Ed Miliband's Agenda Branded 'Pathetic, Bland And Catastrophic' By Labour Grassroots

Labour leader Ed Miliband addresses the Scottish Chambers of Commerce at Hilton Hotel in Glasgow where he said that the poorest people stand to lose the most if an independent Scotland loses the pound.
Labour leader Ed Miliband addresses the Scottish Chambers of Commerce at Hilton Hotel in Glasgow where he said that the poorest people stand to lose the most if an independent Scotland loses the pound.
Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

Ed Miliband's policy agenda has been branded "pathetic", "catastrophic", "mealy-mouthed" and "bland" by the Labour Party's grassroots.

The criticism for much of Labour's policy platform came in response to the party's policy review on its "Your Britain" website, which Miliband said aimed to "give a voice to members" as the party shaped a manifesto to win the 2015 general election.

An analysis of the feedback by The Huffington Post UK found that several Constituency Labour Parties (CLPs) are less than impressed with the party's current offer to voters.

In a submission this May, the Labour Party in Oxford branded the party's economic proposals "wishy-washy" and full of "anodyne general statements that mean little in practise".

The Oxford party concluded after an all-member meeting that the leadership's plan for economic growth was "bland", adding that the party's proposed industrial strategy also had "no evidence of what it would contain".

Miliband's proposals to reform the banking sector with a "tough ringfence" between the retail banking and investment banking arms were similarly derided. "Those are the sort of weasel words used by the coalition and we should avoid meaningless phrases," the Oxford East and West constituency Labour party associations warned.

The Labour leader's beloved "One Nation" mantra was dismissed as "overused", with members saying that it was still reminiscent of the Tories and Victorian-era prime minister Benjamin Disraeli "to those of us [the majority] who have studied British political history".

"Pathetic, terrified by the polls, terrified of losing"

The Labour party in Ulverston, Cumbria, tore into the party's "pathetic" stance on welfare reform and its failure to outline an alternative platform beyond promising not to be "quite so brutal".

In its submission last September, the members lamented: "We have been terrified by the polls on welfare, terrified of losing middle-class votes, and the votes of our natural supporters who have been persuaded by the media of the 'skivers' culture."

The criticism for Labour's policy platform may be particularly embarrassing for Miliband as the Labour leader recently insisted that he had "big ideas to change things".

The party's policy review chief Jon Cruddas has been recorded lamenting the "cynical" policies put out by the party designed only to "chime with focus groups".

"Far too weak"

The Labour Party's Aycliffe north-west Branch, in County Durham, said Labour's measures to tackle rising energy bills was "far too weak" and described the party's language of "fair deficit reduction" as "far too right-wing".

The party's association in Burnley, Lancashire, criticised the Labour leadership last October for not being "a lot stronger" in pledging to tackle tax avoidance, adding: "The case for action has not got any less".

"Simply too vague..."

Labour's pre-general election annual party conference will be held in Manchester next month. But the local Manchester Withington constituency part has frequently attacked Miliband's policy direction.

The CLP said the leadership needed to "state more clearly" that there was an "inequality crisis" in Britain and "not just a cost of living crisis".

"Where are the one million green jobs by 2030? Long-term sustainability is the most important thing and Ed Miliband is very well qualified to lead on this," the association wrote. "We should be major world players in this area. Gas contributes to global warming, especially fracked gas, so why is the report so mealy-mouthed about this?"

Policy review chief Jon Cruddas

In an assessment of Labour's education policies, the association warned that many of its members found the latest proposals "simply too vague" and "not... particularly radical".

"Lacks vision, strategy and coherence..."

Labour's education policies attracted further ridicule, with the members' association in Tamworth, Staffordshire, warning in May that the draft policy agenda "lacks vision, strategy and coherence".

The grassroots associations in Ilford, greater London, hit out in June at the "Gove-type language" used to outline Labour's education proposals, adding: "We would like to see some clear water between Conservative education and childcare policies and our own."

Meanwhile, Labour's association in Sheffield Heeley last April labelled the Labour party's education plans "too narrow and too timid" which "do no more than propose tweaks to the status quo".

"We well understand the need to avoid giving specific policy commitments too early, particularly ones that cost money; but members want a much bolder ambition, a clearer direction of travel and a much wider scope than has been set out so far," the association explained.

"Members want to be inspired, even in austerity; to have a vision and a direction that is worth fighting for, that we can take out into our communities with conviction, and campaign on."

"Hugely disappointing, if not catastrophic..."

Labour's proposals to get more houses built were similarly controversial with members. Sheila Spencer, writing on behalf of Labour members in Newcastle East last June, said that the party's housing support plans "should be re-thought".

Meanwhile Carol Hayton, a Labour party member who is also a representative of the party's National Policy Forum, tore into the party's "hugely disappointing, if not catastrophic" stance on housing.

Writing in January, she said: "Ed Miliband acknowledged that we have a housing crisis...He said that to solve the crisis a future Labour government would ensure that by the end of the next parliament i.e by 2020 Britain would be building 200,000 homes a year. This response is totally inadequate."

Hayton told the Huffington Post UK that Labour's housing policy had become "less catastrophic and disappointing" since January but that it was "not by any means perfect".

She added: "I would like to see more done to address the housing crisis and we are moving in that direction. This crisis has been wholly ignored by the Tories, probably because they don't understand the concept of affordability unless it affects them directly."

Labour's animal welfare agenda was also criticized as "meaningless" by ex-Labour MP and current parliamentary candidate Nick Palmer.

"They [Labour] appear to be backing off and limiting the ban to finished products (which nobody tests - the tests are on the ingredients), a meaningless gesture," he wrote in February. "Labour can do better and point out the Coalition's failure."

A Labour Party spokesperson said: “This is a public website where everyone can contribute and people have done so in their thousands. Comments aren’t Labour policy. The Labour Party will get on with setting out a positive vision for Labour’s future.”

Despite the criticism, Labour party members overwhelmingly endorsed the leadership's economic agenda, voting by 125 to 14 at the party's national policy forum in July.

Ed Balls, the shadow chancellor, said the vote showed there was widespread support in the party for a manifesto based on "big reform, not big spending", adding: "We will balance the books, deliver a surplus on the current budget and get the national debt falling as soon as possible in the next parliament. But we will get the deficit down more fairly."

"The Labour party knows that this Conservative-led government's failure to balance the books in this parliament means we will have to make difficult decisions after the next election."

Cruddas, head of the policy review, said the NPF vote marked "a turning point in the history of the Labour party".

He said: "It is centred on big reforms which do not mean increased expenditure. The economic situation means that the time for make-do-and-mend spending solutions has passed. Compensating people for a system which isn't working won't cut it any more.

"Big state, top down solutions just won't work because to transform our country we have to help people feel like active participants, not helpless observers."

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