Labour’s fiscal responsibility and caution isn’t austerity, so stop doing Lynton Crosby’s job for him.

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Guardian/ICM poll in autumn last year revealed an alarming fact: David Cameron and George Osborne are more trusted by the public on “economic management” by a margin of 40% to 22%, and we know that the public – and  a number of Labour supporters amongst them – have hardened their attitude towards welfare support.

Yet we know that Labour’s social policy was a success, this is verified by the London School of Economic’s definitive survey of the Blair-Brown years: “There is clear evidence that public spending worked, contrary to popular belief.” Nor did Labour overspend. It inherited “a large deficit and high public sector debt”, with spending “at a historic low” – 14th out of 15 in the EU.

Although Labour’s spending increased, until the global crash it was  “unexceptional”, either by historic UK standards or international ones. Until 2007 “national debt levels were lower than when Labour took office”. After years of neglect, Labour inherited a public realm in decay, squalid, public buildings, almost extinct public services and neglected human lives that formed a social deficit more expensive than any Treasury debt. But Labour reinvested in people, in services, just like they always do.

Things were much better with a Labour administration, with money mostly well spent on public services and infrastructure. Labour shielded us from the effects of global crash. We were out of recession in the UK by 2010.

In the weeks after he took office, George Osborne justified his austerity programme by claiming that Britain was on “the brink of bankruptcy”. However, the head of the Office for Budget Responsibility publicly rebuked Osborne for that bare-faced lie.

The public seem to have forgotten that it was the Conservative-led Coalition that lost the Moody’s Investors Service triple A grade, despite pledges to keep it secure. Moody’s credit ratings represent a rank-ordering of creditworthiness, or expected loss.

The Fitch credit rating was also downgraded due to increased borrowing by the Tories, who have borrowed more in 4 years than labour did in 13. It’s remarkable that the general public pay so little attention to events and facts, but as Goebbels said:

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”

Another big lie of course is that “they’re all the same”. This myth started life as a divisive and demoralising propaganda tool aimed at the Left by the likes of Lynton Crosby. The Right have always employed the tactics of infiltration, disruption and “neutralization”  to address opposition and these tactics are well known to civil liberties advocates everywhere. (See “The Enemy Within”, and the account of how Thatcher used MI5 as a home-grown political police force that was deployed against the miners and the Left.)

One of the most disheartening consequences of Right wing propaganda is watching how some of the Left pick it up and run with it. All over the place. The Huff published an article claiming Future Labour Government WILL NOT Undo Hugely Unpopular Coalition Government Cuts, but on close scrutiny, the article does not substantiate or justify the headline. So it was with incredulity that I watched various Left-wing factions translate that into “Miliband supports austerity” and that was repeated over and over, without much critical analysis or attention paid to what was actually said.

Firstly, Milliband DOES NOT SUPPORT AUSTERITY and never has. Miliband has already made a commitment to prioritise addressing inequality and the cost of living crisis.

Secondly, what Miliband has actually said is: “Our starting point for 2015-16 will be that we cannot reverse any cut in day-to-day, current spending unless it is fully funded from cuts elsewhere or extra revenue – not from more borrowing.”

If you look past the various bluntly misleading headlines, the Labour leader has simply given himself room for manoeuvre. Miliband has said that he won’t make any promises he cannot keep. And he hasn’t. Those pledges that have been made to date have been costed, evidenced and justified.

In light of a hostile media, and a public tending to believe that austerity is somehow necessary and justified, it’s worth considering that if Miliband wants to be in a position to change anything at all for the better, he will need to be elected, and some elements of public opinion present a barrier to that. And for the wrong reasons, unfortunately for us, and for Miliband.

Here is a commentary of Miliband’s understandably cautious statement:

1) Miliband has committed to matching spending levels only.

Whilst he may be matching current “day-to-day” spending levels, that still allows him plenty of room for capital spending. He may as well have openly pledged to do so, with robust rhetoric on housing and house building. His speech on limiting the benefit bill specifically mentioned how house building can reduce welfare spending in the long run, by stopping the system of siphoning off public funds for private landlords. He also has political endorsement from the International Monetary Fund, which suggested that the UK could use another £10 billion investment. Labour have pledged to build new homes and it’s thought that the figure will be a million in total, in the Manifesto. That will also provide a boost the the economy.

Furthermore, Miliband has pledged to repeal the Bedroom Tax, and the cuts to and privatisation of the NHS. And that IS a promised reversal of cuts made by the Coalition.

2) It’s only for one year

Miliband’s pledge only counts for the first year of his government, from 2015 to 2016. After that, he can do what he likes.

Raising revenue over that year through various methods, such as collecting more taxes from the wealthy, reversing the extra tax cuts which the richest 5 per cent have received, as pledged, and by capping private rents, (and not benefit) for example and saving the amount that the State hands out to wealthy landlords, will also give Labour more room for manoeuvre to plan and prioritise further. Bearing in mind that Labour will certainly inherit public services with much of the former foundational structure gone – such as the health system, where thousands of staff have been cut, services privatised, and then there’s other areas of infrastructure that’s been badly neglected, it’s important that these issues are addressed, since repeal of legislation, for example, requires something else to be put in place, too.

