Coffee House

Osborne rains on Miliband’s parade with wage announcement

16 January 2014

5:37 PM

16 January 2014

5:37 PM

What an odd coincidence that on the eve of what’s being billed as a major economic speech by Ed Miliband, George Osborne sticks up his periscope and makes a big fat announcement on the minimum wage. The Chancellor and his colleagues have been mulling this increase for months, and have been making confusing but supportive noises over the past few weeks, and this evening would have seemed an odd time for the Chancellor to give an interview to the BBC on the subject if Osborne weren’t famed for being such an enthusiastic strategist. He told Nick Robinson that Britain could afford an above-inflation increase in the minimum wage:

‘The exact figure has to be set by the Low Pay Commission which talks to business, talks to other bodies in our economy, but if, for example, the minimum wage had kept pace with inflation, it would be £7 by 2015-16 – it’s £6.31 at the moment – so that’s an increase. I think we can see an above-inflation increase in the minimum wage, do it in a way that actually supports our economy precisely because the economy is recovering and many, many jobs are being created.’


The reason for the timing is simple: Osborne wants to rain on Miliband’s parade by making an eye-catching announcement that underlines that Labour, as the Opposition, is powerless, while the Tories in government are powering on and making decisions. He will also have noted that Labour’s minimum wage debate in the Commons yesterday, which had caused a little consternation in the party about messaging, was a rather awkward flop (although that hasn’t stopped some MPs trying to say ‘oooh, you didn’t back our non-binding opposition day debate motion!’), and so he can insert his announcement after that flop, and hopefully make tomorrow’s Miliband speech a flop too.

But it’s not just the timing. It’s also the language that the Chancellor used. He said ‘we’ve worked hard to get to this point’, underlining the contrast that he wants to draw between the Coalition’s ‘long-term economic plan’ and Labour’s policy. He wants to undermine Miliband’s credibility once more, just before the chap has even stood up to deliver his speech. And he wants to undermine Labour’s cost of living attack by making a gesture that suggests the Tories are interested in helping families struggling with rising prices (even if he can’t help them with their gym membership).

Update, 18:30: Iain Duncan Smith, not always an ally of Osborne’s (to put it mildly), has welcomed the move. He says:

‘I welcome this bold move by the chancellor. It shows that at the heart of all our reforms this government is concerned to improve the quality of life for the poorest in society. The commitment to a higher national minimum wage is all part of ensuring that the economic recovery delivers for people who want to work hard and play by the rules.’

Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.

Show comments
  • Sue Fewster

    Hypocrisy at its worst!

  • saffrin

    Who’s kidding who?
    Cut taxes and raise the tax threshold is the way to do it.

  • HJ777

    “A major economic speech by Ed Miliband”?

    Is this a joke? I have never heard him say anything on the economy what wasn’t entirely vacuous or the repetition of the latest Labour meme (“cost-of-living crisis” being the latest example).

    I shall listen out for it and I will try my very best to detect any content or substance or coherent arguments, but I have to say that I’m not exactly optimistic about the chances.

    • Makroon

      I would advise that you watch Balls.
      Red will struggle manfully to make Balls’ latest tosh sound remotely plausible, and Balls will sit writhing in frustration that Red can’t make his latest work of genius stand up. Two frustrated Eds ?

      • Greenslime

        Couldn’t this be the ultimate double-bluff?

        The only thing that Milliband is good at is chutzpah.

        I wonder if Balls is quietly encouraging him to dig that hole ever deeper….. “That’s it Ed, keep going. You’ve got them on the run with that cost of living stuff, locking down the power firms and now cosying up to the middleclasses!”

        Balls is a master of the political black arts. He will know that coming out against Milliband openly would be fatal for him. But if he encourages Gromit in his apparent pursuit of political hari-kari, that will clear the way for the other member of ‘Team-Balls’ to step up to the plate – and he is guaranteed a top-table seat if that happens.

        You take the high road and I’ll take the low road…..

  • Mike Barnes

    So Osborne has won, because he got there first in announcing something Labour wanted to do? If you say so…

    Labour dictating the terms of the recovery, Osborne leaping to get in front of them more like. Doesn’t really matter who takes credit for it, as long as progressive policies like this are implemented fine with me!

  • gram parsons

    all we need now is millipedes wife to be discovered having ugandan discussians with the milkman.

  • telemachus

    None of us are impressed by the spinning going on here
    The low pay commission are not likely to recommend anything to approach catch up to the golden labour years of 2004
    Ed will make that point strongly tomorrow

    • kyalami

      “… the golden labour years of 2004…”

      Do you by any chance speak English?

      • telemachus

        The English of the reasonable and caring
        Not the selfish English of the little englanders

        • kyalami

          Are you aware of the difference between singular and plural?

          • telemachus

            Do not follow

            • Redrose82

              How many years were there in 2004? Oh I see you have corrected it.

            • Holly

              I know hon,
              You lead…

    • alabenn

      You really are a witless fool, your little world of certainty about the two idiot Eds winning the next election is slowly draining away.
      It says something that you have to get you digs in first, you usually ride on the back of someone else`s comment, very illuminating.

      • telemachus

        When it comes to the wisdom of Ed and the Charisma of his Shadow Chancellor it is worth trumpeting

        • saffrin

          Wisdom, Ed, Charisma?
          Not in the same sentence thankyou.

          • telemachus

            As Chuka just said this is a masterstroke for the small business customer

            • saffrin

              Chuka, who’s Chuka?

    • Nicholas chuzzlewit

      Labour’s very own corporal Jones is panicking everybody. Labour the party of lies, lying and liars are on the run. “Don’t panic Captain Miliband, don’t panic”.

    • HJ777

      So, 2004 was the one good year out of 13 then?

      Not a very good ratio, was it?

  • alabenn

    Milibands announcement tomorrow is a flop already, everything he now says is predicated in the publics mind as a flash in the pan that lacks substance, it is his basic lack of gravitas which counts against this feeble Unite mouthpiece.

    • telemachus

      You forget he gave McCluskey his marching orders

      • Nicholas chuzzlewit

        How can McCluskey’s personal glove puppet give him orders idiot #1?

        • Geronimo von Huxley

          I am new here. Would anyone kindly explain what a union is? I genuine don’t know and have never seen one, ever.

          • telemachus

            “the act of uniting two or more things”I
            In this case the joining of the oppressed worker with the reasonable advocate

            • Geronimo von Huxley

              …and that exists in any meaningful way? In the private sector? In Britain? Where?

      • HookesLaw

        You should be topping the bill at the London Palladium.

    • sfin

      Agreed on on the basic lack of gravitas of millipede – but is the tory ‘trumping ‘of Labour with a socialist proposal a ‘conservative’ victory?
      I weep with frustration that our fine, historic parliament has been reduced to three social democrat parties trying to score points over who can be more left wing.

    • HJ777

      It’s not so much that he lacks gravitas (which he does) it’s that he lacks content.

  • JoeDM

    It may be good politics, but it is dreadful economics.

    • telemachus

      You are actually wrong
      It will be a further stimulus to the economy
      God knows it needs it to get down the cost of living

      • kyalami

        Possibly foreign economies. Which of these has a minimum wage: Denmark, France, Sweden, Finland, China, Korea, … ?

        • telemachus

          We are taking France as an example?

          • tastemylogos

            Denmark, France, Sweden, Finland, China, Korea