The past week has probably served to highlight Labour’s fundamental and ultimate dilemma – the spenders/borrowers V the cutters of expenditure who want, so they say, to balance the UK books.
Labour has always been a high tax and big spend party and their governments have usually ended in economic failure i.e. borrowed too much, spent too much. But Ed Balls and his chum Ed Miliband, who increasing look like the spitting image caricatures of David Owen and David Steel, are now telling us all that they will stop their ingrained habit of spending and borrowing too much in favour of the UK balancing its books and even running a surplus! This could be a significant turning point for Labour unless it is just party political spin to try to win an election.
However, let’s give Mr Balls the benefit of the doubt for a moment despite the fact that the mess we are presently in was created on his party’s watch! The problem being though that on the ground Labour is still a fundamentally tax and spend party, we see it in the outpourings of Merseyside Labour MP’s and Council Leaders day after day. What Mr Balls now espouses is so far away from some of his MP’s and Council Leaders that they may as well be in different political parties!
Only this week at Sefton’s council meeting the comrades were championing more/higher spending and talking about going to the government for more money. It’s as though these unreconstructed municipal socialists still think that taking a begging bowl to Downing Street, under any government, will lead to it being filled up! And these are the very same people that have ranted and raved at all the terrible cuts in public expenditure that have had to be made since our economy collapsed. They still genuinely seem to think that so long as Labour gets elected to run the Country again that the money tap will be turned back on. But that is very far from what Mr Balls is saying, in fact it is a million miles away from it.
Merseyside is suffering from a failure of leadership from the great and good Labour Council leaders. A glance across to Greater Manchester to see how it is striding forwards under the quiet but highly effective leadership of Lord Peter Smith of Wigan is all the evidence you need. Investment in public transport in particular shows how effective Greater Manchester has been as they have extracted money from governments of all colours in recent times to build a massive tram network and upgrade their traditional heavy rail. Merseyside has failed to get a tram system off the ground and is looked upon by governments of all colours as being a political basket case which can’t put together coherent long-term plans.
So on virtually the same day that Ed Balls was preaching fiscal prudence his troops here in the Merseyside Borough of Sefton were still ranting about the cuts that have been made so far: goodness knows how they will cope with the cuts to come especially if they come from the hand of Mr Balls!