Friday, October 1, 2010

Red Ed and the press

I've got a bit irritated by some of the press coverage of Ed Miliband, implying that there was something radical and sinister about his politics, and that Labour would have been bound to win back power under his brother's leadership. This suggests that most of the media find anything left of Tony Blair to be beyond the pale.

Philip Stephens, normally a good bet for helping us make sense of the world, gave a simplistic account of the electoral dilemmas facing Labour in Tuesday's FT. Here's my response.

It's still a bit early to say what Ed's strategy will be. But either way it is likely to be much punchier about social justice and how to regulate capitalism than anything New Labour has come up with in the last 16 years. The main point I was trying to make in the letter to the FT is that the centre-ground doesn't have to mean slavish adherence to neoliberalism: middle income groups don't have any obvious interest in deregulating finance or trimming public provision. The trick Ed has to pull off is bringing poor and middle together in a social coalition in favour of fairer capitalism. The point that fairer capitalism doesn't have to mean less efficient capitalism is only controversial in the UK and other English-speaking countries, it seems to me. I make these points in an interview to the Italian newspaper (formally the paper of the Italian Communist Party) L'Unita' here.

The other interesting development of the week is the collapse of the Irish austerity plan. Ireland did everything they were told to do very early on, and now find themselves on the brink. Meanwhile in the UK, gilt prices went up on the news that the Bank of England was considering further quantitative easing. This suggests that markets are coming round to a Keynesian view of the prospects for the next few years. My guess is the Con-Dem coalition will be smart enough to seize the opportunity to ease off on the cutting (which of course has barely started).