Russell Taylor: Red Ed – A Blast From The Past

Ed Miliband wants to dust off Clause Four, hoist the red flag and return the Labour Party to its former glory: as an unelectable basketcase, run by an amateurish buffoon. Neil Kinnock’s heart must be bursting with pride.

Actually, that’s an unfair comparison, because Kinnock was a powerful speaker, whereas Miliband is a nasal sixth-form debating club captain with a headful of recycled opinions. In fact, I can’t think of any quality in which he could be said to outstrip his recent predecessors. Tony Blair had more political nous, John Smith was witter, and even Gordon Brown was more decisive. Perhaps Miliband’s distinction is to have less authority, charisma or oratory power than any Labour leader of modern times. Some achievement.

Red Ed has one thing going for him. In declaring his intention to return to socialism, he has at least demonstrated some ideological conviction, even if he lacks the policies to go with it. He’s like an author with writer’s block. He has a theme (socialism), a main character (Ed Miliband) and a twist ending (social and economic ruin), but can’t think of a story to hold it all together. The Labour Party conference has put a little flesh on the bones, but there’s still not much more than a rough outline to work with. One might say he has the exact opposite problem to the government, which has plenty of policies but no unifying principles to speak of.

That Miliband has finally chosen to show his true colours should come as no surprise to anyone. He is the scion of a tweedy Marxist academic of the old school: the type who considers it the duty of freedom-hating intellectuals to lead the masses in a revolt against the capitalist tyranny. Ever since he was a little boy, playing with his trade unionist action figures, he must have dreamt of leading a socialist movement – preferably one comprised of exploited workers, put-upon minorities and downtrodden immigrants. In the absence of such a constituency, Labour governments have done their best to create one, by stoking grievances, encouraging immigration and shackling people to the state. Miliband is clearly anxious to continue this tradition, albeit with more retro panache than Blair or Brown.

Personally, I’m grateful for such ideological honesty. As long as Miliband is banging the class warfare drum, we know where he stands. It tells us that he’s the kind of man who fantasises about protests, placards and angry men with loudhailers standing on boxes; who gets warm and fuzzy at the thought of nationalising industries and releasing them from the blight of efficency and standards; whose Christmas cards probably feature striking workers huddled around an oil drum brazier in the snow. He’s less of a bleeding-heart liberal of the modern ilk and more of a disco-era Gulag-apologist, who knows his dialectical materialism from his labour theory of value.

It’s an image that whiffs of electoral suicide, but who knows? Perhaps Miliband’s brand of unreconstructed leftism will strike a chord with those who are disillusioned by the lack of conviction in modern politics and yearn for someone to light a fire in their bellies. After all, socialism appeals to and seeks to rationalise some of our basest instincts: envy, resentment and self-pity. There could be political mileage in this yet.

Hopefully, today’s electorate is savvy enough to appreciate the economic illiteracy of socialism and its sham claims of moral superiority; but this is far from assured, given how successful the Left has been in remaking the nation in its own image. Younger voters have grown up with the message that the state is there to smooth their passage through life and that their every dissatisfaction is someone else’s fault. Perhaps by articulating the rationale behind this sense of entitlement, Ed Miliband can win them over to the socialist cause.

To understand the disparity in vision between Left and Right, I have a personal example to offer. A few years ago, my wife started her own business, because she wanted to create something of her own and hopefully make a better life for our family. For the first year, she worked alone, then advertised for staff. She found some good candidates, offered them jobs, and now she has three people working for her. Suffice to say, her employees accepted the terms of their employment voluntarily and they are equally at liberty to leave if they become unhappy, get better offers elsewhere, or want to start companies of their own. It’s an arrangement that works for everyone: my wife has the help she needs and her employees have jobs.

To a socialist, however, my wife is a capitalist: part of a sinister oppressor group. She has conscripted workers into helping her make money, but she refuses to share it equitably with them, making her an exploiter of their labour. There can be no amicable give-and-take in such an relationship. There are the powerless employees and the on-high boss, and there is nothing the former can do to escape the mistreatment of the latter. This imposes on my wife a duty of care towards her employees. In exchange for their servitude, she is obliged to provide them with assurances and benefits that prevent her from easily dismissing them, that create comfortable working conditions for them, and which compensate them for their derisory wages. Since she is unlikely to provide these things willingly, she must be compelled to do so by the state. And if this makes her business unviable, diminishes its success, or deters others from following her example and starting their own companies, so be it. Grasping capitalists shouldn’t be free to profit from other people’s efforts as they see fit. In fact, they should be grateful they are permitted to do business at all.

Not every socialist hates small business (indeed, Ed Miliband now claims to be its biggest fan), but most seem to believe that at some point during the growth of a company, its owners and executives cease to be sympathetic strivers and turn into money-grabbing bullies, who must be brought to heel by the state. Underlying this poisonous perspective is Lenin’s ‘who, whom’ principle: the belief that all power other than that of the socialist state is wielded illegitimately and to harmful effect. Unregulated human existence is war and only the state can bring peace.

