by Rob Marchant
Now, Labour Uncut has never been a fan of Gordon Brown’s decision to leave the “Golden Rule” behind and stop balancing the books over the economic cycle. He borrowed more than he should have, with the result that Britain was rather caught with its trousers around its ankles when the global financial crisis came.
But it takes a certain kind of front for a politician on his own side to call the former prime minister a coward (although marginally better, one supposes, than asking for him to be tried as war criminal).
Especially if that politician (a) still holds office at national level (albeit on Labour’s NEC and not an office elected by the general public); and (b) wouldn’t know fiscal responsibility if it jumped up and slapped him in the face with a wet kipper.
It really could only be one person, couldn’t it? Step forward, our old friend Ken Livingstone, who told the Labour Assembly Against Austerity last weekend that the raising of debt was “an act of cowardice”.
Now, let’s examine that for a second as an exercise in multiple levels of irony.
First up in the irony stakes is the issue that he was speaking at the Labour Assembly Against Austerity. Yes, the anti-austerity movement. The primary function of this body, as far as anyone can understand, is the economic equivalent of the Flat Earth Society; that of fighting of any cut of any kind.
Now, although Livingstone later implied – disingenuously – in the same speech that he is open to cuts, this goes entirely against the whole ethos of the anti-austerity movement. No-one can possibly seriously buy that argument, least of all from him.
So, the equation is pretty straightforward: if you can’t cut and you can’t raise debt, you have to raise taxes. That is the clear conclusion of this kind of policy and the modus operandi which has followed Livingstone throughout his political life.
And there’s the second irony. You can certainly say that Livingstone has always been consistent about not wanting to raise debt and securing all revenue through tax-raising, but let’s look at the facts on that.