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Miliband picking the wrong target

The Labour leader, Ed Miliband, has suffered 10 days of withering criticism from senior figures in his own party.

The former energy minister, Brian Wilson, has said he is a "work in progress" and not speaking to the people of Britain in a language they can understand. In Edinburgh yesterday, Mr Miliband had an opportunity to respond to his critics but he seemed to do little to inspire confidence either in his leadership or in his grasp of the constitutional choices facing Scotland.

Mr Miliband was right to say that what he called the cost of living crisis will be decisive in the 2015 General Election. Real wages for Scottish workers have fallen by more than £1400 since David Cameron became Prime Minister. And families hardly need to be told inflation is outstripping earnings. However, he did not offer any clear alternative to the policies of the Coalition, which at least appear to have sparked a modest economic recovery. According to revised figures published yesterday, Britain grew by 0.7% in the last quarter, marginally higher than original estimates.

There is a lack of clarity about Labour's policy too on key issues such as welfare reform, Europe and alternatives to independence. Mr Miliband has refused to make a commitment to abolishing the bedroom tax, which has caused widespread concern in Scotland. Nor is it clear whether or not the Labour leader supports the idea of an in/out referendum on Britain's continued membership of the European Union.

We know Mr Miliband is opposed to independence for Scotland. But, to the dismay of many supporters of maximum devolution, the Labour leader gave no indication yesterday that he was prepared to consider further powers for the Scottish Parliament if Scotland votes No in next year's referendum.

Instead, he attacked First Minister Alex Salmond for adopting Conservative tax policies. Mr Miliband said; "The only place where he [Mr Salmond] really thinks the Tories are wrong is that they have not cut taxes for the rich enough." Regardless of the individual's views of Mr Salmond, or on independence, the claim that he is a Conservative and has sought to cut taxes on the wealthy is surely bordering on the ridiculous.

The Scottish Parliament, as Mr Miliband well knows, lacks powers to increase taxes on the rich. It was Labour that allowed a tax system to become so regressive that, by its own admission, financiers were paying lower rates of tax than their cleaners. Moreover, it is the Scottish Labour leader, Johann Lamont, who has adopted Conservative rhetoric on the "something for nothing" society and has sought to review universal benefits, such as free personal care, legitimate as such an initiative might be given the pressures on public finances.

This kind of name-calling by the Labour leader is no substitute for a proper challenge to the welfare reforms being inflicted by the Coalition on some of the poorest in society. And Mr Miliband will not enhance his leadership credentials by failing to treat the Scottish people with sufficient respect.

Contextual targeting label: 
Local government

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