David Miliband warns of struggle ahead for Britain and politics

DAVID Miliband has warned of an "anaemic" Britain struggling for a decade and a political vacuum unless there is far-reaching reform.

South Shields MP David Miliband
South Shields MP David Miliband

DAVID Miliband has warned of an "anaemic" Britain struggling for a decade and a political vacuum unless there is far-reaching reform.

The South Shields MP said his brother and Labour leader Ed could become Prime Minister, but warned their party against complacency.

Labour had to come up with the answers to the problems facing voters who could desert mainstream parties because of their failures over the economic and political crisis, he said in a speech last night.

The former Foreign Secretary said part of the answer was to hand cities more powers, help communities take action themselves and overhaul Parliament – although he said he did not have all the answers.

“The truth is that the 2008 global financial crisis and its aftermath have changed Western political life in a more fundamental way than is yet appreciated.

“Two years ago, in the course of the general election campaign, the question was first raised of whether Britain was facing a Greek-style meltdown.

“I argued that the greater danger was not an acute Greek tragedy, but a chronic Japanese drama, where we spent a decade struggling with anaemic or no growth.

“That is what we face,” said the South Shields MP.

He added there were lessons to be learnt from the 1970s, including that economic “stress” spilt over into social and industrial disorder when politics leaves a vacuum – and meant people took power into their hands in such circumstances.

While Labour could win the 2015 general election, Mr Miliband added: “My own sense is that the Labour leadership are right to warn against trying to default into power.”

Politicians only fooled themselves if they tried to reassure themselves all was well and hold on to old certainties, he said in a speech delivered as part of a series of lectures organised by Commons Speaker John Bercow to help improve understanding of Parliament.

“Voters in a time of crisis can swing from Government to Opposition, that is true, but they can also desert the mainstream parties,” said Mr Miliband.

“The point is that in times of crisis the premium is on conviction and strategy, not positioning and tactics.”

He said the Opposition had to develop answers “when there seem to be plenty of votes in anger. For all the noise of daily politics, this is where the next election will be decided”.

And “big ideas” would emerge, but had to be “anti-austerity” because that strategy had failed.

The idea that Government could boost their economies was back, but must be linked to reform to address an aging population and competition, he said, and his brother’s “responsible capitalism agenda” was the right one, he claimed.

But a political “reformation” was needed because of the contempt for the current system following the MPs’ expenses scandal and failure of the governing elite to warn the public about the danger of the biggest economic crisis for 80 years.

Political parties helping communities tackle the issues that mattered to them was part of the solution, said Mr Miliband, whose Movement for Change organisation aims to train 10,000 community leaders to help achieve that.


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