Move over Nigel Farage and your eurosceptic-patriotic Ukip outfit. If you want real social populism (as opposed to social-ism), Ed Miliband and his One Nation Labour are the better brand, or so he would like you to believe.
If you think that “Britain can do better than this”, Miliband will lead the way. In fact, he used the phrase no fewer than 17 times during his speech yesterday.
One Nation Labour is to become a party of small business and angry consumers, raging at the energy corporations (while leaving them in control), threatening land owners and praising the armed forces.
Above all, it’s British. So the Scots have to join in, and forget dreams of independence which, if achieved, would prevent Britain from “doing better than this”.
After setting out to overturn the roots of the party of labour by severing its formal connections with the trades unions, Miliband is on a rebranding exercise which must have his Marxist father turning in his grave.
And - we must presume from the rapturous standing ovation greeting his confident, hour long speech - he has the agreement and support of the majority if not all of the delegates present.
The emphatic turn to nationalism was already evident way back in 2007 in the days of Gordon “British jobs for British workers” Brown. But Miliband’s One Nation Labour is frankly breathtaking. The word xenophobia comes to mind.
Just so we all know where his allegiances lie, Miliband opened with a heartfelt tribute to “our troops” and “our brave police”. Hundreds of thousands of former miners who battled the police in 1984 in defence of jobs will take note.
Now the new “mass membership” party stands up for 1.5 million small businesses (good) against the strong, vested interests identified as Rupert Murdoch, and the six big suppliers of gas and electricity (bad).
Miliband’s view is as narrow and blinkered as it is possible to be. The world outside the United Kingdom consists only of the unmentioned, unidentified “others” who are to be defeated in the “race to the top”, plus cheap labour shipped in by recruitment agencies and gangmasters. Does he mean China? The US? Germany?
How the race to the top victory is to be achieved without driving wage levels to the global minimum must remain a mystery. All that’s proposed is a mandatory charitable donation from big to small businesses and a form of barter, trading apprenticeships for immigrant labour.
Somehow, exports will increase and Britain will become great. Again. Rule Britannia.
The One Nation populist appeal is clearly designed to outflank Ukip – way out on the right wing. It’s a real mystery why some are attempting to label Ed as “red”. Just for proposing to regulate the energy market?
What was missing from the speech was much more interesting than what we actually heard.
Apart from the slow pace of “recovery”, no mention of the global crisis, no mention of Europe, the US, China, Africa, the Middle East, anywhere at all. And no mention of capitalism, naturally.
Nothing about the majority of non-tax paying global corporations who laugh in the face of national governments, of which Amazon and Google are just the most famous.
And, bizarrely missing from the demagogic message, was anything bar a passing favourable mention of the banks, some of whom it seems pay a living wage!
Nationalism? Support for the little man, the small business? As the Financial Times noted in assessing Miliband’s speech: “There is whiff of Poujadiste populism about all this.” Pierre Poujade led a briefly successful right-wing populist movement of small traders and peasants against the Paris elite in the 1950s.
One Nation Labour is in a naked bidding war for votes, playing the nationalist card to rally a disillusioned public, in a shameless effort to win the 2015 election with policies snatched out of the air.
With the electorate’s disdain for Westminster, big business and the rich growing at a rate of knots, Miliband wants to cash in on widespread discontent. Be warned: One Nation Labour populism is a dangerous road to go down.