March 8 2014 Latest news:
Joseph Watts, Political editor
Saturday, September 29, 2012
When Ed Miliband became party leader he launched a policy review proclaiming Labour would consider all ideas on how to run the country. He would start with a “blank page”.
While enduring accusations that he had no ideas, he kept on confident in the knowledge that he was following a path well trodden by both Tony Blair and David Cameron.
That is; it pays not to have many ideas in opposition. A party with fewer solid ideas cannot be attacked, and so the focus falls on how well the government performs.
But that trick can only be performed for so long and midway through this Parliament calls from Miliband’s own ranks for a solid sign of what he would do as prime minister have reached a new pitch.
Only yesterday the party’s Norwich North candidate Jess Asato told the EDP she wanted more “meat” on the bones of Labour policy proposals. Today senior Labour figure and former Norwich MP Charles Clarke follows suit.
“What Ed Miliband and the party have to do at this conference is to outline an absolutely clear direction for the way in which Labour would govern the country in all aspects of policy; economic and social,” he told the EDP.
“That means articulating a vision of the country we want to create and setting out some more of the policy background than we have done so far.
“The key task is to convince people through the country that Labour both knows what it wants to do and how it wants to achieve it.”
He added: “The key is not giving a great deal of detail, but making it clear how we would approach issues, for example, dealing with the fiscal deficit.”
The message has reached party headquarters. In the shadow cabinet room earlier this week Mr Miliband told the EDP he knew what he had to do.
He said: “We will be putting forward solutions in particular to the economic crisis that our country is facing and showing how we can build an economy that works, not just for a few people at the top but for all people right across the country.
“We’ll be talking at conference about issues of prices and living standards, issues of how we help small business, how we build the long term reforms of our economy that we need and also how we tackle the jobs crisis.”
He added: “We are a party that is not only a responsible opposition, but I believe will this week show how we can be an alternative government.”
To kick things off he announced a ‘youth jobs task force’ which will see him direct Labour councils around the country to come up with schemes to help young people find jobs.
We can also expect policy on the green economy; business opportunities presented by the country becoming more environmentally friendly, such as in the renewable energy sector.
Last week Lib Dem energy secretary Ed Davey stated such business opportunities, which firms in Norfolk and Suffolk hope will provide 1,000 jobs by 2017, would help the country pull itself out of recession.
Mr Miliband said: “The government have catastrophically undermined the case on renewable energy. It’s hard to remember now but David Cameron is the guy that went to the arctic to hug a husky.
“But he’s now appointed an environment secretary [Owen Paterson] that says he doesn’t believe in climate change and [their] economic policy seems to be that if you help the environment it hurts the economy.
“That is not my view. I think that actually the way you have a successful economy is by promoting green jobs.”
Meanwhile the leader was clear on his opposition to plans announced by George Osborne to explore introducing locally negotiated pay deals for public sector workers.
Currently a state sector worker gets the same wage where ever they work in the country. But if regional pay bargaining was brought in wages would be more closely tied to those in the local private sector.
In the East of England that may mean public sector workers taking between a 10pc and 15pc pay cut. Mr Miliband even neatly side stepped the fact that it was Labour that introduced regional pay rates in the court services when it was in power.
“There are isolated examples that people can point to, but I think the question is whether you want it wholesale, in schools and hospitals and elsewhere,” he said.
“My sense is that actually it’s not going to help our kids. It’s not going to help patients in hospitals. We’ll look at their proposals, but as I say we’ll approach them with deep scepticism.”