So, if Labour win the next election, where will we be in October 2015?

by Peter Watt

On Saturday hundreds of thousands of people will be demonstrating against the cuts to the public sector being imposed by the government.

The TUC’s “we were told there was an alternative” march and rally in central London is the latest in a series of events organised against the cuts since Ed Balls unveiled his emergency budget in June.  PM Miliband faced heckling and walkouts at the TUC in early September and at the Labour party conference 100,000 protesters ringed the conference over-shadowing his Tuesday speech.

Government ministers have faced UK Uncut activists chaining themselves to their cars, bikes, houses and constituency offices as disruption and protest is maximised.  But it is the anger towards prime minster Miliband that is most palpable.  The elation of the election victory a mere four months ago must now seem a very distant memory to our beleaguered PM.

The problem seems to boil down to a sense of voters feeling let down as Labour impose their austerity package.  Of course Miliband and Balls can point to a series of speeches and announcements that they made in opposition that they say made it clear that they would need to make cuts.  As Balls said in his interview with Andrew Marr last week:

“We said it would be tough and it is, five years of failed coalition policy that delivered negligible growth means that the government books were even worse than we thought.  Of course we were always clear with people that we would need to make some cuts but unfortunately in reality this means that we have a much tougher job on our hands than even we realised.”

But it appears that voters were not as clear about the Labour party’s intentions as Miliband and Balls now claim that they were.

In fact opinion polls seem to show that people are comparing the Labour party’s stance on the need for cuts pre and post-election to the now infamous Liberal Democrat position on tuition fees.

People still remember that in the run up to the 2010 election the Lib Dems promised to scrap tuition fees only to agree to increase them in government. This was a huge factor in the virtual wiping out of the Lib Dems in this year’s poll.  News reports are now repeatedly showing clips of Ed Miliband at stop the cuts rallies during the last parliament.  Labour MPs are being reminded online by Guido Fawkes and others of the anti-cuts petitions, EDM’s and speeches that they had given during the last Parliament and during the election, only to vote through the massive cuts announced in Ball’s budget earlier this year.

Rightly, Labour point to the fact that they are still trying to protect the NHS by protecting it from cuts and dealing with the worst excesses of the last NHS reorganisation, but the impact of health inflation means that in reality cuts are still being imposed albeit at a slower rate.

There is some good news; the economy is now growing, although in reality it started growing before the election.  Unemployment is now falling reasonably quickly and the deficit appears to be falling with healthier revenues being generated for the exchequer.  But the scale of the cuts still being demanded is eye watering.

Welfare bills are being further cut with means testing being extended and some benefits disappearing altogether.  Housing benefit is also being pared back with priority being given to working families.  Charges have been brought in for some health tests and check-ups; annual fees of £100 have been introduced for all pupils in state schools; free bus passes and winter fuel payments have been cut.

Taxes have also gone up with council tax being raised on the most expensive houses and VAT being increased for a year.  One-off taxes have also been imposed on the excess profits of utility companies and again on banker’s bonuses.

Unfortunately for Miliband this has all overshadowed the package of other measures announced that have reduced utility bills for families and increased competition in the retail banking sector.

Radical reforms of secondary and further education are being rolled out and the green investment bank has been further developed.  But only a few months after the election that swept Labour back to power following just one term in opposition there is only one show in town as far as voters are concerned:  that is the sense that the Labour party lied about what it intended, or at least avoided telling the truth, when it came to its plans for tackling the deficit.

Voters remember the party talking about growth and new houses being built.  They remember Labour’s attacks on the Tories and the Lib Dems over their heartless cuts and that around the country Labour candidates condemned the inability of the coalition to deliver anything other than austerity.

They remember fiery speeches from Labour’s front bench criticising the Tories and promising a brighter future and implicit support for the annual ‘stop the cuts’ demonstrations.  But they don’t remember much being said about the cuts, charges and tax rises that Labour are now implementing no matter how much Labour now protest that they did in fact talk about it.

