In last week’s New Statesman David Miliband has reflected upon where the left now needs to go in order to gain electrical success in an uncertain world. His views are worth reading, not because his comments shine a light on the differences of views between him and his brother (too much ink has been spilled on that already), nor only for students of the centre-left, but because the topics he covers are relevant for all political thinkers as the major advanced economies move out of intensive care and into recovery mode.
Miliband lands upon five key challenges facing the world over the coming decade: the shift of power from west to east; the so-called ‘Robo-sourcing’ of functions previously delivered by people; the resource crunch of declining energy sources; increasing transparency from an ever more challenging and engaged civic society; and the misalignment of economics and politics. The picture which Miliband paints is a world rattling ahead and politicians, and particularly modern political parties, struggling to catch up.
What Miliband also shines a light on is broken politics. This isn’t the politics of expenses, corruption or sex scandals but, in his words, ‘political systems that have lost their capacity to engage and include’. Figures like President Obama may fleetingly light the flames of political engagement but for many in the west the political systems – and the masters of those systems – no longer reflect the modern world. Perhaps this is unsurprising; each of us works within a structure and that structure will often determine our behaviour. But if these structures go on failing the majority of people and trust in ‘the system’ remains low then, inevitably, something has to give. In the world of economics few predicted that the imbalances in the system would unwind as quickly as they did but when the moment came for the established norm to come crashing down it did so with a ferocity that changed everything. Miliband’s ever thoughtful contributions to ensuring that politics continues to ride the wave of change, no matter who is in charge, are an important contribution to what needs to be a much bigger and more inclusive debate.