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!
I wonder how Bill Esterson’s Office will spin this (see link above)? Probably by ignoring it and hoping it will never happen.
Labour’s stance on anything to do with the economy and the consequences of the recession, that they helped to create, is little short of bizarre. They started out in opposition from two opposing positions – Liam Byrne (their former Chief Secretary to the Treasury) openly saying there was no money left in a note to his Coalition successor, whilst Balls and Miliband tried to give the impression that they were all but unaware of a recession and could not understand the need for savings to stop the UK sliding into depression! Of course they have significantly changed their position now vowing to keep to Coalition spending cuts if they get re-elected.
But we also had Labour’s opposition to reducing the welfare budget which has now morphed into Labour can and will cut the welfare budget more than the Coalition!
What on earth do Labour stand for? On the economy anything you want them to stand for it seems.
Under performing and not getting our message across were phrases used by the old bruiser to describe his own Party Leadership this week. Does he have point?
Well of course he is right and it goes right back to the one great truth told about the British economy in recent times. Whilst it was probably done in jest it was oh so right – ‘there’s no money left’ was the parting note to his successor left by Labour’s former Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liam Byrne after Labour lost power at the last election. Liam Byrne was of course right too.
What happened next set the Labour Party up for the problems they have now; little if any credibility when it comes to the economy. Indeed, they set themselves up (without any help from opposition parties) by pretending that the cuts were not necessary, that they had no responsibility for what had happened to the economy, that savings need not be made, championing every cause where savings had to be made and generally trying to give the impression of ‘recession what recession?’.
Such nonsense appealed to Labour’s core vote, to public sector workers who were and still are feeling the pinch and to socialists who want a common ownership economy. BUT no one else was listening as they knew Labour’s economic head in the sand was just that.
Labour kept getting away with it because the economy was still bumping along the bottom and that further cuts were still to be made (they will probably still have to be made long after the next election), yet Miliband and Balls knew they would have to significantly change direction and appeal to the middle ground if they were to stand any chance at the 2015 election.
So the brakes went on and there was big talk about Labour accepting the Coalitions cuts, not reversing them etc. etc. Trouble was and still is that many Labour MP’s, councillors and activists are still on the old tune; they do not like the new one so they do not sing it.
And thereby Labour ends up not getting its message across and performs poorly; no wonder when it is singing from two different hymn sheets! So Prescott is right and the loss of a couple of council seats to the Lib Dems in his own Hull back yard (Hessell to be accurate) last week will not have done much for this sense of humour either.
Well would you adam and eve it, after years of fighting all the savings and cuts, telling us that they were not required and effectively saying that if in government Labour would reverse them we now have them falling in behind the fundamentals of the Coalition’s economic plans.
So where does this leave a Labour Party that has misled and raised false hopes about how much better the Country would be placed under them? Yes, their own supporters fell for this line but the penny has finally dropped with the comrades that if Labour wants to win enough seats in Parliament to have any hope of a majority it has to start telling the truth about the state of the economy and saying what it would do about it.
Labour helped to get us into this financial mess and they are now admitting we are in it. What next a humbling apology for getting us into the illegal war in Iraq?