Labour party leader Ed Miliband has said that he “relishes” the close fight with the Tories in the run-up to next year’s general election. Some polls now put Labour and the Tories only one point apart. This is after four years of devastating cuts by a government of millionaires regularly seen to be acting in the interest of millionaires.
How come Labour ended up in such a close fight with a Tory party that’s universally hated by working class people who are suffering the brunt of austerity?
There have been plenty of advice and explanations offered by different wings of the Labour Party over the past week. Some say Miliband is too “intellectual” and passive, and not a fighter.
But however irritatingly ineffectual Miliband is, the problem with Labour is not Miliband. The problem is that for millions of ordinary people Labour is not offering any sort of alternative.
At the same time, trade union leaders have not led a fight that could show the Tories could be beaten. At every opportunity Labour has shown that it is committed to the Tory strategy to get the British economy out of crisis.
When the government imposes pay freezes and pay cuts on millions of workers, Labour doesn’t denounce them.
When George Osborne announced a cap on welfare spending in the budget the Labour front bench should have been howling with rage that the most vulnerable were going to suffer.
Instead Labour has signed up to the cap and was set to whip MPs to support it in parliament this week. They are not prepared to challenge the poisonous narrative of the Tories about the economy.
This is not just a question of the Labour leadership lacking courage, though they do.
It’s that Labour actually support the idea that we simply can’t afford the welfare state we used to have.
And they are prepared to join in on the Tories’ demonising of those who need benefits to persuade us to believe it too.
As the fight for votes in the gutter intensifies, Labour is getting worried that Ukip might steal some of its votes.
Labour MP Douglas Alexander has admitted Labour has employed staff at Labour’s central office to monitor Ukip. “We have got staff dedicated to exposing the gap between the rhetoric of Ukip and its record,” he said.
But the way to undermine Ukip is not to point out that it doesn’t live up to its promises. It is to expose it as a racist party that doesn’t represent the interests of ordinary people.
Labour is stuck because it works within the limits of the system. No wonder it’s so close to the Tories in the polls. Its commitment to austerity, cuts and welfare for several years into the next government is close to the Tories’ too.