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We cannot wait for a Labour government

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Issue 2373

The pledge by Labour leader Ed Miliband to freeze fuel bills for 20 months if he wins the next general election caused a flurry. Of course most sensible people think it’s a good idea. 

Indeed so sensible that 58 percent in one opinion poll hoped David Cameron would announce the same measure at the Tory Party conference this week.

But for the right wing, the idea of fixing prices instead of wages is abhorrent. So the Express took time off from finding the SAS soldier who supposedly killed princess Diana to declare that the fuel price freeze “will put lights out in 2015”

The rest of the right joined in. The big six energy companies bemoaned that the last attempt at price controls of energy companies had led to blackouts in California. They omitted to mention that that crisis happened because of corrupt private equity firm Enron making enormous profits. 

The media are unused to Labour arguing for anything resembling a policy. That means they treat Miliband saying he’d stop one tax cut for big business to give a tax cut to small business as if the shadow cabinet had stormed the Winter Palace. 

Nonetheless the Labour Party actually getting around to opposing the government lifted many people. But there are limits. Labour will not renationalise Royal Mail after it is privatised. 

Labour’s conference voted to commit the party to renationalisation. But the leadership made it clear at the time the policy would not be adopted. There was a time when Labour leaders would make promises at party conferences and then renege on them when in office. Now they don’t bother with the wait. 

Labour’s health spokesperson Andy Burnham told the demonstration outside the Tory Party conference last week that he will repeal the Health and Social Care Bill. This is a good thing, but it raises a question. 

Would a Labour government take back in-house the services that the bill has privatised? Similarly, on the bedroom tax, it is a victory for every campaigner that Labour is planning to repeal the vicious attack on the poor. 

But while waiting for a Labour government Labour councils need to guarantee that they won’t evict people who get behind because of the tax. Far worse is the nasty consensus that competes on petty nationalism to blame immigrants at every opportunity.

All of this shows two things. The potential to build and deepen opposition to the Tory attacks is there. But importantly we cannot afford to wait for a Labour government—we need to build and unite the resistance to Tory austerity now. 

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