So, after many months of deliberating, cogitating and having been very quiet about the state of the country generally, much to the irritation of senior backbenchers and former ministers, the leader of Her Majesty's opposition, Ed Miliband, has finally gotten around to telling the party faithful, as well as the odd millions of undecided voters, just what he proposes to do, if and when him and his party are handed back the keys to No 10 Downing Street in 2015. The main highlights included a two year freeze on energy prices between 2015 and 2017, a pledge to build 200,000 new homes every year between 2015 and 2020, introduce tax cuts for small businesses, which would be paid for by higher taxes on larger companies, as well as introducing a scheme that would compel British based companies who employ foreign workers to offer apprenticeships to local out-of-work youngsters.
However, almost as soon as each of these proposed schemes were uttered at the recent Labour Conference, opponents began attacking them as unworkable, fanciful or even completely illegal under current European Union regulations, a body that Mr Miliband seems happy to defer to in most matters of national importance.
Interestingly, even though the promise of an energy price freeze for a two year period, may on the face of it seem like a highly attractive prospect for most voters, in reality it's hardly likely to offer that much of a benefit to most households who are struggling to pay skyrocketing utility bills. Despite what they may claim in the media, virtually all of Britain's six major energy companies have done very well from British consumers. They are after all commercial businesses and if they weren't making a decent profit for their shareholders, then in all likelihood they wouldn't invest in that particular market, they'd be putting their monies elsewhere. So for them to suggest that there is some sort of altruistic motive behind their investment in and ownership of the big energy companies is patently absurd; and most of us plainly recognise that fact. Nonetheless, there is also some truth in their counter claims that government and the EU have also played a significant part in ensuring that our household energy costs have gone through the roof, what with Green tariffs, VAT increases, renewable subsidies and God knows what else they've added to consumer's bills, so it is disingenuous of politician's to suddenly try and point the finger of blame at the energy providers directly. It is also a fact that a number of these same companies are already offering their customers price freezes for extended periods, some even longer than the two years specified by Mr Miliband, which sort of begs the questions; why all the fuss over the Labour leader's announcement in the first place; and why aren't all the energy companies offering those deals to their clients?
Along with his first great manifesto promise for 2015, Mr Miliband's second one, a pledge to build 200,000 new homes every year between 2015 and 2020 has also been greeted by equal levels of excitement and exasperation, especially as he uttered his "use it or lose it" challenge to developers and builders who are essentially hoarding huge swathes of land across the country. However, even though I am a huge fan of the idea of building new social housing for the people of Britain, along with many others I am deeply sceptical about the Labour leader's real motivations for proposing such a massive house-building programme. Is it to provide homes for the hundreds of thousands of people who need them already, or is it in preparation for the hundreds of thousands of foreign migrants that Mr Miliband and his party would willingly encourage to move to our already overstretched country? It's all very well to build the housing stock, but where is the infrastructure to support these new communities, the schools, shops, hospitals, transport services, or indeed the jobs? Who is going to pay for these 200,000 homes a year, what impact will they have on our countryside, our greenbelt, our social cohesion, our language, our culture? Nobody doubts that we need the homes, but what are they really worth if they're simply being built to accommodate hundreds of thousands of new migrants, rather than those indigenous Britons who haven't got a decent home to live right now?
Of course we all know about the big multi-nationals avoiding tax, by conducting their business outside of the UK, or in some or other tax haven, but whose fault is that to begin with? Successive British governments, Labour and Conservative, are complicit in having created one of the most complicated and confusing tax regimes in the world, to the extent that very few people understand it; and clever people can often drive a horse and carriage through it, causing our national Exchequer to lose billions in tax revenues every single year. So yes, let's tighten up our tax procedures, so that we maximise the amount of money being collected by the Treasury, but not at the expense of big businesses being driven away from our country, because they're being unfairly treated by government. It is perhaps worth recalling that Labour were once the friend of British business; and it was during that friendship that some of the most serious abuses of commercial ethics were reported to have taken place, so it seems extremely hypocritical for any former Labour minister to start attacking big business for all the wrongs in this country, when they played their own large part in giving them the legal means to do so in the first place.
The other great proposal put forward by Mr Miliband was that of forcing British based firms, who regularly employ migrant workers to offer apprenticeships to local out of work youngsters, presumably in a quid-pro-quo, or a "this for that" arrangement. Now wouldn't that be nice, if he could actually do it? Quite whether the Labour leader was confused about the way current EU employment regulations work, or whether he was being deliberately deceptive to his wider audience is unclear, but either way, this is one electoral promise that he cannot possibly fulfil. Even if he could introduce legislation to compel British based companies to take on such an arrangement, current EU regulations forbid any form of protectionism when it comes to employment, suggesting that any such "apprenticeships" would be open to ANY and ALL EU citizens, not just local, British born youngsters. Many who heard the pledge were reminded of Gordon Brown's ill-timed protestation of "British jobs for British workers" for all the good that it did him; because he too was shackled by the terms of the European treaties that he willingly signed.