The baleful effects of this hostility towards free markets are well-known, but this hasn’t prevented the Left from forging ahead with its agenda. As Boris Johnson pointed out in the Telegraph this week, socialists justify their actions by focussing on the purity of their cause. But Boris fails to ask why equality (of outcome, not of opportunity) remains the ideal of so many people. Until that question is answered, it won’t be possible to understand the appeal of socialism or explain the depravities committed in its name.

Free societies reward those who demonstrate the qualities and skills for which others have expressed a preference. If you’re willing to rise to this challenge, all’s well; but if you can’t or won’t, then trouble’s a-brewin’. The failure of society to coo over your skateboarding degree from DeMontford, to tolerate your lack of social skills, or to let you sit in an ivory tower and play God, will be felt as an injustice. The contentment and success of others, and the system they have prospered under, will become a source of resentment. Inequality, as a product and precondition of this system, will become a symbol of your mistreatment and the root of all evil.

Socialism promises to take away your pain. It turns the state into your fairy godmother and your avenging angel. It absorbs those you envy into a collective enterprise that nullifies their advantage and thwarts their ambitions. It describes other people’s gains as ill-gotten. It creates an environment in which your shortcomings are no longer held against you. It flatters your weaknesses and excuses your failures. It lets you believe that all our social ills can be fixed without any negative trade-offs. It’s a one-stop feel-good shop for every type of disgruntled soul, from the talentless misfit to the privileged brat.

Roger Scruton, in his essay The Root of Totalitarianism, wrote that “Nothing is more comforting to the resentful than the thought that those who possess what they envy possess it unjustly. In the worldview of the resentful, success is not a proof of virtue but, on the contrary, a call to retribution.” Make no mistake, envy and retribution are what socialism is about and are what Ed Miliband has to offer the electorate. His conviction may be refreshing, but what he is selling is as debauched and destructive as ever.

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18 comments on “Russell Taylor: Red Ed – A Blast From The Past

  1. Honey Badger
    September 25, 2013 at 2:15 pm #

    Definitely as “destructive as ever” – SSE shares down 5.37% and Centrica shares down 4.5% and all he’s done is make a speech!

    Major investors are deeply upset http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/energy/10332858/Top-Centrica-shareholder-Neil-Woodford-accuses-Labour-leader-Ed-Miliband-of-economic-vandalism.html

    Miliband has effectively turned investing in UK energy infrastructure into a gamble dependent on the result of the next election – which at the moment is too tight to call. I suspect this is going to seriously hamper the industry’s ability to invest in infrastructure.

    By driving their shareprices down he is making it more difficult for them to raise the necessary capital and is probably also going to push-up their cost of finance … all of which will need to be added to customers’ bills.

    Personally I see this as a buying opportunity, but I am only a small investor with a few quid to spare and a hope that his policy is either illegal or, more likely, the usual “politician’s pre-election pledge” that never actually sees the light of day.

    First they came for the energy companies, then they came for the property developers …

  2. Maneno
    September 25, 2013 at 2:33 pm #

    Really depressing …. you left out one distinguishing feature which is that Stab-Brother will do whatever it takes – and he is a very clever chap.
    Let us hope he is not right in thinking these measures will be popular with the electorate

    • Honey Badger
      September 25, 2013 at 2:39 pm #

      Sadly, it’s reported that the policy got “off the chart” approval ratings when it was tested with focus groups.

      Also would like to correct my above comment by saying that some of the fall with Centrica was down to the shares going ex-dividend.

  3. dr
    September 25, 2013 at 5:52 pm #

    What I find interesting about Ed Milliband’s positioning of himself as a socialist is not that he has decided to position himself at the point on the political spectrum where he has. It is what impact does this statement make on someone’s choice of who to vote for at the next General Election, particularly if you are a UKIP supporter.
    In other words, does this positioning tempt a potential UKIP supporter to vote Conservative simply to keep out Ed Milliband?

    • Russell Taylor
      September 26, 2013 at 7:32 am #

      This brand of socialism has a magical appeal. It offers people the comforting belief that all their problems and frustrations are the fault of other people’s greed and malice, and presents the socialist state as the solution: as a fairy godmother, who will magic it all away with a wave of her wand. You’d be surprised how appealing that illusion can be, especially in hard times.

      • dr
        September 26, 2013 at 7:47 am #

        Russell, interesting thought.
        I assume that this brand of magical socialism is also self reinforcing. If people having hard times, find it attractive and therefore vote for it, then that is one thing. However, it seems to me that the policies within this brand of socialism will increase the severity of the “hard times”, thereby creating more potential recruits to this ideology.

      • dr
        September 26, 2013 at 7:52 am #

        Although to think of a counter example, does not Margaret Thatcher’s victory in the late ’70s general election (I think it was ’79) argue that people can be convinced that this socialist government is incompetent or misguided?

  4. dr
    September 25, 2013 at 6:44 pm #

    The other thing that I note about Ed Milliband is that he seems to have no doubt in his mind whatsoever about Anthropogenic Global Warming.
    I assume that this belief would mean the end of fracking and shale gas in the UK.
    This would make him by far the “greenest” Prime Minister that we have ever had.

