Posts Tagged ‘public spending’

I was wrong about Corbyn. Now, after this result, Labour has the space to make the case for investment

09/06/2017, 10:48:19 PM

by Ian Moss

I was wrong, Corbyn did not drive Labour off a cliff, he won seats and he dramatically increased vote share. He comes out of the election stronger but that is partially because expectations were so low. His leadership was a galvanising force for youth and his language a refreshing change from wooden managerialism; authentic and without the timid terror of trained lines to take.

The challenge is still enormous for Labour. It has lost three elections in a row and is in no better a position, in seats, than it was in 2010 and the Conservatives no worse. Yes vote share has surged, but so too has it for the Conservative party. It’s possible we are back to the two player game for good. However, for the first time in a decade there is an obvious path, one which can galvanise Labour’s coalition of support and put an offer to the country that can bind older voters with the young.

Labour’s moderates can start to be much more confident on the economy and on public spending and move on from the paralysis they have faced since 1992 on it. The Conservatives have absented themselves from the issue of fiscal credibility, as the deficit still looms large, and the public are beginning to see the cracks in their local services. Labour can make the case for investment again, in return for modest increases on the taxes of those that can bear it most and a continuing commitment on efficiency and reform.


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Corbyn at the Adelphi: Vintage 80s nostalgia that would deliver a vintage 80s Labour result

05/08/2015, 07:25:57 PM

by Richard Scorer

Liverpool, Saturday evening: 1100 people cram into the Adelphi ballroom to hear Jeremy Corbyn. My political identification is old Labour right, and I’m probably voting for Liz Kendall, but my Scouse in-laws are Corbyn supporters and invited me along. It was a good opportunity to see what a  Labour party led by Corbyn might look like.

First, the warm up acts, starting with the Liverpool Socialist Singers. The compere jokingly asked if anyone present wanted to sing the national anthem. This having elicited the intended booing, we were all invited to join in singing the Internationale. An interesting choice, I thought. The Internationale, not The Red Flag; at this rally, even traditional English socialism is seen as too tame .  Then we moved on to the speakers. The quality of oratory was high, the content unrepentedly hard left. The leader of the Bakers Union called for a general strike: wild applause. Paula from Unison quoted Blair’s “heart transplant” comment. Her answer to Blair:  “my arse”. It was amusing, and Paula was a powerful speaker.

Then Jeremy himself. He comes across as palpably decent, but with a touch of naivety, just like Tony Benn (who, you’ll remember, got through an entire interview with Ali G without realising that he was a fictional character). His themes were anti-austerity, anti-welfare bill and anti-war.

Austerity was never quite defined. I think in Corbyn’s mind it means any cut in public expenditure, unless it’s cutting spending on something he sees as bad, like defence. Corbyn sort of implied his economic programme has been costed: subject to bit more work by the guys in his policy team, the abolition of tuition fees would be fully paid for by an 0.2% increase in corporation tax. But really, he doesn’t think that costing a programme is necessary, because you can borrow more: “debt is now only 80% of GDP. Under the Attlee government it was 250% of GDP. And they still increased public spending, and so can we”.


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Can everyone please put their spades down?

07/07/2015, 06:06:26 PM

Denis Healy’s droll advice to stop digging when you find yourself in a hole seems lost on the current Labour frontbench. Just when it appeared that the party had officially reached Peak Disaster in May’s general election, it seems there is always more that can be done to frighten away potential voters.

Let’s take just four interventions from last week.

On Wednesday, at Prime Minister’s Questions, acting leader Harriet Harman casually committed the Labour benches to supporting a third runway for Heathrow, the central recommendation of Sir Howard Davies’ long-anticipated Airports Commission.

This is slightly surprising because there is no such commitment in the recent Labour manifesto. Indeed, there has been no discussion in the party about the change in policy. If there had been, it might have been pointed out that without ameliorative measures, a third runway will lock-in, rather than reduce, regional economic imbalances between Greater London and the North and Midlands. But, hey, it was a good line for PMQs.

