The Right Wing press dominated the thoughts of New Labour for far too long during the Labour Party’s time in power. Initially it was a smart move to employ Alastair Campbell and before him Dave Hill to manage our media profile as the Foot Years and beyond were a presentational disaster for the Party, no matter how worthy and righteous we all may have felt policy wise.
One Tory press tactic is to try and provoke Labour politicians into statements that they think the Daily Mail readership will go for.
Ed Miliband made this mistake yesterday when after a weekend of froth in the media rehashing the Brown/ Blair rift and analysing his relationship with his brother David, he moved into that most pernicious of debates, that of “who are the deserving poor?”
By lumping in the Bankers with so called benefit cheats, the Labour Leader walked straight into the trap laid for him by Prime Minister David Cameron, who in May suggested people who are unable to work due to addiction problems should have large parts of their benefits withdrawn.
There is a whole raft of stuff just waiting to be written about how and why people become alcoholics, drug addicts or petty criminals, but suffice to say that Cameron’s utterances are so simplistic as to beggar belief and we assume, dear reader, that if you have decided to read this blog that you don’t need a lecture in social issues from us!
In direct response to Cameron’s attack on the poor, Ed stated that he thought that many problems were caused by, “those at the top and the bottom who were not showing responsibility and were shirking their duty to each other. From bankers who caused the global financial crisis to some of those on benefits who were abusing the system because they could work but didn’t.”
He then went on to say that he believes that people in work, or who take part in volunteering deserve to jump the queue for Council Housing as a reward for “giving something back to their communities”.
Here we go again. The Tory Press setting and controlling our agenda and to cap it all, in a chilling echo of Peter Mandleson’s infamous quip about wealth, Ed Miliband went one step further by telling his audience, ““I’m not just relaxed about you getting rich, I applaud you.” The fact that he was telling this to a bunch of go getting entrepreneurs, just the demographic needed to get the country going again, will be lost to history and you could lay a large wager that this sound bite will come back to haunt Ed Miliband as the Left will quote it out of context to accuse him of being soft on the wealth gap, and the Right will use it to say that Ed is really just like Tony Blair, copying Tory ideas.
Cue the Daily Mail the very day after the speech, whilst being sniffy about Ed’s commitment to cracking down on benefit cheats, welcoming his decision to “come on board” with the Tories view on the “undeserving poor”.
So basically what has been achieved is that the Press get to question our real commitment to the crack down whilst saying nothing about Ed Miliband’s views on the pay gap, which is growing at an alarming rate and which he is determined to address.
The pay of someone at the top of a company has gone up in the past 10 years from 69 times the average wage to 145 times.
Ed made the suggestion that companies should be made to publish the ratio of the pay of their top earners compared to that of average employees as a means of making those high earners at the top more accountable to the workers who, by and large are the ones making the revenue for the directors and shareholders.
So once again the Labour message is lost in a whole lot of rattle and hum created by the Tories. This is a harsh lesson. Ed Miliband must learn from it.