It’s fair to say Ed Miliband’s big speech on the economy didn’t get off to a good start.
First, Mark Carney dismissed his bank bonus plans as “crude” and essentially unworkable.
Then George Osborne snaffled the headlines by coming out in support of a rise in the Minimum Wage.
The third blow came as the pre-briefing of his plans to forcibly break up banks damaged the value of stocks in those which were bailed out – losing the nation an estimated total of £940 million overnight.
Labour leaders normally wait until they’re in Government before they cost taxpayers a fortune – Ed Miliband has achieved the dubious distinction of doing so while still in Opposition.
Remarkably, the sainted but inept Chuka Umunna then compounded matters by appearing on the Today Programme to not only accept Labour responsibility for the losses, but to effectively shrug about it:
“I’m not denying in the short term that you may see a hit on the share price of these banks. I mean it is probably happening as we speak now.”
So having been dismissed by the UK’s senior economic official, upstaged by the Government and, finally, publicly cost the taxpayer nigh on a billion pounds, Ed took the stage.
Even the stage appears somewhat cursed – as Tim Montgomerie spotted, the Labour Leader had inauspiciously chosen to speak in the same room in which Iain Duncan Smith tried to relaunch his leadership in 2003.
What on earth did Ed Miliband do to deserve this? He must privately regret smashing a mirror that time he was walking under a ladder while watching a passing black cat.
The speech itself is quite lengthy, so I’ll summarise it for ConHome readers:
“Friends. Britain deserves better than this. The cost of living. The cost of friends. Britain. There will be a reckoning. Banks. The cost of banks. Britain deserves better than the cost of banks. Or the cost of living friends.”
That’s essentially the gist of it. If there was an Ed Miliband bingo game, this was the Full House.
In practice, he proposed breaking up banks which exceed a certain market share, and – remarkably – dismissed rising wages and falling inflation as merely “a few months of statistics” which won’t improve the cost of living. While no-one thinks the cost of living problems are going to be solved overnight, income outstripping inflation is precisely the way the pain will start to be resolved – pooh-poohing news that will make a real difference to people’s lives is an act of desperation.
As the polls suggest, the economy is once again eroding Labour’s narrative – having refused to apologise for their economic and fiscal mistakes, or for their false predictions of the disastrous impact of austerity, or for backing Hollande’s failed Plan B prescription in France, they are now simply sticking to a script regardless of how it gels with reality.
As Paul Marshall writes in today’s Times, even their proposed solutions for the banks are painfully out of step with the real, digital revolution which will sweep away flawed and failed business models.
The mysterious absence of Ed Balls – not a man renowned as a wallflower, or for keeping himself to himself – in the very public relaunch of Labour’s economic policy suggests that perhaps some of those standing behind the Opposition leader know quite how badly things are going, and are losing their appetite to be associated with it. Perhaps the choice of venue wasn’t a coincidence after all.