Ed Miliband’s money problem

by Atul Hatwal

There he goes again. In Ed Miliband’s interview with the Telegraph on Saturday, the Labour leader was at it once more, opining on the right, and wrong, sort of wealth. Answering the question, is it good to be rich, his answer was “yes, if you make it the hard way.”

This instinctive response is revealing. Ed Miliband did not preface his response with some words celebrating ambition, or empathising with peoples’ aspiration to earn more, he cut straight to verdict.

His phraseology framed the conditions where the Labour leader found wealth to be tolerable. This does not suggest an intrinsic comfort with making money – something quite important to most voters.

Miliband sensed the dissonant note and moved to contextualise his statement in the interview: “It’s not for me to pass moral judgment. It’s the Jimmy Carr point; what are the rules?”

The clarification at least shifts the focus from moral judgement on the behaviour of wealthy individuals who have not broken any law. But the benefit of this refinement was then wasted when Miliband did not elaborate on which rules are to be changed.

Without defining the positive action that the party will take, Miliband’s, and so Labour’s position, is one of impotent moralising about the system.

We might as well just be blaming “the man.”

In the absence of any policies to tackle the issues that the Labour leader sketches out, the implicit message is just to trust Ed to fix it.

This is a problem.

Ed Miliband might think that he is a typical sort of guy with reasonable views, someone who voters can trust, but to most people he is not.

The Labour leader is a man who has been pilloried as “red Ed” for the past two years in the media, who frequently talks in strange seminar-speak (predistribution anyone?) and has spent his entire working life in politics; to the public there’s nothing normal about him.

When the voters see a wonkish, leftish lifelong politico talking in vague terms about deserving and undeserving wealth they view it through the same lens as when rightish lifelong politicos make generalisations on the deserving and undeserving poor.

The electorate might trust the Tories to crack down on welfare cheats but fear the genuinely vulnerable will be collateral damage for the happy slashers.

Similarly, when Labour attack the undeserving well-off and talk enigmatically about changing the rules, no one is going to man the barricades supporting Bob Diamond, but the suspicion festers that a Labour party uneasy with making money will also hit business and wealth creation.

The combination of a qualified view of wealth, an essential underpinning of most voters’ aspirations, with the absence of specific policies creates a situation where it is easy for the Tories and Lib Dems to define Labour. There is no substantive policy or commitment to refute charges of reckless spending or hostility to business other than to say “trust us, it will be ok.”

Two years on from becoming leader, Ed Miliband is happy to talk about a fundamental reform of capitalism but not to say how.

It’s a case of tell don’t show. All general, no specific.

No-one is suggesting a full manifesto needs to be produced at this stage, but some policies are needed to better define this vision of reformed capitalism if Labour’s offer to the electorate is to be more meaningful than junior common room posturing on what type of wealth is acceptable.

Atul Hatwal is editor at Uncut

Tags: , , ,

9 Responses to “Ed Miliband’s money problem”

  1. Robin Thorpe says:

    Ed is perhaps running a little scared; not willing to show his hand too early. Whether this is strategically right or not is beyond my level of knowledge and experience, but in my opinion he should be explaining more fully what he means. What I think he ought to be saying is that Labour in government would target ‘unearned wealth’ as a source of increased tax revenue. The current tax system favours unearned wealth over salaried income; capital gains tax, for example, is levied at a lower rate than income tax.
    Our society values wealth so it is no use denying this and saying all must be equal, although I’m sure Ed doesn’t believe this. Atul is spot on when he says that Ed must be clearer about the extent of this; why not explicitly state that Labour will support a FTT and that Labour would enforce much stricter General Anti-Avoidance Regulation; why not say that Labour would seek to end the secrecy of all tax havens under British protection?
    The much maligned Peter Mandelson might have said that New Labour was intensely relaxed about wealth but he also qualified this by saying as long ‘as they pay their taxes.’
    Fairer taxation can in no way harm free-trade, the current rules actually make a mockery of the free-market, as TNCs have an advantage over SMEs who have to follow the rules of a single jurisdiction. Neither liberals or tories (in the traditional sense) can argue with fairer taxation, only vested corporate interests would argue in favour of retaining the status quo.

  2. Nick says:

    As usual, just talk about how to get your hands on other people’s money.

    No talk about government debt.

    When the treasuries has plans (from an FOI) to default on pensions, and you know that means civil service pensions, you know that its the government making people poor.

    You’re deluded I’m afraid.

  3. aragon says:

    Ed is of course wrong, there is no good way to obtain wealth vs a bad way. He is falling into the trap of woolly thinking and wealth creators vs rent takers.

    The problem is the vast inequalities in the distribution of wealth, including inherited wealth distorts society. As we can see from the book ‘The Spirit Level’ large inequalities in wealth are bad for society, even the rich.

    You either do something about it or you dither. A maximum income implemented through a 100% marginal tax rate, is one, perhaps too radical for some, approach.

    Jimmy Carrs’ wealth originates through a government sponsored monopoly called copyright and the concentration of power in the media. Just how many comedians do you need when each on TV can reach the whole population.

    Jimmy Carr deliberately set about avoiding the tax system, which is intended to mitigate, in a small way, concentrations of wealth. That was his moral/social crime.

    He wants to take everything from society and violate it’s standards and rules. his income was not loans but gifts from an offshore company (plus min wage).

    For the free marketers, such concentrations of wealth represent market failure in this case from the presence of a Government sponsored monopoly (copyright).

    It is not a moral question, it is a practical question, of the distribution of wealth and how much inequality society wishes to tolerate; and what you are prepared to do to change the status quo.

    Sorry that’s a fail Ed.

  4. Felix says:

    And how many people read the article apart from the political geeks like like Hulwal who lives in a Westminster bubble. A lot of froth for no good reason at all. Find yourself a decent occupation, man!

  5. Fred says:

    Poor old Ed he has millions in his bank account not made by him, so he would have to be careful what he says.

    It’s not only him is it, three of our political leaders Miliband Clegg and Cameron noine of the have made there own wealth.

    The problem for Labour not answering question could cause people to think Labour has little to say, then when they have something worth saying will people care.

  6. Steven says:

    But what’s wrong with making it the hard way?

    Labour-uncut may prefer elite networks delivering favour for the few who cultivate insider contacts but, beyond all the feather-bedding, away from the metropolitan elite, there’s a country full of people for whom the “hard way” is the only.

    Well done to Ed for speaking up for them.

  7. John Dore says:


    the managerialists such as you and I are screwed. The party is inherently left wing and it will get worse with Union influence. The sad truth is that we have suffered poor leadership for years, Callaghan Foot, Kinnock couldn’t win an election. The blinkered left don’t see that, they’re only interested in ideology.

  8. Dan McCurry says:

    I don’t feel as if I know what Ed Miliband thinks. I’m not sure if this is because he doesn’t know himself, or if he fears that if voters had a view of his private thoughts they’d be put off. I suspect it’s a mixture of the two.

  9. Peterkim says:

    Really rich people very much differ from those who take a bunch of credits, regularly use britainloan to buy luxury houses, cars and clothes. Rich people have modest lifestyle and prudent use of money. All chic riches you know are like and ad to make you buying expensive things.

Leave a Reply