Cunliffe and Miliband, peas in a pod, and a rotten one at that

Ed Miliband is lurching Labour hard left, David Cunliffe too is lurching Labour in New Zealand hard to the left.

Previously Labour in both countries mimicked each other in slogan and in policy, seeking to represent the “squeezed middle”, noie it is apparent they are lurching hard left.

David Cunliffe is doing so in the mistaken belief that the electorate wants hard socialism, and also to attempt to squeeze out the Greens. Ed Miliband has no competition on the left so it beggars belief that he is trying it.

The result will be the same for both leaders…failure. Both John Key and David Cameron have a simple job.

Now David Cameron and the Conservatives must make a well-defined, unambiguous fight over state power versus individual liberty.

Somehow it has become the received wisdom that Ed Miliband’s conference speech presents David Cameron with a big problem. In the blink of an eye – or in the course of just over an hour – the Labour leader went from hapless, hopeless loser to Major Electoral Threat. Never mind that almost nobody in the street (if the broadcast vox pops and endless anecdotal evidence are any indication) seemed to believe the Miliband promise of frozen energy bills.

Forget that he had nothing to say about the issues that we know the voters actually care about: the economy, immigration, welfare reform, etc. No, by some peculiar commentariat alchemy, Mr Miliband’s address – aimed shamelessly at the hall, rather than at the country – was a game-changer. 

Gee, where have we heard that before. These things aren’t game changers. It wasn’t in New Zealand except for the demise of the leader that called it a game changer. The game did change, but only for him as the polls jammed into mediocre.

Mr Cameron may yet choose to interpret Labour’s attempt at a Marxist revival in the post-Soviet world as simply a retreat from the precious Centre Ground of Politics in which he – Mr Cameron – can now blissfully curl up and go to sleep.

With Mr Miliband haring off to the Left, Mr Cameron could claim sole ownership of that indeterminate space between the poles of debate: neither here nor there, neither this nor that, not too hot, not too cold, in which he has been advised that all elections are won. The modernisers will be hissing ecstatically in his ear that this is his opportunity to bring that original project home: the single theme with which he could vanquish not just his official electoral opponents but his own dreaded irreconcilable backbenches. The Conservatives, they will say, can hold an unchallenged monopoly of the sensible middle. No visceral convictions needed. No radical enthusiasms. Just moderation, pragmatism and common decency in the face of an opposition that has once again chosen to cast itself as ideologically extreme.

David Cunliffe has to deliver to his union base now…a base that enjoys the support of just 9% of the population. Most of us hate everything they stand for…Cunliffe and Labour will find that out the hard way. I suspect that Ed Miliband will too.

For the official Opposition to return to the anti-free-market rhetoric of 1982 could be damaging even if there was little likelihood of them being returned to power.

The warnings of future price-freezes, of confiscation, of higher business taxes, of punitive regulation create the sense of a culture in which enterprise and inward investment would be unwise to venture. The new Miliband revivalism brings back the threat of nationalisation and state seizure that did so much to wreck the prospects of post-war British industry.

And yes, Mr Cameron makes it clear that he sees all this. He also appears to appreciate how truly backward-looking and reactionary it is. This is a belief system that collapsed under the weight of its own contradictions a generation ago. So definitively discredited was the statist solution that it did not even enjoy a renaissance after the spectacular financial crash of 2008: failed banks may have been taken into public ownership but everybody agreed that this should be a temporary measure for the duration of the present emergency. Nobody wanted the government to control the financial institutions for a moment longer than was necessary. If mass public opinion didn’t revert to socialist theology then, it never will.

Wise words that I doubt the acolytes of Labour will hear.

Yet here it is, flickering into life again: the Old Religion with its seductive dream of a perfect, state-controlled economy in which no one makes “too much” profit and no one ever earns less than he needs.

The Tories need to go after this argument at full throttle: to make a well-defined, unambiguous fight over state power versus individual liberty.

It’s important to note that what was compelling about the Miliband show was not the half-baked policies but the personal belief with which they were delivered. This is an opportunity for Mr Cameron to make his case with similar clarity and conviction: to say that Tories, too, accept that there is a cost-of-living crisis but that their solution is for the government to charge you less in tax and give you more real choice of services – which will make them cost less, too. It is about giving more spending power to people and less to government.

It is extraordinary that state socialism should be stalking the land once again. Out of sheer desperation, Labour decided to lift the lid on a coffin. In Manchester this week, Mr Cameron needs to wield a good stout wooden stake.

I have constantly warned national of the same…yet we have Hekia Parata entertaining the teacher unions, Simon Bridges placing timid reforms before the parliament and Jami-lee Ross’ bill languishing as a members bill instead of being adopted by the government.

Timidity emboldens unions bullies. Cut off their power and cut off their money.

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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.