Next up was Gloria de Piero, the party’s shadow equalities minister. She announced that companies employing more than 250 people (note: not the public sector) will be subject to a new regulation compelling them to undergo an “annual equal pay check” and publish information on the pay gap between their male and female employees in order, it seems, to be publicly shamed for any disparity.

Labour’s charmless offensive with business continues unabated. If there is evidence that employers pay women less for working at the same level as men, in the same organisation, on the same hours, then it’s a simple matter of enforcing the 1970 Equal Pay Act, which has outlawed such practices for the past 45 years.


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The two big myths about Labour’s leadership crisis

07/11/2014, 12:45:18 PM

by Atul Hatwal

It’s all beginning to feel very 2009. A weakened leader, panicking backbenchers and a febrile media have combined to generate the biggest Labour leadership crisis since the fag end of Gordon Brown’s ailing premiership.

Now, as then, the loyalist response is to perpetuate some easy “myths.” Though that’s the polite term. Here are the two biggest whoppers:

1. This is all the media’s fault

This was the line peddled on morning news shows and has been widespread across Labour’s Twittervist base.

But, as several journalists have pointed out, from the Guardian’s Rafael Behr to the Spectator’s Isabel Hardman, the reason this is being written up as a crisis is that Labour MPs have been privately complaining about Ed Miliband’s leadership to the journalists for months. In some cases, years.

MPs that have been on air in the last 24 hours, mouthing supportive platitudes, are among some of the most well-known serial lobby complainers.

The reality is that putative leadership campaigns have been organising for months. Leadership contenders have been positioning themselves, ready for the expected Labour defeat. Those rumours of an accommodation between Yvette Cooper and Andy Burnham on a joint leadership ticket, or some commitment on second preference votes, have been circulating for over a year.

Anyone saying that this is purely a confection by the media, or froth, is being economical with the actualité.

Here’s a test: how many shadow cabinet members have made a specific point of going on air to defend the leader? Not as part of a pre-planned photo-opp where they have no choice but to field questions on the leader, but have sought out the media, even when they had no press events planned, to stand up for Ed Miliband?

By my count, the answer is a big fat zero.

On the Today programme this morning, the best that the loyalists could field was Peter Hain. Not only an ex-cabinet minister, but someone who is standing down at the next election. This tells us all we need to know about the esteem in which the shadow cabinet and shadow ministerial ranks hold their leader.

2. Ed can turn this around, he just needs time

In the last parliament, when a crisis approached the point of no return, Gordon Brown would meet backbenchers and play the listening card.

He’d talk about how he understood their concerns about his leadership, how he valued their opinion and how he would take on board their suggestions. He’d thank them “for all that they did” and commit to being a better Gordon.


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The trouble with ‘45

03/07/2013, 05:35:56 PM

by Lee Butcher

Emerging phoenix like from the ashes of 2010 is proving somewhat more difficult than initially expected by some in the Labour party. The shattered economy, left ruined by the fiendish bankers, found the party holding the can and going down to a historically poor election defeat.

The usual fissures in the party have opened up and among the unsurprising and entirely unoriginal bickering between left and right about who is to blame, and who will resurrect the party in time for 2015, a certain wistful gaze over the historical shoulders of the movement has began.

The ‘right’ may have stopped looking back when arriving at Mr Blair’s lofty shoulders but the loosely defined ‘left’ have taken it upon themselves to cast their gaze back further into the distant past coming to a halt at the heady days of July 1945. Ken Loach’s nostalgic documentary outing, soon to be a regular repeat on Film 4, was the cultural firing gun of this endeavour.

A country whose recent past had left its economy close to bankruptcy and social ills crying out for remedy; 1945 and 2015 have never felt so similar. These observations are not entirely incorrect and any wise head in the party would do well to ask what Clement Attlee’s band of post-war “revolutionaries” has to teach us.

The problem is not that it is the wrong question to ask, the problem is that the answers returned are incomplete. As with all matters historical and political, the devil lay firmly in the detail.

