Barack Obama, Capitalism, Credit Crunch, Cuts, Deficit Reduction, Democracy, Diane Abbott, Ed Miliband, Education, Financial Meltdown, Investment, Labour, Leith, Leith Docks, Liberal Democrats, New Labour, Opinion, Politics, Research and Development, Science, Socialism, Technology, U.K. Deficit
My dear Ed.
I have never met you and unless you are obsessively Googling yourself in the wee small hours, it is unlikely that you will ever read this letter. It is addressed rhetorically – to a theoretical Ed Miliband, if you are not wholly bloodless already – rather than to any Ed Miliband who remains in human form, and who, if I encountered him, I would probably address with altogether less courtesy and some rather more lively language.
I wish to congratulate you on winning the Labour leadership. I can honestly say that the best man won, although I add in passing that I was rooting for Diane Abbott, because she was the only candidate who is genuinely an activist and a campaigner, being effectively in opposition throughout her career. You probably won the Trade Unions’ vote because you are the younger brother, and therefore, like all younger brothers, you know more about being exploited and a bit of a loser. The relationship between the personal and political in your family is quite unpleasant. So you hated your father? – you are in your forties now, get over it! – you and your brother do not have to devote your careers to dancing on your father’s grave as intellectually-vacuous capitalist collaborators, in order to continually defy his learned Marxism. You have made your point and if the poor man was alive today, he would probably be the world’s biggest alcoholic.
To me, you look demonstrably unlike a Prime Minister. You can get a sense of a prospective Prime Minister’s authority and leadership by imagining him beating his wife. David Cameron would be clumsy – his wife would definitely fight back – but, red-faced and panting, he would triumph with a vicious determination. Nick Clegg would administer a deft and businesslike slapping. But you Ed? I can imagine you flinching slightly, your lips pouting, and your hands flapping helplessly as you retreated. You would quail before her, Ed. Every Prime Minister needs to look like a potential war criminal, but if you appeared on the television with the news that Britain was going to war, I think that people would just laugh, Ed.
In truth, you are little more than a lump of plasticine, Ed, and although all political leaders are shaped by events rather than arriving fully formed, it seems that the election campaign for Ed Miliband only begins once you are elected, with interest groups now competing to determine your policies and “narrative.” But your blankness is your most endearing quality, Ed, for you are like the unremarkable man who is called upon to save New York, or humanity, from a looming apocalypse. The historical moment demands a hero, Ed, and we have been given you.
Although Spiked proclaims that Social Democracy is dead, it has been so obviously moribund since the days of Ramsay MacDonald. The Labour Party has been always more conservative than the Tories – a means of reconciling the working-class to the State, and thus capitalist exploitation, by providing an elected, trusted advocate for injustice, exploitation, and low expectations. And you, Ed, have served in the most illiberal and authoritarian Labour government in British history. All governments are illiberal and authoritarian, of course, but yours actually aspired to conquer intractable cultural problems, such as nihilism amongst the young, through legislative means, until New Labour was almost blood-curdling in its conception of the State.
But the choice of the day is between “cuts” and “investment,” and as the Labour man you are our designated champion of investment. The present Lib-Con coalition poses the threat that serious “cuts” are made, and that the debt is accordingly paid back, but that we are left with a totally stagnant economy. The various deficit-reduction plans put forward by the political parties are as moronic as pruning a tree without watering it, and these plans all entail a dangerous dependence upon blind hope: the Tories hope that employers “liberated” from the state will lead the recovery, whilst Labour hopes that consumers liberated from unemployment and V.A.T. will shop their way to recovery. This is simply not good enough – the economy requires a sustained investment in education, universities, engineering, science, technology, research and development, if we are to avoid the gradual but steady decline into national twilight which is befalling countries such as Spain and Italy.
I like the sound of “cuts” – I would favour the entire Home Office being shut down for good – but any Leftish concept of Social Democracy should be rejuvenated by the realisation that only the State can invest in our economic future, because private finance has failed utterly to invest in the technologies which will sustain that most unfashionable, but nevertheless vital force – Industry. Under New Labour, the State itself has not educated and trained the workforce necessary to support Industry, but merely an aimless technocratic bureaucracy which now has little that is worth managing. My generation, Ed, and possibly yours too, has lived through a disorientating period, because our lives have been increasingly transformed by technologies such as the Internet whilst the economy has not been equivalently regenerated. Moreover, it is an unhealthy sign that the sort of technologies which we should be investing in, such as genetic modification and stem cell research, are often the objects of almost superstitious misgivings amongst educated people.
For all his faults, Barack Obama recognises the need for innovation, and he opines that it is “not in our character, the American character, to follow. It’s our character to lead,” and he has pledged to devote 3% of American GDP to research and development:
Just think what this will allow us to accomplish: solar cells as cheap as paint; green buildings that produce all the energy they consume; learning software as effective as a personal tutor; prosthetics so advanced that you could play the piano again; an expansion of the frontiers of human knowledge about ourselves and world the around us. We can do this.
You can do it too, Ed. Your emphasis upon investment demonstrates that your nose is pointing in the right direction, but an important first step would be a pledge to restore Harold Wilson’s beleaguered Ministry of Technology, which was finally swallowed up in Ted Heath’s Department of Trade and Industry. Although the political precedents for championing innovation in this country are unpromising, such a policy direction could be informed by a sensitivity towards the needs of local communities. Leith, for example – where 23% of the shops are now vacant – is howling for a massive reinvestment in Leith Docks, and more than just the post-industrial Yuppie “villages” promised in its current regeneration or the gigantic wood-burning stove which Forth Energy are threatening to build. The Lib-Dem candidate for Leith in the last election, Kevin Lang, had said some interesting things about manufacturing offshore wind turbines in Leith Docks, but now that his party is committed to “cuts,” it is up to Labour to assume such policies.
The Labour party may remain a capitalist stooge and Social Democracy may continue to betray the working class, as your father saw so clearly, but whether it is through the masses campaigning in the streets or technocrats chirping away in the ivory tower, the argument needs to prevail through its sheer force as an argument: that Britain needs to invest, not in national security or in fighting crime and community incohesion or in “combating” immigration, but in Industry alone. And more than anything, this requires political leadership – we need politicians such as you to take responsibility for the investment which can save this country.
Time to grow some balls, Ed.