Why isn’t Labour soaring ahead in the opinion polls? The Tories want to destroy the welfare state, privatise the NHS, bring profit into education and attack the living conditions of millions of working class people.
Yet Labour leader Ed Miliband and the rest of the Labour opposition seem almost invisible. You’d think he would have hatched a plan by now to challenge the Tories on their ruthless austerity plans.
Instead, we are told, he has spent the summer having a big think. And he has a big new idea—“predistribution”. This is hardly a slogan to inspire his side, let alone mount a challenge to the Tories.
At TUC congress this week Labour chancellor Ed Balls said it was a good idea but that it was still “looking for a good label”.
Even stalwart defenders of Labour in the trade unions mocked it. Paul Kenny, general secretary of the GMB union, said, “Predistribution is a long word but you can’t spend it in the shops.”
So what does it mean? Instead of going all out to oppose austerity, Miliband says that the days of plain old fashioned redistribution—taxing the rich—are gone. He wants us to accept austerity and the idea that there is simply not enough money to go around.
Instead Miliband waffles on about raising education and skills so that people earn more. They won’t need welfare or state support because the “right” people already have the money—it’s “pre-distributed”.
But he ignores the fact that people cannot simply walk into education and a decent job, thanks to sky-high tuition fees and soaring unemployment. And while he says he wants pay rises, he opposes strikes over pay.
Labour continues to be the main electoral beneficiaries of the anger against the Tories for now. Yet workers can’t look to Miliband or Balls for a solution to the Tory attacks. That means the calls for strikes must be taken up in every union.
Ed Balls told TUC congress that striking would play into the Tories’ hands. He claimed they were “itching to lay the blame at the feet of ordinary hardworking people for the lack of recovery”.
But the Tories can’t get away with blaming ordinary people for the crisis. Workers know that the crisis was caused by a rotten system and that all the ruling class want to do is look after their own.
Strikes and mass protests are the only language this government understands. The Tories aren’t running scared of Miliband’s summer musings. But they are worried about the unions mobilising millions of workers into mass opposition to cuts and austerity.