11 Ways Tony Blair Was More Socialist In 1997 Than Ed Miliband Is Now

Early Ed Miliband is to the political right of early Tony Blair on a number of issues.

Tony Blair’s political position shifted while he was in government, but in opposition he was arguably to the left of where Ed Miliband is now.

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1. Blair didn’t want to cut benefits for unemployed young people.

Oli Scarff / Getty Images

What Blair said in 1997:
In 1999 the first Blair government introduced the Education Maintenance Allowance, a weekly payment for young people from low income families who stayed in education. Those who entered the job market could claim unemployment benefits.

What Miliband says:
If Labour gets into government under Miliband it will ban most unemployed young people from claiming unemployment benefits. The rest will have to face a means test, with only those whose parents have a low income being eligible.

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2. Blair supported a higher rate of tax on corporate profits than Miliband.


What Blair said in 1997:
Corporation tax, the rate of tax businesses pay on their profits, settled at 30% for nearly a decade under Blair.

What Miliband says:
Labour has pledged to keep corporation tax the lowest in the G7 if it wins in 2015. This means Miliband’s highest possible rate is 26.5%, which still amounts to a hefty cut to the rate Blair maintained.

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3. Blair supported renationalising the railways while in opposition.


What Blair said in 1997:
Blair told the 1996 Labour Party conference that he wanted to see “a publicly owned railway, publicly accountable”. By the time Labour entered government, this commitment was quietly dropped.

What Miliband says:
As leader, Miliband has never publicly committed to renationalisation. He has long ruled out bringing back British Rail and has now said his party will allow a public company to compete for franchises against private companies.

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4. Blair was more positive about immigration.


What Blair said in 1997:
Labour’s 1997 manifesto proudly stated that Britain was a “multicultural society”. Blair’s party pledged to create two new offences: racial harassment and racially motivated violence “to protect ethnic minorities from intimidation”. Labour insiders from the time have since said it was government policy to “rub the right’s nose in diversity” by encouraging immigration.

What Miliband says:
Miliband has said all immigrants to the UK should learn English, and has pledged to ban immigrants who don’t speak English from key public sector jobs. He has also said Britain should “reject the belief that people can simply live side by side in their own communities, respecting each other but living separate lives”, and demand that immigrants integrate.

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5. Blair imposed a windfall tax on privatised energy companies.


What Blair said in 1997:
When Labour came to power in 1997 it introduced a windfall tax on the profits of privatised utility companies. The money raised was effectively redistributed to the unemployed, paying for Labour’s New Deal jobs programme.

What Miliband says:
Miliband is said to have considered but rejected a windfall tax on the basis that a new tax wouldn’t go down well with his top team. Instead he has pledged a price freeze, which also takes from energy companies’ profits, but gives more to those who spend more on energy, rather than the poorest.

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6. Blair pledged to scrap the market system imposed on the NHS.

Oli Scarff / Getty Images

What Blair said in 1997:
Labour’s 1997 manifesto said it would end the internal market of NHS hospitals competing with each other. (In office Blair actually accelerated the process.)

What Miliband says: Miliband has said Labour would keep the NHS commissioning system which sits at the core of the service’s internal market system. He has also said he believes the private sector has a place running NHS services.

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7. Blair wanted regional government to be democratically elected.


What Blair said in 1997:
Blair wanted a UK-wide system of directly elected regional assemblies similar to the one set up in London; for instance a Northeast Assembly, a Yorkshire & Humber Assembly, etc. These elected bodies would organise a region’s transport, economic development and housing.

What Miliband says:
Miliband’s vision for regional government involves giving more money and power to “local enterprise partnerships” – unelected collections of businesses, grouped together with local councils via a fairly opaque process.

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8. Blair advocated lower university tuition fees than Miliband.

Dan Kitwood / Getty Images

What Blair said in 1997:
Blair went into the 1997 election pledging to introduce tuition fees of £1,000 a year, in line with an influential report’s recommendations. He later trebled them to £3,000.

What Miliband says:
Miliband’s response to the 2010 tuition fee protests was to pledge to set tuition fees at £6,000 a year – six times as high as the fees originally advocated by Blair. Labour is also said to be considering the idea of a “graduate tax”, which students would have to keep paying until they were old enough to retire.

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9. Blair flirted with putting ordinary workers into company boardrooms.

Sophie James/Sophie James

What Blair said in 1997:
In a 1996 speech in Singapore, Blair said he wanted to bring “stakeholder capitalism” to the UK. The term broadly refers to a practice in continental Europe of putting ordinary workers, elected by the workforce, on company boards, instead of just shareholders. By the time Blair made it into government he had abandoned the idea.

What Miliband says:
Miliband has said he thinks that company renumeration committees, which set executive pay, should have one worker on them. This idea hardly amounts to a dramatic transformation of British capitalism.

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10. Blair didn’t support a freeze on public sector pay.


What Blair said in 1997:
When Blair came to power he reversed years of falling public sector pay, sometimes dramatically improving wages for people who worked in public services.

What Miliband says:
Miliband has said he supports the government’s freeze on public sector pay, arguing that it is “absolutely right”.

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11. Blair left Labour with a stronger link to the trade unions.

Neil Hall / Reuters

What Blair said in 1997:
Blair scrapped the trade union bloc vote for electing Labour’s party leader. After his reforms, every trade unionist in an affiliated union was still collectively affiliated to Labour, and could exercise an individual vote in party elections.

What Miliband says:
Miliband has gone further than Blair, abandoning the principle that all unionists are automatically affiliated to the party. Labour’s rules were changed so that all union members would have to individually opt into becoming a party affiliate. Unions expect that few will.

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