In his Guardian column tomorrow, Jonathan Freedland writes that Ed Miliband reckons he’ll “get a kicking from the Daily Telegraph” for his lurch to the left, but his ‘gamble’ is that he’ll survive it. The Times and the Daily Mail have not given his remarkable speech much of a better reception (above). All three newspapers can see what’s at stake here: a very dangerous principle, dug out of its 1970s grave and held up for applause at the Labour Party conference. It is now okay for a PM to govern by issuing edicts to private companies and having them do what he wants.
Today, Miliband has said his government would issue two kinds of threats. One is to property companies: ‘build more houses, or we’ll confiscate your land!’. The other is to energy companies: ‘keep your electricity prices at the level we tell you!’ Both will be popular with the public, but both can have profound consequences and could cripple investment. Centrica has said Miliband’s ideas may bring “economic ruin”. Prices are going up due, in no small part, to environmental taxes, it said. If price controls were slapped on, then…
“…it would simply not be economically viable for Centrica, or indeed any other energy supplier, to continue to operate and far less to meet the sizeable investment challenge that the industry is facing”.
Hence the Times’ front page. Its leader says that Ed Miliband:-
“…talks a lot about leading a new generation of Labour politicians but he seems strangely stuck, writing a script of Labour history in which the pages of the Blair years have been ripped out.”
And as for the Daily Telegraph? Its editorial nails it:-
Such populist stuff may play well on the doorstep. But it is the politics not of Mr Miliband’s childhood in the Eighties, but the Seventies. Of course, the applause in the hall suggested that Labour members are not unduly troubled by that: this was a dose of the old religion, for which they have been hankering for years. Miliband’s comforting, illusory promise is that as prime minister he would be able to make the modern world go away, and restore a lost era of good jobs and high wages through the miracle of state intervention. But we have played that tape before, and we know how it ends.