How disappointing to see that the political editor of the left-leaning Guardian describes Miliband`s proposals on low pay as "radical plans".(Labour: we will link minimum pay to earnings,19/05/14) Even the ultra-right wing George Osborne was willing to acknowledge that the minimum wage should be £7.00 an hour, 57% of the median earnings, so a suggestion from the leader of the Labour party to work towards 60% is far from signifying root and branch change! Of course, the Tories and the CBI will churn out the usual alarmist objections about unemployment rising, the minimum wage becoming a "political football" and such like, but they would if the proposal was for a rise to 56%.
Indeed, this sort of promise to "write a new chapter in the battle against low pay" has been a long time in coming, and the blame for this must lie with the Blairites in the party. Fearful of upsetting the suppering classes of the south`s marginal seats, their moderate "35 per cent strategy" has led to Labour struggling in the polls, and hemorrhaging votes to the Ukip party. This proposal from Miliband will barely make a dent in the levels of inequalty in the country, but it`s an important step in the right direction, and as a token gesture, a Labour government should immediately change the name of the relevant commission from Low Pay to Fair Pay Commission.Those who think the minimum wage should not rise, I`m afraid, will never vote Labour, and Labour should not be abandoning its principles of fairness to attract them.
Miliband is good at making promises to take action which only tinkers with the problem, rather than dealing with it properly. His ideas on rent caps do nothing about the excessive rents being paid now, the appalling condition of some rented properties, or the tax avoidance of many private landlords.For example, one tax evading landlord managed to deprive the Treasury of £84,000, yet recently only received a suspended one year sentence! HMRC is exaggerating hugely when claiming such tax avoiders "are playing a high risk game", when the punishment is so meagre. Similarly, as a think tank regards BTL as meaning "Big Tax Let-off", (as opposed to Buy To Let) with "tax breaks for private landlords" adding up to £5bn a year, wouldn`t one expect the opposition to be targetting this for its first post-election budget? It might just convince young people that the Labour party is on their side.Miliband could show that under his leadership his party is different by actually taking on the banks; already 81% owned by the state RBS must not be sold, and a pledge made by him to renationalise after the election would prevent its sale. A People`s bank could be the vote-winner Labour seeks; of course, there will be problems because of forthcoming fines but it could attract customers by offering better rates than the high street ones because it could have lower profit margins, and pay sensible salaries as opposed to annual lottery wins, and award no bonuses. All profits would go to the state, but even better if they were ringfenced for the NHS., solving two problems at one go. The corrupt scam-devising banks would lose customers to this new bank, and Labour could fund all of Andy Burnham`s plans. A People`s NHS Bank could be the start of the transformation of our society which so many of us desire. A bank actually putting "ethics before profits" and benefitting the nation, could catch on!