I’ve commented several times previously on how I am utterly baffled at the reaction of hushed, awe-struck excitement that greets an article or an ‘intervention in the national conversation’ by David ‘Planet of the Apes’ Miliband.
Its headline news in the liberal media. A Very Big Deal Indeed. It’s as if the man is an all-knowing genius whose every insight will shake the foundations of contemporary political discourse.
It won’t though will it.
The truth is that he’s a dreary, odd-looking little man, a discredited front-line politician who talks only in vacuous clichés. David Miliband is the political Emperor’s New Clothes made flesh.
He isn’t the messiah even if your stock in trade is automatons entirely wedded to neoliberalism; he’s a man so tediously unoriginal, so divorced from reality, so inexplicably smug and so charisma-free that even our generation’s largely hollowed-out Labour Party were too embarrassed to choose him as their leader.
Anyway, Miliband senior’s thesis, such as it is, is that Labour needs to focus on reforming the state as well as the market. Let’s leave aside that David Miliband’s platform when he stood for leader was essentially Blairisim without Blair, and that regulating and controlling markets was pretty much bottom of Tony Blair’s priority list, and rather than devolving power locally he was a ruthless centralizer.
I’d rather focus on what Miliband means when he talks of reforming the state. This passage from his Guardian article is illustrative:
Finally, there is the politics. Despite the financial crisis or the failings of G4S, the public response has not been a flight from free markets to strong states. They are sceptical of both, and want the best of both. Our case depends on reform of government not just defence of government. A reformed state has clear national goals, decentralised power for consumers and staff over budgets and services, and the integration of services around people and across departmental silos. This is the way to free up money and meet the needs of tomorrow rather than yesterday.
No me, neither.
(Incidentally, ‘meet the needs of tomorrow rather than yesterday’ sounds like something Hugh Abbott or Nicola Murray would say, I’m sure you’ll agree. And not in a good way. I’m flabbergasted that he thought it would be a good idea to finish a paragraph on a sentence like that.)
How Miliband intends to save all this money is never actually elaborated beyond the platitudes. Why? Because saving money doesn’t involve ‘reform’. Saving money means cuts.
So when Miliband talks about ‘reform’ it is just a code. A euphemism, as he hasn’t the courage to say what he actually means.
And when he claims to know what the public thinks about the balance between state and market you just end up pitying the man. David Miliband, man of the people……?
You would have thought all that reading he has done over the years would give him the intellectual confidence to set out his own view of the world and try to persuade people of it, rather than tailing what he thinks ‘public opinion’ is and acquiescing to the TINA narrative of the people he purports to be the opponents of. It is the method of the coward or the opportunist, or in Miliband’s case: both.
Another passage inadvertently happens upon the truth:
Faced with savage budget cuts, they are doing different, and actually better. In Liverpool the Labour mayor has streamlined 87 local authority business units into seven. In the Cooperative Council network of Labour authorities, residents are being given more power, businesses new incentives, the voluntary sector and private sector engaged as an active partner of smart government.
The only words of any real significance are the first five however. Nothing about opposing the cuts or questioning the logic of austerity, and in fact there is a tacit endorsement of it. Is Miliband really passing this kind of thinking off as new? It all sounds depressingly familiar to me……….
If the extra power local people have is merely the power to decide where the cuts fall then it’s a rather hollow kind of power.
David Miliband’s favourite kind of course.
To paraphrase a line used by our own DC when witheringly dismissing Christiano Ronaldo, David Miliband is a myth and a charlatan. In the land of the blind he is also blind.