Friday, 19 April 2013

Ed Miliband's 'new settlement' is a direct response to Tony Blair but it's Lord Heseltine he should listen to

Ed Miliband's call for a 'new settlement' is a direct response to criticisms from Blairites this week and shows that the Labour leader is clearly worried about the damage caused by those who have accused him of turning Labour into a protest party.

Today's proposals tackle employment, tax, housing and regional businesses. It's an attempt to re-light the Labour flame after Ed Ball's poor ratings and the intervention of the former PM which has caused Labour to become weird and introspective while the Tories have handled the death of Baroness Thatcher with aplomb. It says a lot about the state of Labour that Polly Toynbee warned this week about Blair 'making the same mistake' as Thatcher in interfering with the leadership after he has left.

Out of the policies it's the talk about regional banks which I would look to focus on if I were Miliband. I've mentioned before about Lord Heseltine's regional regeneration strategy and today he's urged LEPs to 'revolt' against central Government to demand finances and power. For me, these can have a greater impact than regional banks which will undoubtedly face regulative and trust issues.

As small business lending fails to take off, LEPs will fight the regional battles and gain traction with their regional media and public. Talk of a regional fight is exactly what people want to hear, they care little for devolution or credit ratings in the whole (the issues are too complicated for many voters), they are concerned about the local economy, jobs and prospects for their families and children.

I've been working on a project in work with YouGov, looking at how people view their communities, and there is massive appetite for getting disadvantaged people into work locally, sharing expertise and injecting cash into local communities.

Nationally Ed Miliband might not have time to become as popular as he needs to be, and to do so he's probably going to have to play yet more personality politics. But if he wants to truly impact Labour's vote regionally he could do worse than side with Lord Heseltine and start asking Ed Balls to talk more serious regional economics. It means Labour can build localised policies and not get caught up about the national 'who cuts what, how fast?' picture.

The irony that I'm referring to Lord Heseltine leading the way for regional economic policy in the week Baroness Thatcher's funeral was held, is not lost on me. Yet Labour could do worse than follow the old war horse's lead in this instance.

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