Yet again we’re discussing what on earth the term “socialist” means. And I guess if Ed Miliband wants to be prime minister we need to understand what exactly he means when he says – following an admission to being a socialist - that:
I’m not embarrassed about it. I’ll tell you why I’m not embarrassed about it. Am I a socialist? Look, my dad was a... he would have considered himself a socialist too, but he would have said we need to have public ownership of everything. I don’t... or many of the most important things of society. I don’t subscribe to that view. What I do say is that there are big unfairnesses in our society, and part of the job of government is to bring about social justice and to tackle those unfairnesses. And that’s why I’m a politician, that’s why I’m in politics.
Because quite frankly I haven’t the faintest inking of what on earth Ed Miliband is prattling on about. Indeed, there are times when the word ‘socialist’ is simply meant to suggest being ‘caring’, ‘having a conscience’ and, of course, not being an Evil Tory Bastard. I guess socialists are like this (courtesy of James Delingpole):
“…devil-may-care; good in bed; raffishly tousled; cool; sexy. They: sympathise with the underdog; hate injustice; respect the working classes and people of all races and creeds; regardless of looks, physical ability or gender; nurture the environment; have great taste in music; oppose violence; loathe inequality; and kind to children and to small furry animals with lovely bright eyes and floppy ears and expressions on their sweet pink little mouths you could almost mistake for a human smile.”
But somehow this remains deeply unsatisfying and takes us no closer to what exactly Ed Miliband is prattling on about. He says he doesn’t agree with his Dad – the refugee from totalitarian socialism who supported its imposition on the nation that saved him – so what does he agree with? What is this ‘socialism’ stuff he professes to?
Now there are some out there who really do believe in socialism – in the imposition of that totalitarian state Ed’s Dad wanted. A kind of Cuba with fish and chips. Or maybe an East Germany with irony? I don’t get the attraction of all this but at least these people – let’s call them socialists – have a vision of society. A nasty, unpleasant, dictating, controlling and authoritarian vision but nonetheless a vision.
Ed Miliband seems mostly to believe in a mushy, cuddly, ‘aren’t we nice’ kind of socialism. One that uses regulation rather than ownership. Controls, limits and guidance rather than outright bans. And a kind of passive-aggressive, ‘you’re not really welcome here entrepreneurs (unless of course you bung loads of money to the Party in which case will sort it for you)’ approach to the creativity of the private sector. Ed Miliband’s socialism is the selfish, ‘right-on’ of the wealthy left-wing elite – filled with sanctimony and fuelled by a long attachment to the teat of public funding. This is the socialism of Polly Toynbee, Michael Foot, assorted Benns and a host of wealthy, posh publicly-funded panjandrums within “The Arts” and media.
However, Ed Miliband may be different. He may actually believe that those “unfairnesses” can be addressed, that the lives of the poor, the sick and the unlucky can be made better through the choices that Government makes. In which case he’ll support:
1. An education system that gives a more equal chance to children of similar intelligence?
2. A welfare system that encourages and rewards work, discourages idleness and comforts misfortune?
3. Health care that is built around people’s needs, is flexible and treats us like humans rather than numbers
4. A tax system that doesn’t take money from the poor to give to the relatively well-off
5. A system of public finances that gives priority to the needs of all and the concerns of the poor, sick and unlucky rather than the pastimes of the well off
6. A housing system which doesn’t feature people on £50,000 plus living in subsidised housing while others sleep in boxes under bridges
7. Scrapping an international trading system where our goods are freely traded while poor countries goods are barred by tariffs and import controls
8. International relations founded on conversation rather than the aggressive, post-colonial exporting of “democracy” to places without any effective, functioning government of any sort
If this is what Ed Miliband wants – and therefore ‘socialism’ – then I’m a socialist. And funnily enough so is the current government because that list is a list of coalition aims. Some of the things our Government wants to achieve.
Sadly, I fear Ed Miliband just wants high taxes, more bureaucracy, more regulation, more control, more guidance and greater centralisation. If that’s socialism it’s what we don’t want since it means more poverty, more illness, fewer jobs and business and a dull, stagnant, uninspiring land.