UK Politics

Look out, Cliff!

David Miliband’s article in The Guardian is widely reported, at least in terms of the Shakespearean tragedy of Gordon Brown’s premiership. At this very moment the Today programme is debating the article as an attempt to remove the glue holding Brown’s hands to the steering wheel of the bus – currently careering towards the cliff on his summer holiday.

Miliband does at least counter the Daily Mailism that currently infects much of the political debate:

With hindsight, we should have got on with reforming the NHS sooner. We needed better planning for how to win the peace in Iraq, not just win the war. We should have devolved more power away from Whitehall and Westminster. We needed a clearer drive towards becoming a low-carbon, energy-efficient economy, not just to tackle climate change but to cut energy bills.

But 10 years of rising prosperity, a health service brought back from the brink, and social norms around women’s and minority rights transformed, have not come about by accident. After all, the Tories opposed almost all the measures that have made a difference — from the windfall tax on privatised utilities to family-friendly working.

Now what are they offering? The Tories say society is broken. By what measure? Rising crime? No, crime has fallen more in the past 10 years than at any time in the past century. Knife crime and gun crime are serious problems. But since targeting the spike in gun crime, it has been cut by 13% in a year, and we have to do the same with knife crime.

What about the social breakdown that causes crime? More single parents dependent on the state? No, employment has risen sharply for lone parents because the state has funded childcare and made work pay. Falling school standards? No, they are rising. More asylum seekers? No, we said we would reform the system and slash the numbers, and we did.

Labour may be doomed whatever leader they have, but at least they could lose with dignity and, crucially for those who will drive a leadership challenge, perhaps more seats in parliament.