24 Sep 2013

Bill freezes and interventions: Miliband promises return to 70s

“Well, I know what ‘predistribution’ means now,” one of the biggest names in the Labour movement said to me, beaming from ear to ear. “Prices and income policy!”

Then he punched the air with joy.

Ed Miliband‘s team says that’s far from the truth. But the energy industry intervention is one of the biggest government interventions in the market in recent times. After a 20-month price freeze, a new and more heavily regulated and redesigned energy market would be launched, with generators having to feed their kilowatts into a pool that suppliers can compete to bring to your home or business.


Return to the 70s?

I get the impression Team Miliband isn’t worried about the Tories firing back with a “return to the 70s” label because they don’t think most people have strong or particularly negative connotations with price interventions.

Match this with the talk of raising the minimum wage and linking government contracts to living wage deals, and you get a picture of a Labour administration intervening more than Tony Blair or Gordon Brown were willing to contemplate.

He announced a Labour government would be building 200,000 homes a year by the end of the next parliament. There have been many such promises before, one of them in 2006 by Gordon Brown. None of them were met but some homeless charities say that’s because underlying problems with the house-building market weren’t addressed.

Ed Miliband is announcing a review to work out how to sort out what he sees as obstacles to house-building but it is ambitious/reckless (delete as appropriate) to put a fixed number on house builds when you haven’t even worked out in detail what you want to do. That said, after the intervention proposed in the energy market, I suspect the house-builders will be getting the lobbyists and lawyers working hard to anticipate what the detail of Labour reform might look like.

One year after David Cameron put “the global race” at the centre of his electoral campaign, Ed Miliband said it represented a “race to the bottom” built on the back of low pay widening inequality.

Applause a-plenty

In the hall, they loved it. Last year he came up with a slogan – One Nation – and performed well without a script. Then, shadow cabinet colleagues complained, he went quiet.

Today, he burst out with another confident delivery (lots of smiles, humour and self-deprecation) but also some chunky policies. But they are policies that would’ve been binned in the Blair/Brown years as “too left-wing,” “frightening business” and much more besides. Ed Miliband more or less admitted that, when he talked about needing to “re-set the market.”

No applause from huge chunks of the union delegations as he defended his (as yet unwritten) party reforms. But a standing ovation for the passage on the need to rescue the NHS “all over again.”

I counted around 24 uses of the term “Britain can do better than this.” A big round too of applause for votes for 16- and 17-year-olds.

It’s all chunky enough to drown out Damian McBride’s promotion of his book but the attempt by his publisher, Iain Dale, to stop a veteran protester interrupting his interview on Daybreak this morning is viewable here, and I do recommend it.

 Follow @GaryGibbonBlog on Twitter

Tweets by @garygibbonc4