Associated with that particular promise over British jobs, Mr Miliband recently wowed the mainstream media with his declaration over future Labour plans to reduce non-EU migration, should the people of this country ever choose to elect him Prime Minister in 2015. According to one Oxford based study, net migration into the UK between 1991 and 2001 was a reported total of 2.9 million migrants. Between 1991 and 1999 the average annual net migration figure was 65,000 per year, whilst between 2000 and 2011, the average annual net migration figure was 195,000 per year, three times higher than the previous period. Bearing in mind that Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and their New Labour party were in office between 1997 and 2010 these figures speak volumes as to their attitudes regarding inward migration to the UK, with very nearly 200,000 migrants per year pouring into this country unchecked between 2000 and 2010.
In 2010 the actual net migration figure for the UK was reported to be 252,000; and in 2011 this figure was said to have fallen to 215,000, still well above the average annual figures reported from 1991 onwards. In 2011 EU migrants alone were said to have accounted for some 55% of all inward migration into the UK, which was reported to be a grand total of some 566,000 individuals, indicating that EU citizens alone accounted for around 311,000 of all of those migrants who came into our country during 2011. Of these an estimated 230,000 came to the UK to study.
As regards Mr Miliband's promises on non-EU migration! According to the same sources, non-EU migration increased throughout the 1990's and the 2000's, but has declined since reaching a peak in 2004. Of those non-EU migrants coming to the UK, studies suggest that just under half of those arriving here on either skilled, or highly skilled, are predominantly male, aged between 25 and 44; and most of them originate from either Asia or the Americas. The numbers of migrants arriving from African countries is said to have declined since 2004. One set of figures relating to non-EU migration suggests that in 1991 there was a net figure of around 19,000 individuals, in 2004 this figure had increased to 114,000; and more recent figures suggest the numbers to be around 47,000 per year.
The point being perhaps, that any promise by Mr Miliband to reduce, control, or cap non-EU migration will achieve practically nothing, as that is not where the main migration problem exists. The fact that some 2.9 million EU migrants came to this country, mostly from the eight Eastern European states who formally joined the EU during that time period, is where the real immigration problem arose, something that Mr Miliband, Mr Balls and the rest of their New Labour cohort are perfectly aware of. Bearing in mind that the citizens of a further two Eastern European states will be entitled to work in the UK at the beginning of 2014; that fact alone does not bode well for the already overstretched indigenous people of Britain. One wonders just what Mr Miliband proposes to do about that particular problem, rather than issuing some piece of wholly pointless electoral spin about what is a minor problem regarding migrants from elsewhere in the world?
As has been mentioned in previous posts, Ed Miliband is widely regarded as a great socialist thinker by those who inhabit the so-called Westminster "bubble", akin to that other great intellectual giant of the Labour Party, Michael Foot; and look what happened to him! Great minds don't always lead to great ideas, because such great thinkers often over-think their own ideas, making them unwieldly, unworkable and completely impractical for a modern mixed economy like our own.
As for Mr Miliband's actual proposals themselves? It is perhaps worth remembering that Mr Miliband and his Shadow Chancellor, Ed Balls, were both intrinsic and pivotal members of the previous Labour government, which became so unpopular under the Premiership of Gordon Brown; and that if legend is to be believed was one of the most divisive and poisonous of the last few decades. It beggars belief that Mr Miliband and Mr Balls were both somehow unaware of, or apart from the political and economic mismanagement that characterised the Brown era of government, suggesting that they too played a part in creating the unpopular shambles that the Brown administration eventually became.
The problem with most of our modern politician's is that their reputations precede them in the eyes of the general public and virtually all of the British electorate are happy to wish a "pox on all their houses", regardless of whether they happen to be a worthwhile and trustworthy elected representative, or not. For his part, Mr Milband's previous association with the Brown administration, his failure or inability to publicly apologise for the actions of his party during their time in office; and his shameful attempts to deliberately mislead the electorate over his party's future manifesto promises, simply bring me to the obvious conclusion that he will say, do and promise the people anything, in order to achieve his ambition of taking up residency in Downing Street.
Temporary energy price freezes, 200,000 new homes, taxes on big business and promises of apprenticeships that cannot and will not be delivered, are all very well as short-term measures, but do not and cannot resolve the long term problems that are affecting our country. The inevitability of even more increased inward migration and the pressures that it will exert on our already crumbling services needs to be tackled as a matter of urgency, as does the inexorable loss of our national sovereignty, which is being handed over to an un-elected foreign government. Sadly, these are the really big important issues that Mr Miliband doesn't seem to want to promote or promise to the British electorate; and until he does so, then anything else is just pure sleight of hand, like the very best magic shows tend to be.