Labour’s strategy for winning the forthcoming general election is to hold themselves out as the Least Worst Alternative (LWA). Given the policies of the Tories and UKIP and the revenge voters will inflict on the hapless Lib Dems for propping up the Tories for the last five years, this is a modest aim, but will it be sufficient for Labour, if not to win a majority in the next parliament, then at least to form a coalition government with their Scottish nemesis, the SNP? Given Miliband’s speech on Wednesday explaining Labour’s economic plans for the next five years and making his first election pledge, we doubt it.
In his keynote speech on Thursday, Miliband said a Labour government would cut the government’s current deficit year on year until it is in balance but said borrowing for capital investment would be exempt, albeit there would be no plans for extra capital spending beyond what is in the current government’s plans. While he appears to have grasped the fact that government borrowing won’t come down until the incomes of ordinary working people start to rise, he has, at most, only given a future Labour government some wriggle room. Overall, cuts in services and austerity will continue under Labour. If Labour is to be elected, we need a radical programme, not LWA.
What would a radical programme look like? It would include big tax increases on the pampered 1% and less tax paid by the rest of us, including the huge amounts paid in VAT and other indirect taxes that fall heaviest on those who can least afford them. It would include provision of good housing for our people, not taxpayer subsidy for landlords. It would include restoration of trade union rights so that ordinary working people can defend their own interests. It would include an end to cuts in the services and support given to the weakest in society. It would include not only an end to privatisation but a rolling back of this disastrous and expensive policy. It would certainly include cuts, but not on public services and the wages of those who work in them. They would be in the salaries of the top 1%, whether we pay for them directly in the state sector or indirectly through businesses which leech off tax revenue or, like the banks and the public schools, depend on the privileged position we afford them. There would be cuts in our offensive military capability and a total scrapping of our expensive and illegal nuclear arms. As for austerity, this would continue but not for ordinary working people. It would only be for the rich, and principally for the 1%.
If Miliband were to offer this programme as part of hi next four ‘pledges’, he would, of course, attract a hysterical response from our wonderful ‘free’ press which would be echoed by the supposedly independent BBC. But would this damage Labour electorally? Miliband is already being savaged while offering LWA. Try Googling ‘Milliband’ today. The first five hits will include “bacon sandwich” and “beggar”. This is the currency used by our mass media in its coverage of politics. It could hardly be more hostile if Labour were to offer a radical programme. The voters on the other hand, at least those not part of the 1%, could be won over in sufficient numbers to ensure the absolute majority that Labour so desperately desires.