Not surprisingly voters are telling pollsters that One Nation Labour is nothing more than a marketing gimmick and cynicism in politics is at an all-time low.  With over 4 years to go to the next election, Mr Miliband must hope that voters will forgive what they see as his lack of honesty and that his party’s 26% opinion poll rating will slowly recover.

Peter Watt was general secretary of the Labour party

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12 Responses to “So, if Labour win the next election, where will we be in October 2015?”

  1. aragon says:

    Yes, they really are all the same. Tories and Pseudo Tories.

    There is an alternative but not with the current party leadership.

    And no been honest now will not wash – ‘we are really just all Tories and it doesn’t matter whom you vote for we are all the same rich bastards, seeking the limelight.’

    What;s Ed going to do now Johnathan Portes has gone ‘Crackers’

    “Jonathan Portes, director of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) said that stimulus”

    The two Ed’s don’t have a clue, neither do ‘In the Black Labour’ or the Labour Party in Westminister.

    It could have been so different …

    Nice to see Dave come a cropper as he co-opts Ed’s rubbish policies.

  2. Nick says:

    OK, cut the marketing.

    Tell us what cuts Labour will make?

  3. Nick says:

    There’ all going to come a cropper.

    The reason is that the really big debts have been hidden off the books.

    So they are making promises based on a set of fraudulent accounts.

    ie. State pension isn’t a debt means we aren’t going to pay it.

    Even worse, for a median wage earner, if they had put their NI into the FTSE, they would have a pension worth 5 times what the state hands out.

    Reasons are quite simple.

    1. No compound interest.
    2. Redistribution. Their money was given to someone else.

  4. swatantra says:

    Same old Labour? Same old Tories? Its a pretty gloomy picture painted by Peter. Perhaps what we need now is a Technocratic Govt, to get Britain back on the rails. Everyone is shouting ‘growth’, but why? Perhaps we and the World need to come to terms with us all doing with less. We did that during the War Years and survived; we can do that now.
    There is real poverty, I mean real poverty in the World; maybe we need o redistribute the Worlds wealth and resources a bit more fairly. And that means us, you and me, taking less.

  5. Chris Matheson says:

    Two years ago, Ed Miliband won the Labour leadership election in a fair and well conducted contest.

    Time to get over over it, LabourList, and move on. We will soon be closer to the next General Election. You can see him growing in confidence and stature, and we are starting to flesh out the bones of a future policy programme. How about you start to contribute to that policy programme rather than sniping from the sidelines with hypotheticals and fantasies such as this?

  6. Chris Matheson says:

    Even better idea – Labour Uncut get over it too!

  7. BenM says:

    Hang on.

    Hasn’t Mr Watt and associated rightwing New Labourites been agitating for Ed Miliband to adopt Tory austerity?

    Utterly daft article by David Miliband in Guardian today which finally kills off any thoughts that he’d have been a better leader than his brother.

  8. DannyT says:

    I do shut up Mr Watt. It was a right-wing Blairite government that got the country into the mess it now finds itself and it is an even more right-wing Tory government that is making it worse. The Labour Party is slowly dawdling leftwards, where it belongs, and if you don’t like that, turn blue and start writing on a platform where your views will be more welcome, like The Spectator.

  9. Anon E Mouse says:

    How could David Miliband be worse than Ed?

    Get a grip man….

  10. Brother Number One says:

    At least there’s some good news in the last paragraph: “cynicism in politics is at an all-time low.”

  11. Robert says:

    Balls and Miliband have made clear that the next Labour government will need to make difficult decisions and their comments upset trade union leaders. Some people do not listen to politicians and may be disappointed after 2015, but this will be totally different to the Lib Dems pledging not to vote for an increase in tuition fees and then doing so.

  12. Renie Anjeh says:

    Comedy Gold!

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