The Labour Party is desperately in need of big idea. Indeed Ed Miliband’s most significant failure lay in the one area where he would have been expected to succeed: the formulation of an over-arching economic policy narrative for Labour in the 21st century which, in co-operation with others, could be translated in to vision that inspired. What was needed was a clear statement of how modern global capitalism could be organised to deliver growth without producing obscene levels of inequality, and how that growth could be harnessed to fund a well-managed welfare state.
Ed Miliband’s approach seemed to involve floating a series of ethereal concepts that no one, with the possible exception of his super-clever education spokesperson, Tristram Hunt, was capable of interpreting. Such concepts included one-nation, productive capitalism and pre-distribution, all of which were rapidly confined to the dustbin of Labour history.
If this the problem, which of the candidates is best placed to come up with a solution? Before giving a name let me offer another observation.
My great hero will always be the US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) who formed a progressive alliance between those in need and those who cared. His New Deal policies were based on Keynesian principles, using government expenditure to stimulate where the market had failed. However FDR did not enter office as a Keynesian. In his 1932 campaign he espoused orthodox fiscal beliefs, promising to balance the budget and eliminate the national deficit. When in office he realised the need for increased public expenditure to put people back to work.
The important lesson is that he surrounded himself with able advisors and listened to what they were saying. This is where Ed Miliband was so poor – he surrounded himself with the wrong people who told him what he wanted to hear.
Now it is impossible to be certain which of our candidates will be able to make the right sort of choices. However, judging by their policy statements, Yvette Cooper would seem to be the most likely and we should take a punt on her – I’ve done so.