    • Russell Taylor
      September 26, 2013 at 11:11 am #

      If you believe that bad people make bad things happen, and that good people can fix them if they have sufficient power, you are probably going to vote Labour. Simple as that. As the state grows and people are drained of influence, even socialists come to see that our circumstances cannot be blamed on the wickedness of individuals, since they no longer wield sufficient power to make a difference. At this point, conservative movements win favour again.

      That’s what happened with Margaret Thatcher, but unlikely Cameron she had the conviction to follow through with her reforms. Cameron, on the other hand, is too concerned with currying favour with the liberal metropolitan set (he is a part of it, after all). Hence, the printing on money, the lack of tax cuts and his ridiculous obsession with capital projects like HS2.

  5. kevinsmith2013
    September 25, 2013 at 6:45 pm #

    We face a choice of “spot the difference” socialism of either the Labour, Conservative or Lib Dem (unlikely) type. Different style, same substance. Because of first past the post voting system UKIP have no chance of forming a government, will be lucky to get more than a couple of MP’s, and it will be mainly disgruntled conservaives who will vote UKIP, and probably gift Labour the election. Whatever way we vote we get government, we need and deserve something much better. The conservaitives can probably only win if they ditch Cameron and form an alliance with Farage and UKIP.

    • silverminer
      September 25, 2013 at 10:19 pm #

      I think you might be underestimating the inroads UKIP are going to make in the North, Kevin. All the talk at the conference was about attacking the Labour vote in the North and the Midlands. I very much doubt Farage will attach himself to the Tories tarnished brand before the election. They’re positioning themselves as neither Left nor Right, just what’s right for the country, i.e. Brexit as rapidly as possible.

  6. Rocco
    September 25, 2013 at 7:22 pm #

    Just a silly titbit: A young lady, first time delegate (named, of all things, Tori) asked Ed in the Q&A, to pledge “right here, right now” that when Labour is elected in 2015, they will “eliminate domestic violence, and eliminate rape”. Eliminate them!
    He didn’t answer, funnily enough.

    • kevinsmith2013
      September 25, 2013 at 8:05 pm #

      Surprising he didn’t promise to eliminate them, he seems to be promising anything else that might get him elected, a bit like Kinnock in his day. Its not as if they have to honour their promises or anything!

      • dr
        September 26, 2013 at 7:01 am #

        I do expect Labour to win the next General Election. Although I agree that what gets promised at this stage can easily be set aside, by leaving it out of the manifesto. So then, Labour can benefit from having given the impression to some of its supporters that it will do things that they like, but won’t feel obliged to deliver all of the policies that have been discussed during this parliament.
        “We are keeping our manifesto commitments” they will say.

  7. Simon Roberts
    September 26, 2013 at 10:25 am #

    There’s an aspect to Miliband’s situation that the media don’t seem to be factoring in.

    Consider the recent attempt by Unite to subvert the MP selection process and to place their own people in the House of Commons.

    This is as close to coup d’etat as the Left have tried since overthrowing the Heath government (for anyone too young too remember, the Miners removed Edward’s Heath’s government from office via strike action – google “three day week”. I remember the power cuts.)

    Miliband had no choice but to react to this as the Tories would have exploited it mercilessly and people would have seen what Len McCluskey et al were trying to do. Electoral annihilation would follow.

    Therefore, he had no choice but to curtail Unite’s activities, by removing the Union’s current power to enrol union members as local Labour party members en masse.

    This is the biggest attack on Union power since Margaret Thatcher’s reforms. The media made much of the fact that Miliband had relied on the Union block vote to win him the Labour leadership and unfortunate only really reported the story in those terms.

    What they missed – or at least failed to report – was that Miliband was heading towards being the most Union-bashing party leader for over twenty years.

    Miliband had no choice – he either had to back down to the Unions (which he hasn’t done, despite news reports to the contrary) or to head off the trouble by taking the remainder of his policies to the left.

    It’s just political expediency. He has not revealed “true colours” as the press are reporting. He’s just managing his party. Judging by the fact that all this seems to have sailed over most people’s heads, he’s doing a pretty good job so far.

    • Russell Taylor
      September 26, 2013 at 10:56 am #

      Miliband faced down the unions (for now), which was necessary for his integrity and for the image of the party. His job is to get Labour into power and his message is designed for that purpose, not just as a sop to Labourite special interest groups. He clearly believes that talk of returning to socialism will inspire the electorate to vote Labour. Either that, or he’s a Tory spy.

      • dr
        September 26, 2013 at 11:09 am #

        The first Yougov poll to be conducted after Ed Millband’s speech shows a return to nine point leads over the conservatives. This level of lead has not been seen for around three weeks.
        This suggests that the initial reactions of the general public to Ed’s speech are positive.

  8. jazz606
    September 26, 2013 at 10:29 am #

    “Vote Labour and kiss good by to your pension”

    Has a certain ring to it.

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