Posts Tagged ‘Rhineland model’

Bringing the Rhine to the Tyne: why Ed Miliband is right to reinvigorate social democracy

04/10/2011, 09:04:25 AM

by David Mathieson

Moving to the left, deserting the middle class and betraying wealth creators. The Tory attack lines from Manchester this week are all too predictable and have been well rehearsed by their comentariat over the past few days: the “Red Ed” strapline is back in vogue as they pick up on elements of Miliband’s speech proposing a new social and economic bargain.

So what is it that so upsets the British right about what Miliband said? An economy which accommodates values other than just those of the market? A recognition that firms have obligations beyond shareholder value? One of the few solid proposals in Miliband’s speech, a worker representative on pay boards, would hardly raise an eyebrow elsewhere in those parts of continental Europe where a more inclusive Rhineland model of capitalism holds sway.  Miliband explicitly did not reject market capitalism but merely argued that our existing economic model needs to be redrawn: what the Labour leader is effectively seeking to do is bring some of the Rhine to the Tyne.

Why Miliband’s arguments for a new economic bargain should set the Tories ablaze is baffling for two reasons. First, because the Rhineland model is a creation of the right rather than the left. Post-war German politics, for example, have been dominated by the Christian democrats of the CDU, not the social democrats of the SPD (political disagreement in the country seldom touches the economic model which is supported – in every sense – by both major parties). Switzerland may have some red in the national flag but that is about as far as it goes – Zurich and Lucerne are not bastions of the left. The Benelux countries are notable their for caution, coalitions and consensus.

The second reason for Conservative fury is equally bewildering. Most British families understand that our economic model is broken and they are looking to their politicians to fix it. Labour may trail the Tories on the issue of the economy in the polls, but Osborne’s ratings are dismal. Voters will reward those who come up with a solution which chimes with their own values.


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