By Fatuma Ukwaju
Conference season is officially over, making way for the return of Punch and Judy. The surprise resurrection of Benjamin Disraeli, made me curious as to what the Leader of the Opposition would do next.
Ed Miliband opened with unemployment figures; according to the Office of National Statistics (http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/lms/labour-market-statistics/october-2012/index.html), the number of people working rose to 29.6million, which is the best rate since April 2009. Total unemployment fell by 50,000 as did the number of people claiming out of work benefits by 4,000.
Despite this, Ed Milliband (bizarrely) chose it attack by claiming “there are more people, out of work for longer, than at any time for two decades” but of those two decades, he forgets that Labour governed for 13 years of them. So surely by attacking long term unemployment, he indirectly criticised the former Labour Government of which he was a part?
We must have cut backs in our bloated public sector, the UK economy is in dire need of a structural shift from public to private, and any prospect of a positive future can only achieved through sustainable private –sector led growth.
The notion that we must have an infinite number of public officials is one of the very reasons we are in the mess. One example Ed Miliband touched on this would be in Policing, although the PM did not quote a figure; according to Ed Miliband, the Policing Minister stated that “frontline police officers are down by 6778” since 2010.
Keeping the number of front line police officers the same, for the sake of the number being the same, especially in a recession, is ridiculous. The issue should not be whether David Cameron went back on his promise, but instead both sides should be focus on whether communities are being kept safe and police efficiency. Crime figures have fallen by 4% in England and Wales, with murder down 14% (http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2012/jul/19/murder-rate-falls-crime-figures).
In the face of this, Labour and the Police Federation continue to scaremonger people, that institutions cannot work unless they have endless amount of public money poured and wasted into them. This was the second subject that Ed Miliband vacuously attacked the PM on, when like unemployment, the situation has improved.
As Ed Miliband failed to attack government policy, his only option was to resort to attacking government Ministers.
I would have been the first to congratulate Ed Miliband wanting channel The great Disraeli, if for one second, I thought he meant it. Unfortunately, class, achievement, privilege, aspiration is something that Labour (and the left in general) seek to demonize. If he was genuinely angered by Andrew Mitchell’s alleged comments (as I was), then he should have focused on that. Instead he went on to mention tax cuts, (which the majority of his cabinet and their spouses also receive), and the Carlton Club when Mitchell was at The Cinnamon Club!
Westminster is great, in that we have the opportunity to scrutinize the Executive, in a manner very different from other Parliaments. It’s a shame; Ed Miliband uses it to further preach class warfare.
This resulted in the most significant question, coming not from the leader of the Opposition, but Natascha Engel, Back Bench Labour MP.
Engel said “The Secretary of State for Education said this weekend, If there were a referendum, on Britain’s continued membership of the EU, he would vote to leave. A third of the Cabinet Agree with him…How would the Prime Minister Vote?”
The PM declared he was not in favour of an in-out referendum, but rather a renegotiation, and for that to have fresh consent. This will have a far greater impact on the United Kingdom in the long run than ‘gategate’.
Overall the Prime Minister performed well, – which was to be expected after the employment figures – but it does not dispute the fact that the European Union is the biggest constraint on the UK economy, and that it is an issue not yet being taken seriously by the political class.