Mr Miliband today has allowed himself to be used. He has argued a contradiction. He both tells Labour to start seeing things the way electors do, and told Labour MPs to knuckle down and support the abolition of the 10p band. They cannot do both successfully! Electors are fed up with paying so much tax for so little in return, and most electors think taxing those on lower incomes more is wrong.
Mr Milliband is an intelligent man, but he has allowed his own intelligence to be replaced by Labour stupidity. He retails the endless Labour lie that divided parties do not get elected. The Conservative party under Thatcher was deeply split between dries and wets, yet it won three General Elections in a row. The NULab party under Blair was deeply split between PM and Chancellor, between modernisers and Old Labour, between Blairites and Brownies, yet it too won three election victories in a row. The electorate will accept some public debate within the ruling party, some signs of democratic life within. In some ways it is a sign of health and thought. What they will not accept is poor performance or weak leadership. The Major government plunged in the polls thanks to the ERM and the impact this had on house prices and jobs.It did not plunge because some of us wanted to rule out the Euro and said so in public. This government is going down thanks to its chronic inability to deliver good public services at an affordable price. The public do not want ever higher taxes, charges, and public borrowing. They realise that the endless IOUs will have to be paid by us, as well as realising how much they are being mugged by the government every time they fill up at a petrol station or pay a Council Tax bill.
Mr Milibandâ€™s remarks sum up all that is wrong with this cynical politics of spin which still disfigures the UK under its latest Prime Minister. The governmentâ€™s own polls tell it both that it is unpopular, and that electors want it to feel the publicâ€™s pain. That is why we are now hearing from Ministers that they understand why people are upset about price rises and the financial squeeze. What they still do not grasp is the public not only wants a government to understand how it feels, but to make things better where they need fixing. In Labourâ€™s rambling and costly public sector that is a huge task which this government shows no signs of grasping.
On Friday evening I attended a Thames Valley drinks party where I met a number of Chief Executives of parts of the public sector. They effectively implement Labourâ€™s policies and retail the governmentâ€™s opinions (guidance and advice) in our more Conservative area. It reminded me of what a dreadful system it is. CEOs from all round the country in Labourâ€™s Britain usually display a â€œwant moreâ€ rather than a â€œcan do attitudeâ€. I have written recently on the big differences between CEOs in successful private sector companies, and CEOs in the British public sector. The typical UK public sector CEO now thinks their job is to demand more resources from government to carry out any given task, and to protect their organisation from criticism by saying they do not have enough resource. Labour is reaping what it sowed. Throughout its long years in Opposition it had only one song â€“ give us more money. It backed most lobby groups and public sector organisations who wanted more public cash, inventing the strange notion of â€œnew moneyâ€ (not money that has yet to be spent, but extra money that has not yet been announced for the future), and saying in most cases that the service was â€œunderfundedâ€. They not only said that all would be well if more money was forthcoming, but actually believed it. It was just a question of turning on the money tap until enough cash had been flooded into any given area. Then everything would miraculously work well.
Gordon Brown continued this idea in government. Once he had divorced Prudence and cast off Conservative spending plans (borrowed to get them through the first election without frightening the voters) he went on an unparalleled spending binge. They had rows over whether to reform as well as spend, which Brown won in favour of little reform and maximum spend. They decided to push the spending well beyond what the country could afford, by massive off balance and on balance sheet borrowings. That is just deferred taxation which we will all have to pay. After all the spending there were still obvious problems with hospital infections, with access to care, with access to good state schools, with proper policing of our borders and much else. They had failed to concentrate on raising quality and efficiency, the two main drivers of success in business. The private sector has to do things better, faster, cheaper to survive. The public sector can do things slower, worse and dearer, and demands more money.
Now the money has run out. They are hoist by their own rhetorical petard. Their public sector will keep repeating the mantra that it can only get better and do more if they find massive extra amounts of cash. The so-called CEOs are already sharpening their biros to write the memos demanding more. They will be bombarding Opposition MPs to play the game, demanding more cash for good causes, just as Labour did in Opposition. They will dig in and claim they cannot do things better, faster, cheaper without more government cash, because Labour has created the CEO world in its own image.
Worse still for Labour, they have taught many of these quango boards and CEOs from local government how to play the media game. Some members of quangos and some Councillors have been told it is vital that CEOs themselves handle the media with their highly paid official PR staff. This gives these CEOs the opportunity to brief and lobby. The unscrupulous ones will use off the record briefings to report on the imperfections of their own services with a view to demanding more cash to put right the deficiencies. You do not hear the CEOs of major companies telling journalists off the record that their products are poor or their service needs substantial improvement.
So itâ€™s back to the drawing board, Mr Miliband. Mr Brown has played a blinder getting Mr Mililband to do his dirty work for him by arguing for the 10p band removal. It is good internal politics, associating one of his alleged rivals with one of his most unpopular policies. What Mr Miliband and Mr Brown ought to be doing is spending some time together to discuss the crisis of tax, spend and waste that now engulfs the government. Both their futures are at stake, because the public now knows they are getting a rotten deal for all the tax they have to pay.