Friday 17 September 2010

Lurching to the centre-ground?

No modernising voice has yet proposed that newspaper leader writers and editorial boards should have their own section in Labour's electoral college. But that idea may now be tempting some in the David Miliband camp - which can now add the support of The Economist to that of the Mirror, Observer, Times and Independent, with the Guardian sitting it out following some unhappy recent endorsement experiences, leaving the New Statesman flying an Ed Miliband banner in an attempt to prevent a media consensus landslide.

However, regular Economist readers may find the Economist's broad-brush conclusion unconvincing. The Economist's editorial worries about being left out of the Labour coalition if MiliD is not chosen:

A lurch to the left would leave centrist swing-voters, including this newspaper, with nowhere to go other than the Con-Lib coalition. Britain needs a credible opposition — and David Miliband is the most plausible person to deliver it.

However, the point that charges about a "lurch left" lack any credible evidence has been made most effectively during this campaign in The Economist, by the Bagehot columnist who has noted that Red Angela Merkel and Red Nicolas Sarkozy have gone rather further in their critique of capitalism than what Bagehot called the the 'model Christian Democrat', Ed Miliband:

I have not seen anything him say anything that a continental Christian Democrat could not say to fire up his own conservative base on a wet Wednesday in Hamburg or Lyon.

Might that "lurch" from New Labour to the continental centre-right have something to recommend it? Perhaps not. Merkelism is probably also a little statist for much of The Economist's Anglo-American audiences.

This blog favours a slightly deeper shade of pale pink than the Bagehot column, as we do indeed favour modest, gradualist, strategic and electorally viable lurches towards social democracy. In that spirit, we have been pleased to report that David Miliband has a very similar policy platform to Ed Miliband, though there are some important, if nuanced, policy and political differences between them.

On specifics, MiliD has a stronger progressive pitch in advocating a mansion tax, which MiliE has not; both are for examining the question of unearned rewards at the top, though without saying what they will do about it; neither supports Ed Balls' policy of bringing the 50p rate in at £100,000.

A difference about whether the 50p rate at £150k should be for this Parliament or permanent is easily exaggerated.

The slogan "keep the current tax rate" has never before brought excited citizens to the barricades.

But perhaps the Economist is slightly agitated at "Red Dave" Cameron and "Red George" Osborne's failure to give any make any serious move, so far, to reverse it.


PS: The Economist is a somewhat unusual "centrist swing voter", rather given to counter-intuitive and intellectually playful endorsements which have not previously been seen to sway great electoral blocs of support.

It did endorse Tony Blair's Labour in 2001, though from a perspective of Thatcherite principle, under the headline "vote conservative in Britain's election, cheekily playing off Labour's Hague-Thatcher poster with a cover suggesting that Tony Blair was the most credible heir to Maggie. It had lost its enthusiasm for Blair and New Labour by 2005, though its support for the Iraq war helped secure a negative endorsement under the headline There is no alternative - alas, before finding itself (with doubts) in the Cameron camp this time.

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