Miliband’s plan for Britain: where does he stand?

As British opposition leader Ed Miliband lays out his vision for Britain, we explain where he has placed himself on the left-right spectrum, compared to Governments across other leading nations.

It was billed as a speech about morality: not a list of policies, but an argument about the future direction of the UK. Among other things, Ed Miliband, leader of the Labour Party and the figurehead of Britain's opposition, promised an end to the 'fast buck' culture – attempting a philosophical response to the economic problems that have followed the financial crisis of 2008 and a summer that saw violence and looting on the streets of UK cities.

Staring directly into the television cameras, he made a direct pitch to the public – 'You need to know there is an alternative… People need to know where I stand.'

So where is that? Over the last two decades, political leaders in all of the UK's main parties have attempted to claim the centre ground, but as one journalist observed this morning, a whole range of politicians sincerely believe their beliefs and policies coincide with those of the moderate majority. This matters because it is those people who, under the British electoral system, decide on who forms the government. But most commentators said that Mr Miliband's speech was a marker that he sees the current centre ground to the left of where it had been under the last Labour government, which lasted for 13 years.

In a move that drew an anxious response from the business world, he said that 'runaway rewards' for people at the top of the economic tree had gone unchallenged for too long and attacked firms that he sees as 'predators not producers.'

In a long section on rebuilding the economy, he talked of encouraging 'wealth creators not asset strippers.' And in possibly the most powerful line of the speech, he attacked David Cameron, the Conservative prime minister, for believing, he claimed, that you make the poor work harder by making them poorer and the rich work harder by making them richer.

Shifting centre?

Ed Miliband says he wants to 'write a new chapter in Britain's history,' by 'breaking open the closed circles' of privilege and opposing vested interests. Parts of his speech echoed the consensus now shared by all main parties – for example, the idea that it is both unjust and a disastrous block to UK prosperity that higher education and the professions are still dominated by people from a narrow, affluent, section of society. Even his appeal to help manufacturing is a cry heard from his rivals as well: the real debate on these issues is how to achieve the goals, not the desired outcome.

But parts of the speech were hailed by left wingers in the Labour Party (who booed a passing reference to Tony Blair), and the sales pitch was aimed at those disgruntled with the current Coalition Government. Is this Britain's left wing moment?

You Decide

  1. Where do you stand on the left-right political spectrum? Or do you see it differently?
  2. Watch some of the video of Ed Miliband – is it a message that speaks to you?

Activities

  1. We have tried to plot some of the world's most powerful nations on a basic, simplified left-right axis in our graphic. Look at the whole G20 list of industrialised nations and try to locate their political 'normal' on a similar chart.
  2. Should an opposition leader stake out clearly distinctive territory or fight the incumbent government for a larger share of the voters that put it into power? Write a memo advising Ed Miliband on his strategy for winning the next general election in 2015.

Some People Say...

“There is no difference any more between left and right.”

What do you think?

Q & A

So Ed Miliband is a left wing leader?
Not really, but his version of the centre sounds left wing to those on the centre right – these days, political fights are about territory on a small patch of ground in between the two old extremes of total free market capitalism (right) and overwhelming state control (left).
Is it the same across the world?
No. As our graphic shows, there are successful nations with a political culture located on a different part of the spectrum. America has a tradition to the right of most European countries, for example, and China, the world's major rising power, has an economy controlled by theCommunist state.
And is it all about how you run an economy?
No. Socialnorms, human rights and the extent of democracy also define a nation's position on the left-right spectrum.

Word Watch

Norms
The usual and expected ways in which people in a society behave.
Communist
A society run as a collective, where there is centralised control of the economy and a political power structure run by an elite in the name of common ownership by and for the masses.

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