by Michael Pavey
The story of the last Parliament was the Tory-led government crushing a nascent economic recovery and condemning the country to five years of misery through austerity – but successfully convincing the public that it was all Labour’s fault.
In no small part this is because immediately after the 2010 election, Labour indulged in a prolonged and self-absorbed leadership contest. Instead of defending our economic legacy, we bickered amongst ourselves and allowed the Tories to badge us as spendthrift deficit-deniers who caused the financial crash. We never shook off the damage of those early months.
Now we are making exactly the same mistake. Instead of developing persuasive economic policies which people understand and relate to, we are focusing on the fantasy that is Corbynomics. I have absolutely no problem with Jeremy Corbyn – but Corbynomics is the polar opposite of what we need. Not because it’s scary and left-wing, but because it will have less and less relevance to people’s lives as the next general election approaches.
The cornerstone of Corbynomics, “Quantitative Easing for the people”, is a triumph of hindsight over commonsense. It’s what we should have done in 2008. But the unique circumstances which created that moment no longer apply. When the whole financial system stood on the brink of meltdown, we should have set a much broader definition of the public good than simply protecting current accounts to keep ATMs flowing. At the same time as saving the banks, we should have had a strategy which also protected jobs, livelihoods and public services from the impact of a prolonged recession.
But to say we should have done this in 2008 doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do now. 2008 was a unique moment, both economically and politically. An unprecedented meltdown triggered an equally unprecedented clamour for political intervention. Hindsight shows that the steps taken were far from perfect, but this was a time of genuine fear when no-one knew what was happening – so Gordon Brown deserves full credit for averting something far worse.