Tom Richmond: Miliband says too much for the silent majority

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IT looked a master-stroke on the part of Ed Miliband; the Labour leader addressing the masses following the TUC anti-cuts march with David Cameron nowhere to be seen. But was it?

Miliband certainly had a captive audience as between 100,000 and 500,000 people (depending on which newspaper report you read) descended upon Hyde Park to voice their disquiet over the spending squeeze. He likened those present to the Big Society. Clever?

No.

The lesson from history would suggest that Miliband was ill-advised to preach to the protesters. One of his predecessors, Neil Kinnock, made a great virtue of speaking at such rallies in the 1980s – and look where it got him. Two crushing election defeats.

For, while Kinnock’s oratory was far more stirring than Miliband’s rhetoric, he simply alienated another chunk of the electorate whenever he opened his mouth. Siding with the demonstrators and anarchists simply convinced the silent majority watching on TV that Labour was unfit to govern.

It was the same on Saturday. And it will be the same on July 9 when Miliband becomes the first Labour leader, since Kinnock, to address the Durham Miners’ Gala – a long-established celebration of Socialist values.

It was noteworthy that Miliband did not spell out to his Hyde Park audience the cuts that Labour would be making if the party was still in power – this remains a great political mystery.

Now he finds himself presiding over a party where Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls is looking to the people of Leeds to provide “fresh ideas” – he had a meeting with targeted voters yesterday – while Yorkshire backbenchers Linda Riordan and Marsha Singh were among those who signed a Parliamentary motion supporting the work of “UK Uncut” last weekend in highlighting tax evasion.

It comes down to this – what would Miliband cut if he were the Prime Minister? Is he on the side of the trouble-makers like UK Uncut – or the rule of law? What will the ‘schoolboy politician’ say in Durham? And who will he side with the next time a demo brings London to a standstill?

At least David Cameron – to coin a phrase – has a plan. Has Labour? Or will Miliband simply oppose for opposition’s sake, because that is what his trade union masters have told him to do?

GEORGE Osborne has many problems as the nation comes to terms with his Budget, not least whether his tax avoidance measures will accrue the targets he has set – and whether sufficient public sector jobs will actually be lost in Whitehall to balance the books.

According to John Redwood, the former Cabinet minister, the omens are not encouraging – despite the coalition wanting to cut its administrative overheads by 30 per cent over the life of this Parliament.

“So far, in the departments that have answered, they have lost around four per cent of their staff numbers in an eight-month period. This suggests the overall annual rate of leavers is six per cent,” says Redwood.

“What is surprising is they have replaced half of these, meaning that the overall numbers are only down around two per cent. If they are to hit the 30 per cent target, they need to get better at avoiding replacement.”

It is further evidence, if any was needed, that a recruitment freeze is, perhaps, the only way forward, forcing Whitehall and the quangocracy to promote from within.

This should not be a problem if they’re actually being good employers and developing their staff, or are they too busy looking at ways of circumventing the Treasury’s intentions?

TALKING of the public sector’s excess, David Cameron should be ashamed of his complacency when a 12-year-old schoolgirl asked why the head of Tory-controlled Suffolk County Council is paid £76,000 more than the PM.

“They work a bit harder than me,” said Cameron. As well as leaving open the suggestion that he is afraid of graft – a notion which is completely untrue – it raises serious doubts about whether the coalition can limit the scope of town hall pay.

I KNOW his predecessor, Paul Truswell, was fond of having his photograph taken – but Pudsey MP Stuart Andrew has taken this to a new level.

There are 22 – yes, 22 – pictures of Andrew in his latest constituency newsletter. Not even Truswell was this vain. Could it be that Andrew is already worried about his re-election prospects in this marginal seat?

THERE is, I am pleased to report, no longer any hiding place for Northern Rail when it announces the imminent arrival of ‘non-existent’ trains.

After months of pontification on the rail firm’s part over the misinformation given to long-suffering passengers on the Wharfedale Line between Ilkley and Leeds, the Office of Rail Regulation’s latest guidance is crystal clear.

New licence conditions “make it clear that train operators have lead responsibility for getting appropriate, accurate, timely information to passengers”.

Please take note, Northern Rail.

BEFORE even more England football fans criticise Fabio Capello for his limited English vocabulary – he claims 100 words suffice when discussing tactics – how many of them can utter more than a few words of Italian?

This hysterical response to Capello’s limitations masks the fact that Britain is no longer a nation of linguists, largely because foreign languages have been marginalised for so long in schools.

There again, why should teachers inspire their pupils to learn French, Spanish or Italian when so many youngsters have such little grasp of basic English?

FINALLY, has anyone seen – or heard from – war leader turned Middle East peace envoy Tony Blair? His silence is deafening.

tom.richmond@ypn.co.uk