Ed Miliband’s defence of his position in today’s Guardian is pretty robust – unflustered, reasonable, clear-headed, above all keeping his eye on the key objectives and not getting distracted. Edward Heath had the effective habit of laconic comment to flick off his detractors like irritating or irrelevant flies. Ed has the same capacity, though less tersely and more thoughtfully, but the effect is much the same. He certainly put paid to all the media hubbub about no strategy. De-throning Murdoch (which no other politician would ever have dared to do, let alone succed in doing), confronting the failures of capitalism, pinpointing the effect of the cuts on the squeezed middle, emphasising the abandonment of the young and the next generation, attacking rail fares and energy prices going through the roof, demanding responsibility at both the top and bottom of society – quite a list in one year. And what did we get from Cameron in his first year as Opposition Leader? Huskies in the Arctic, windmills on houses, hugging hoodies – all deliberately deceptive PR which he dropped like hot bricks as soon as he had the power to do something about it.
What Ed now needs to do is to flesh out in more details some of his important themes, particularly ‘responsible capitalism’. We all know what ‘predatory capitalism’ refers to – MG Rover, Southern Cross, private equity asset-stripping like Debenhams, the AA and Boots, hedge funds ‘shorting’ against the national interest, big corporations transfer-pricing and offshoring to escape tax, banks speculating with financial derivatives they didn’t understand because they were highly profitable even when it might crash the entire global economy.
But we need to hear more about productive capitalism. It means reversing the steady decline of UK manufacturing which accelerate in the last 3 decades under neoliberal capitalism with a loss of manufacturing jobs from 7.5 million to just 2.4 million today. It means rebalancing the economy – not just talking about it as the government does, but actually doing it. It means regaining control of the money supply where presently only 8% goes into productive investment, so that a much higher percentage is prioritised for industry and exports. It means radical banking reform and much closer long-term relational banking with industry, as has worked so successfully in the German Mittelstand. And it means workplace democracy, a close positive working partnership between management and unions, again as has worked so well in the German Mitbestimmung, and that should also include whole company pay bargaining.