Posts Tagged ‘ring fences’

Balls is no Churchill

03/06/2013, 05:40:13 PM

by Jonathan Todd

Politics, as Churchill said, is the ability to foretell what is going to happen tomorrow, next week, next month and next year. Much of the theatre of politics exists, however, in the unanticipated events to which Macmillan attributed the failure of political plans. While, to paraphrase Lennon, politics is what happens when you are making other plans, plans are politically necessary and should be attuned to the likely and inevitable.

Political tacticians specialise in events. Political strategists identify trends and plan accordingly. The character of politicians is revealed in their handling of events but they are exposed without convincing strategy. And the strategic context that was obvious from the outset of this parliament was the politics of the deficit.

We might have thought in May 2010 that the government’s economic strategy of tough deficit reduction would fail and the public would then turn to Labour. Perhaps we thought that this strategy would fail, causing the government to adopt the Plan B that Labour called for and the public to conclude that Labour was right all along.

Few seriously thought that things would work out precisely as George Osborne forecast in his hopelessly optimistic 2010 budget. The real debate was always about whether this failure in itself would be enough to return support to Labour.

Unsurprisingly, Osborne has not said: “Ed Balls was always right”. We don’t need the spending review to know, however, that the government is failing. But polling published by Labour List contains scant evidence that this failure builds support for Labour on the economy.

As Osborne scraps around to increase the capital budget and Vince Cable cobbles together the kind of active industrial strategy that he previously denounced, agreement with Balls is implicit in their actions. Government policy inches towards Plan B but recognition that this constitutes a Plan B is politically impossible.


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