Could Labour win again?

I’ve just caught up with David Miliband’s article, which is refreshing because it’s about ideas rather than the brain-dead media obsession with Brown’s personality. I liked this passage:

With hindsight, we should have got on with reforming the NHS sooner. We needed better planning for how to win the peace in Iraq, not just win the war. We should have devolved more power away from Whitehall and Westminster. We needed a clearer drive towards becoming a low-carbon, energy-efficient economy, not just to tackle climate change but to cut energy bills.

But 10 years of rising prosperity, a health service brought back from the brink, and social norms around women’s and minority rights transformed, have not come about by accident. After all, the Tories opposed almost all the measures that have made a difference — from the windfall tax on privatised utilities to family-friendly working.

Now what are they offering? The Tories say society is broken. By what measure? Rising crime? No, crime has fallen more in the past 10 years than at any time in the past century. Knife crime and gun crime are serious problems. But since targeting the spike in gun crime, it has been cut by 13% in a year, and we have to do the same with knife crime.

What about the social breakdown that causes crime? More single parents dependent on the state? No, employment has risen sharply for lone parents because the state has funded childcare and made work pay. Falling school standards? No, they are rising. More asylum seekers? No, we said we would reform the system and slash the numbers, and we did…

That’s a start. It’s nice to see a Labour bigwig express some regrets. But he doesn’t go far enough. No serious mention of the decision to go to war in Iraq, for example (just regret that there wasn’t more planning for the aftermath). No appreciation of the fundamental weaknesses of Labour’s approach to the public services — in particular its crazed obsession with ‘targets’. And then there’s the government’s innate authoritarianism, its insistence on detention without charge or trial, its determination to have an ID card system and its relentless extension of the powers of surveillance. Miliband’s willingness to admit to weakness and maybe even of error is a welcome change, but it looks like pretty feeble stuff to me.

Now if there were to be a putsch that unhorsed Brown, and if the new leader were really to make a clean break with the past in relation to the above list, then it would pull the rug from under the Cameroonians, and might even cause the electorate to rub its collective eyes in amazement — and interest. But I can’t see it happening.

Sunder Katwala (Secretary of the Fabian Society) has some critical comments on the Miliband article.