Could the Real Opposition Please Stand Up?
11/04/2013 1 Comment
It seems to me that the Labour Party are having a bit of trouble getting their message across, whatever it is. We know they don’t like the government’s policies but in most instances it’s very hard to get clarity on exactly what they would do instead.
The government is clearly polling badly but I fear that much of that is more that the public think they’re rubbish rather than the alternative is especially good. I know it is the opposition’s role to oppose but I would like to think they would also be offering specific and clear alternative policies to those of the government. I know for example they believe that the government has cut too far and too fast but I’m not sure exactly what they would do instead.
On Tuesday, Ed Miliband launched the Labour Party’s local election campaign with a speech that would give him the perfect platform to give us some details. As you probably noticed, Ed managed to coincide his speech with the death of Margaret Thatcher. For a party leader who has severe trouble getting his message across this was fantastically unfortunate. What was surely destined to be the top story on the evening news was reduced to a couple of minutes at the end. As Margaret’s spirit descended from this world to the next, I’m sure that last achievement put a smile on her face.
But anyway, Maggie aside, was the speech actually any good? I don’t really think it was. He did an ok job of criticising some of the government’s failures on the economy, their income tax for rich people and their linking of the Philpott case to the need for welfare reform but again, their was precious little about specifically what policies Labour would implement instead.
We were given one new policy – the power for councils to ban new pay-day lender shops from opening in their areas:
One of the fastest growing businesses on the high street are the payday lenders. In hard times, it is no wonder people turn to them. But often they just engulf people in debts that they cannot pay. Interest rates of over 1000 per cent. Of course we need national action to cap the cost of credit. But we also need local action too. Currently if a bank branch closes down, a payday loan shop can move in and open up in the same place. Even if there’s already a payday lender just down the street. And there’s nothing the local council can do. That can’t be right.
This policy is little more than a band-aid though. The deep-rooted economic and social problems that have, in recent years, caused people to turn more and more often to payday lenders are not addressed simply by preventing payday lenders opening new shops. Problems such as:
- How can we return to a healthy economy so that real wages are not going down?
- How can we make banks start lending again so that people actually have the option of more affordable borrowing?
- How can we address poverty and inequality in our society?
- How can we better educate the public in personal finance so that they don’t take loans that they cannot afford to maintain?
This is a complex problem requiring a non-simplistic solution. Simply preventing payday loan companies opening shops does not address any of the real issues and if people want a payday loan without a local shop, I doubt they will struggle to find it on the internet anyway.
At the next election I want an option to vote for a party who will have thought these things through properly and give me some sensible policies for which I can vote. Not a couple of “quick-fixes” that miss the very serious underlying issues that cause a problem like this.
This policy is just an example of a wider concern I have with the Labour party. The current government is truly abysmal and for any kind of well-organised alternative, they are there for the taking. If however, the alternative is a party who is not prepared to commit to specific policies that address the true problems I can’t see myself being motivated to get off my arse for them on election day.
Yes, that’s still two years away but the clock is ticking.
So, before it’s too late – could the real opposition please stand up?