If anyone qualifies as candidate material for the position of the new Solar King, then David Miliband certainly does. So perhaps the young contender doesn’t have to say anything, he just has to be heard to speak. For potential admirers, tone is what matters, and as far as that goes he seems to have banged out a workable melody in sentiment couplets. Miliband is passionate/dispassionate. He’s also youthful/wise, rational/emotional, optimistic/cautious, critical/supportive. He is very much of today’s Labour party, but he also lets slip a hint of what tomorrow could be. Or rather, he might give a hint about that, later on. For right now we’re at a starting point:
The starting point is not debating personalities but winning the argument about our record, our vision for the future and how we achieve it.
He then says:
When people hear exaggerated claims, either about failure or success, they switch off. That is why politicians across all parties fail to connect. To get our message across, we must be more humble about our shortcomings but more compelling about our achievements.
Of course, they also switch off when you attempt to bend credulity into a pretzel. Or rather, they give up because it just doesn’t make sense any more. It’s been ten years, and the message has long since emerged. Broadly, it’s this:
1. We admire business leaders and entrepreneurs; their wealth is evidence of their achievement. We will always take the word of such people as law.
2. You, on the other hand, are a prole and the best part of your income belongs to us.
3. There will be capital investment in the healthcare, education and transport sectors, but it will be with money borrowed from the high achieving business leaders and entrepreneurs we admire. Naturally, they will expect to be rewarded in the years ahead. This is where your taxes come in.
4. Some of your tax money will be spent on higher pay for teachers and doctors. Of course, in the long run we’d like see health and education providers become ‘high achievers’ themselves.
5. The civil service shows little potential for ‘high achievement’, so instead we will pay Accenture and similar companies to provide a top quality ‘civil service’ in parallel. And quality costs.
6. Some of your tax money will be spent in support of American foreign and defence policy, whether it’s lawful or not. In connection with this we will either buy American weaponry or the sorts of weapons the Americans tend to buy.
7. China! India!
8. Some of your tax money will be spent on poorly specified IT systems, all of which will have the general intent of increasing the government’s powers of surveillance and control. In scope, these systems will overlap in an unstructured, chaotic way. In practice, many of these systems will not work as intended. Your personal data will get leaked all over the place. Also, we will encourage the police to take samples of your DNA.
9. We will talk up the threat of Islamic terrorism to the point of incitement to racism. We may condone torture.
10. There will be constitutional change. Generally, we will enlarge the powers of the executive and decrease all forms of oversight.
11. The Olympics! Technology!
12. Economically, the good news will be because of us, the bad news will be because of ‘the global situation’. Specifically, we will encourage our citizens to speculate in a local market that has no mechanism for arbitrage; the UK property market. This speculation will be unsustainable and a recession will follow. We will do nothing to anticipate or moderate this outcome, because that is not what business leaders and entrepreneurs say they want. Whichever way it pans out, expect to pay much more to a bank over the course of your lifetime than your parents did.
13. All of this is good. If there are to be further improvements, they will have to come from you. Don’t complain. Embrace change! Be fitter! Work harder!
I think that’s most of it, but I’m sure you can think of more. Miliband finished with this:
Every member of the Labour party carries with them a simple guiding mission on the membership card: to put power, wealth and opportunity in the hands of the many, not the few. When debating public service reform, tax policies or constitutional changes, we apply those values to the latest challenges.
We can remember it as his four legs good, two legs bad moment.