Saturday 20 March 2010

Miliband's manifesto to defend universalism

The Guardian reports some significant steers on the Labour manifesto in Ed Miliband's interview with the paper - suggesting that a People's Bank using the post office network, a cap on usury and extortionate interest rates, and votes at 16 likely to make the manifesto cut.

It is good to hear Ed Miliband make the Solidarity Society argument about the importance of defending the principle of universalism against arguments to residualise the welfare state. He argues that this is an important underlying difference between the major parties.

The manifesto could well include a pledge to provide free school meals for all children, Miliband says. "I think a lot of people would like free school meals. It's subject to affordability tests – but if you go around the country talking to people about this then they say it makes a big difference in terms of nutrition, it makes a big difference in terms of concentration in classrooms.

"It speaks to another important thing: are you for a residual welfare state that is just for the poor, which is the Tory position, or are you for a more inclusive welfare state? What the Tories are saying about child trust funds, child tax credits and Sure Start – they're saying, 'let's residualise, let's make the welfare state just for the poor' but [this goes against] all the evidence in terms of maintaining public support [for the welfare state]. Why does Sure Start work as an institution? Because it brings people together." The People's bank would be aimed as much at the well off as the less well off."

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