for unpopular characters, because if he denounces the bankers, he's told: "But your party spent 20 years grovelling to them." If he condemns Murdoch, he's reminded his former leader flew round the world to plead with him for support. He probably fears attacking Abu Qatada in case someone says: "But Peter Mandelson employed him as special adviser for nine years."

The result is that even while Labour enjoys its best election result for years, Ed Miliband seems as unsure of himself as ever, terrified of saying anything that might be judged extremist. So he might as well go and live in the forests of Central America for three years, being adopted by the people and learning their customs, then pop back and see if he's Prime Minister or not, depending on whether the country was so fed up with the Government that they carried on voting for him despite having no idea what he stood for.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Reeyot Alemu (L) and Eskinder Nega (R)  

Voices in Danger: Ethiopian journalists are fleeing from prosecution while others languish in prison

Anne Mortensen
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?