What is Ed Miliband offering the middle-class on the welfare state?
As the general election approaches next year, Labour faces two key challenges. The first is trying to revive some form of support for the welfare state. The second is attracting the kind of voters – i.e. middle-class ones, especially in parts of the south – that won Labour three majorities between 1997 and 2005. In an intriguing article in today’s Telegraph, Ed Miliband appears to be trying to kill these two very difficult birds with one stone. In the piece, Miliband argues that the fate of the middle-class is tied to the future of the welfare state. Whereas the typical sales pitch to Telegraph readers is usually centred around tax cuts, Miliband makes an explicit argument that middle-class prosperity can only be revived by an expansion of the welfare state. There are few concrete policies but Miliband highlights further/higher education, pensions and housebuilding as areas ripe for state intervention. This is – as Miliband says himself in the article – a long way from New Labour’s focus on “aspirational self-confidence”. It is a much more (small-c) conservative vision of intervention than Blair’s vision of the “active” or “enabling” state: one which seems to have far stronger emphasis on people’s social and economic security than, for example, spreading opportunity or offering a safety net. It is also a much more traditionally social democratic proposal, in which a larger, more intervening state plays a central role in how people’s lives are shaped. It will probably annoy many liberal or conservative commentators but I doubt that matters much to Ed Miliband. The only thing that matters to him is whether his vision of a larger state appeals to the kind of people who read the Telegraph. Courtesy of Daniel Sage at Knowledge is porridge