As the proponents of such a view argue Attlee & Co. faced a fiscal crisis worse than our own and went on to dramatically increase public spending. They did it, so can we! They are entirely correct, but that enthusiasm can only be dampened when it comes to how they did it.

Britain’s economy, then as now, was in great trouble. Bankrupt is the term employed by most post-war historians to describe the Treasury’s books. George Osborne may have been rendered dumbfounded by a certain predecessor’s note informing him of the fiscal situation, Hugh Dalton must have been rendered incandescent at the sight of most of Britain’s cities laying in ruins.

In response to the fiscal legacy left by the work of the Luftwaffe’s finest, and the unbearable burden of maintaining over one million men in uniform scattered across the world, and the government picking up the bill for thousands conscripted to keep the essential industries running, Attlee and Dalton came to much the same conclusion as Messrs Cameron and Osborne; we need to cut spending.


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David Cameron and Ed Miliband are both sons of Gordon Brown

06/05/2013, 09:58:01 AM

by Jonathan Todd

There is probably a significant degree of cross-party agreement that Douglas Carswell is wrong to argue that the present government is a continuation of the last. Even David Cameron’s critics in the Conservative party would claim that he is an improvement on Gordon Brown, while many Labour party members see Cameron as the worst prime minister since Margaret Thatcher or perhaps even worse.

Yet the evidence that Carswell is not entirely wrong was clearly on display during the last PMQs. Cameron and Ed Miliband, in one sense at least, jostled for the crown of heir to Brown. They did so by benchmarking their success against how much they are spending or propose to spend on particular public services.

Given the unpopularity of Brown, this is curious politics. To make a virility symbol of state spending is even worse policy. To assume that more government is necessarily moving us closer to solutions ignores even in the best of times the reality of government failure.

These are far from the best of times. There is immense pressure on public resources. And this will continue, as Patrick Diamond notes: “Actuarial estimates suggest that an ageing population will have a bigger impact on public finances than the catastrophic effects of the financial crisis.”

This context demands a politics capable of deliberating seriously about the effectiveness and efficiency of public spending and which doesn’t simply seek to win arguments with reference to how much money is being spent in certain areas. Yet the very first thing that Cameron said in response to Miliband’s questioning was: “This Government believes in our NHS and are expanding funding in our NHS.”

Ring-fencing the NHS budget is supposed to be a signal that the service is safe in Conservative hands. One consequence of these politics is that average GP salaries are preserved at £110,000, while the welfare payments of the very poorest are cut, as the DWP does not benefit from the same ring-fence as the NHS.


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There’s no excuse for cuts. Public spending is the solution.

26/10/2010, 02:00:06 PM

by Katy Clark

Public spending is the way to overcome the economic mess that bankers’ greed created. In an extensive report, Dave Hall of Greenwich university business school nails the lie that cuts are inevitable. The fair way out of this crisis is to restore sustained economic growth. The empirical evidence contained within Dave Hall’s report, Why we Need Public Spending, provides the weapons that our movement needs to win the battle of ideas. There are no economic justifications for these cuts.

During the last Parliament, I voted against our government when it introduced legislation to cut the deficit in half by 2010. I was not willing to vote for such massive cuts and thought that having a fixed timetable was far too rigid, took no account of what future economic challenges we might face and was largely silent on growth. I was blissfully unaware that a debate supporting my concerns was taking place around the cabinet table. Ed Balls was leading the charge against setting a timetable while also arguing that we needed to prioritise policies that deliver growth.

He was right to do so. If history has taught anything, it is that you don’t cut public expenditure during a period of sluggish growth. We need look no further than the Republic of Ireland to see this. During the last two years, a series of emergency budgets have been introduced to supposedly combat the effects of the economic crisis. They each brought additional cuts that went further and further into the bone. Yet, their economy is once again on the brink of recession, having contracted during the last quarter. The real spectre haunting us is the possibility of a decade-long depression and a return to the disastrous economic failures of the 1930s. (more…)

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