Socialist Worker

Miliband attacks rich and poor in equal measure

by Tom Walker at the Labour Party conference in Liverpool
Issue No. 2271

Ed Miliband used his keynote speech at the Labour Party conference on Tuesday to justify the anti-union laws and the sell-off of council housing.

He also said it would be “irresponsible” to scrap university tuition fees.

He attacked the unions, saying, “It was right to change the rules on the closed shop, on strikes before ballots.”

Miliband refused to tackle the question of the upcoming strikes. Instead he called for “cooperation not conflict in the workplace”.

He claimed there is a crisis of “irresponsibility” at the top and bottom of society—the first illustrated by the financial crisis, the second by the summer riots.

So he said he is standing up for people “who don’t hack phones, loot shops, fiddle their expenses, or earn telephone number salaries at the banks”. Spot the odd one out in that list.

With one face he attacked “predatory, asset-stripping” firms like collapsed care home privateers Southern Cross, saying they won’t be “treated the same” as “good” businesses.

But with the other he lashed out at “anti-social” tenants, saying housing waiting lists should be based on “whether the recipients are working, whether they look after their property and are good neighbours”.

This method—one bash at the poor for every one at the rich—is the hallmark of Blue Labour’s Baron Maurice Glasman, “the peer with Ed’s ear”.

“We’ve got to be balanced,” Glasman told a fringe meeting. “Punch with both hands—reform unions and business power.”

He added that both the market and the state “humiliate people”.

Miliband got the loudest applause when he attacked the Tories. But that didn’t stop him attacking the poor. He said Labour is making a “new bargain”, rewarding the “right people”.

“Benefits are too easy to come by for those who abuse the system,” he said. “Our first duty should be to help the person who shows responsibility.”

As if millions are unemployed by choice in this era of massive Tory cuts.

It is little more than a Victorian theory of the undeserving poor, now extended to cover some rich people as well.

Glasman claims there is a “genuine, angry insurgent side” to Ed Miliband. Not in this speech.

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