On Monday I attended the Fabians sponsored Labour Leadership Husting at the Institute of Education. It was a very enthusiastic event, both in terms of the audience and the candidates – their 8th husting event didn’t seem to have diminished any leader-esq zest.
A few interesting things were said. Ed Balls was obviously very exorcised about the forthcoming rise in VAT. I know it’s significant, but can’t help feeling that there are more pressing issues at large right now. Andy Burnham was rather good, given that I knew absolutely nothing about him before the start of the evening.
The best question of the evening was ‘Are you a Socialist, and if so what do you consider Socialism to be?’ David Miliband didn’t exactly give the best answer, claiming to be a ‘Social Democrat’, or something like that. Ed Miliband was better, with an unequivocal ‘Yes’. Diane Abbott was unimpeachable in her response to this, and most other questions. She was also keen to collect those second preference votes.
Initially I was firmly in the David Miliband camp, however Ed put in what I thought was a very good performance. Likewise Diane Abbott was very impressive on the podium. Last night’s newsnight debate was also very good indeed, with David edging back into the lead with a rather statesman like performance. Anyway, it’s a long time till September (and all the candidates have agreed to take at least one week off for a family holiday in August, thought not together I should add..) so I guess we’ll see how things develop.
What I’d really like is someone to advocate a reform of the tax system to deliver progressive taxation, a promise not to create any more PFI projects that might bankrupt us in the future, pledges on the creation of a Glass-Steagall type banking reform law, a general commitment to evidence based policy and something sensible on the ‘industrial policy’ front – e.g. neither unions nor corporations have got it right on industrial development – for starters. I’m a firm believer that actually we need the government to build infrastructure (everything from Fibre Optic Broadband to nuclear power, otherwise surely the market would have delivered them already?) and then tax industry and consumers for the use of these world-class essential-luxury things. Of course this pre-supposes a certain level of competence on the part of the government in delivering engineering projects, but it’s already late so that discussion will have to wait…