Saturday News Review

Beyond New Labour

Labour leader Ed Miliband will warn tomorrow that the same old stance from Labour will not restore trust in the party, as he unveils 22 policy inquiries and promises the party will engage in a million conversations to reconnect with a disillusioned public. Miliband is due to address his first national policy forum as leader, where he will describe the party as beyond New Labour, and say it needs to start with a blank page on policy. His plans arguably represent the biggest policy review undertaken by the party since “Meet the challenge, Make the change”, the two-year overhaul overseen by Neil Kinnock that failed to win the party the 1992 election. – The Guardian

Mr Miliband will announce details of Labour’s root-and-branch policy review. He will insist that it will be an outward-looking process in which local parties and trade unions will hold “one million conversations” with members of the public. Working groups will be chaired by Shadow Cabinet members but will include outside experts such as businessmen and academics. Think tanks and charities will be invited to submit ideas. A Labour spokesman said: “We want this process to be rooted in real people’s lives. We want it to lead to real change in our movement. Ed is determined that Labour mustn’t retreat into a discussion with itself. He wants Labour to reach out in a way it was never able to do while in government, and draw on the best ideas from across the political landscape.” – The Independent

He will announce a series of policy-making initiatives and a widespread review of Labour’s internal workings. This may include a look at how leaders are elected in future. A ticklish topic given the controversy over Mr Miliband’s own union-weighted victory. One thing is sure. Ed Miliband will set out his stall as a leader with the humility to listen to his party, which in turn must have the humility to listen to the electorate. Particularly its squeezed middle. – Sky

It’s not difficult John

On the Today programme this morning an incredulousJohn Humprhys could not believe Ed Miliband’s suggestion that the “squeezed middle” consisted of people earning a bit above or a bit below £26,000. The Institute of Fiscal Studies might have told Humprhys that this was indeed the band in the middle of British society, and that only the richest 15 per cent or so of people pay the 40 percent tax rate. When I last spoke to the IFS, it told me that it makes as much sense to look household income as individual salaries. By this measure, families bringing in £30-£50,000 a year make up the broad middle class, which fills so much of Britain. Exactly the people Miliband was talking about, in other words. The financial crisis is hammering them. – The Spectator

Ed Miliband is attempting to woo what he terms the “squeezed middle”, a term that somehow baffled and annoyed John Humphrys when he interviewed the Labour leader on the Today programme on Friday. The presenter could not believe that the group of voters Miliband is talking about earn a little above or a little underneath £26,000. “I don’t want to sneer at Humprhys, the way he sneered at Miliband. He is a fine broadcaster, who deserves every penny he earns. I only want to say that journalists will never understand Middle England until they realize that it is nowhere near as affluent and nowhere near as secure as they imagine, and that is about to become a bleaker and more frightened place.” Absolutely. Hammer, nail, hit right on the head. As some of us have observed for a while, this area is the coalition’s great strategic and electoral weakness. In the autumn, a baffled cabinet minister took me to one side. Didn’t critics of the removal of child benefit from higher rate taxpayers understand that it would only be the “rich” who were effected? – Wall Street Journal

It’s not just rising unemployment, nor higher inflation, nor deepening cuts, nor falling pay; it’s all four.   And who are the main victims?   It’s the low-to-middle earners around the average wage.   Contrary to Daily Mail delusions of grandeur that Middle Britain nestles round doctors, managers, accountants and lawyers on £50-100,000, Middle Britain are actually those grouped around the median income at £12-30,000 a year.   There are some 11 million of them, and a new report ‘Squeezed Britain’ shows just how hard they are now being hit. – Michael Meacher Blog

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