Is that it? Ed Miliband needed smarter policy to stop the rot


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The Independent Online

One of the most reliable tests of the worth of a pronouncement is to imagine the politician concerned declaring the opposite. Thus the headline “Ed Miliband declares firm support for secretive offshore tax havens” is rather more interesting than what the Labour leader actually said, which was lame to the point of satire. Every party agrees people should pay their taxes, and Coalition ministers in the Treasury have set about trying to ensure that tax evasion is kept to a minimum. Mr Miliband might as well have said he was in favour of being nice to children. That might have done more to save his leadership.

Was it really impossible for Mr Miliband, Ed Balls, Rachel Reeves and all those other brainy people surrounding him to come up with something a bit better than this standard back-stop for a politician in a tight spot? Consider when the Conservatives, during Gordon Brown’s brief honeymoon in 2007, were faced with an impending election. George Osborne came up with his famous wheeze on inheritance tax. It was, in truth, of marginal importance fiscally, but it threw Labour into disarray and scuppered the early election idea. An attack on tax havens would not have had the same potency.

Mr Miliband might have come up with his own version of the “Northern Powerhouse” idea, a programme of massive infrastructure investment; or he could have said he wanted votes for 16-year-olds; or come up with something on immigration, or the NHS: few voters mention the financial arrangements of Jersey and Guernsey on the doorstep.

Mr Miliband has had a poor press, much of it undeserved; but he does himself no favours when he builds up an exciting speech about the nation’s future, and brings forth such a timeworn idea. Maybe he forgot his more eye-catching proposals.