Saturday, November 27, 2010

Are you, or have you ever been, a socialist?

Apparently Ed Miliband, leader of the Labour party, has admitted his own dark secret: he is a socialist.

This is truly terrifying. If the experience of that other radical socialist, Obama, is anything to go by, the middle classes of this country need to start making plans to relocate. France is nice, I've heard - my friends Giles and Daphne have a place there.

If I'm understanding this right, Ed is trying to redefine the middle ground, as people in 'the middle of the income distribution', as he - almost tautologically - described it on the Today programme.

This radical idea - that the middle class consists of people on average incomes, rather than wealthy North London professionals, which is what most journalists seem to think it means - has common sense on its side. But more than this, it opens up British politics to the possibility of a redistributive coalition containing the median voter, thus paving the way for a new centre-left majority.

Social democracy has always been about bringing the middle class into the progressive camp, persuading them that collective provision and redistribution can benefit them as well as the poor. It's an ambitious project, but the current crisis and brutal reduction of state provision brings an opportunity for this kind of realignment.