Another example of raising revenue is the Job’s Guarantee (for all who wants one) and by the government paying a living wage, the private sector would have to increase their wages in order to gain workers. That will reduce the benefit bill. The Job’s Guarantee will also act as an “automatic stabiliser”, maintain or increase the workforce’s skills, reduce mental health problems and increase demand in the economy.

3) Miliband can be fiscally conservative whilst remaining socially progressive

Miliband’s pledge draws a line for day-to-day spending beyond which he will not cross, but it does not specify what he does ahead of that line. Under the coalition, savings were expected to be found under a ratio of 80:20 – 80% spending cuts to 20% tax rises.  Miliband has indicated he will be significantly raising taxes for the wealthy whilst easing or even undoing spending cuts elsewhere. The Labour leader has already announced a bankers’ bonus, return of the 50p top rate of tax and a mansion tax, amongst other measures. The direction of travel is pretty clear.

Ed Miliband and Ed Balls are currently examining options for how Labour can fund additional much needed investment in health over and above current spending plans. There is much supporting evidence for this vital investment, and for the repeal of the Tory-led Health and Social Care Act 2012, which has steadily eroded health services, has led to deliberate underfunding by the government and to subsequent mass privatisation within the NHS.

4) Miliband can still undo spending cuts

Just because each pledge must be financially costed without resorting to borrowing, that doesn’t mean it can’t be undertaken. As Miliband specified, cuts can be undone if the funding is found from elsewhere.

The proposed bankers’ bonus has been matched to pledges, the mansion tax has already been matched to bringing back the 10p rate of income tax. If anything, Miliband’s announcement should prompt campaigners to redouble their efforts on crucial key issues. The more pressure there is, the more prominently those issues will feature in Labour’s priorities.

5) Miliband hasn’t yet ruled out radical options

Just because you’re not borrowing doesn’t mean you can’t spend. Britain has magicked £375 billion out of the air and handed it to banks as part of the quantitative easing programme. The Conservatives managed to provide the millionaires with a tax cut of more than £107,000 each per year. But if money can be printed for banks, money can also be printed to try other methods of kick-starting the economy, such as taking low earners out of income tax.

It’s worth considering that when public services are extensively privatised, as they have been this past four years, those public funds that were once available vanish into private, closed bank accounts. That money will have to be recouped and reinvested.

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It’s worth bearing in mind that any government which introduces a policy like the Gagging Act, one that openly “monitors” the Right wing media for any whisper of “left wing bias”, that arranges the destruction of media hard drives because it doesn’t want the public to know the extent of government intrusion on our everyday private lives, is a government that will only ever use oppression to maintain its rule. It isn’t a democratic, open, accountable and reflective  government: it is an authoritarian one, and it has nothing to offer most of us but fear, poverty, exploitation, hunger, repression, pain and a deep longing for the decent, civilised society we once had.

“Lynton Crosby, a man whose mission the Prime Minister describes as being “to destroy the Labour Party”. This is a Conservative party preparing to fight the dirtiest general election campaign that we have seen in this country for over 20 years. And the Crosbyisation of the Conservative Party has reached a new intensity as their leadership becomes increasingly desperate. 

They have nothing to say about the cost of living crisis and have no vision for a better Britain. All they have left is resort to the lowest form of politics: that of division, of smear and character assassination. Millions of families face a cost of living crisis unequalled in their lifetimes. 

And the general election will determine how our country responds. The next election is far too important to be conducted in the gutter. Britain can do better than this. ”  Ed Miliband.

He’s right. We can do better than this.

The last four years have taken us on a nightmarish tour of socially dysfunctional, dystopian conservatism, and stranded us here, where the elite natives and tour operators speak an archaic language using narratives that translate as neofeudalism.

It’s time we went home.

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But we know better

Once you hear the jackboots, it’s too late. 

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What Labour achieved, lest we forget

45 more good reasons to vote labour: the best   pledges to date

Many thanks to Robert Livingstone for his tireless, brilliant art work.

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27 thoughts on “Labour’s fiscal responsibility and caution isn’t austerity, so stop doing Lynton Crosby’s job for him.

  1. Reblogged this on Vox Political and commented:
    A rebuke for those who read too much into the Huffington Post article about Chris Leslie’s plan for Labour to continue austerity – and for those on the Left who took that ball and ran with it. Some may say VP was one of the offenders; we certainly put a shot across Labour’s bows, to warn party leaders against any return to neoliberalism.

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    1. Well…I didn’t see VP as an ‘offender’, and it’s something the left do that the right don’t : we reflect, analyse with conscience, and self-scrutinise. Often painfully honestly too, but some people with their own agendas are certainly capitalising on that. And then there is also the problem of demoralisation and plain misunderstanding amongst supporters who read at face value what is simply presented. It’s tricky to balance. I don’t have the answers either…

      No party is above criticism, and quite rightly so. But we do need a balanced approach, and see that the positives are also valued. I do agree with pushing Labour, and lobbying on crucial issues – the Gagging Act for example – we did push for the commitment from Labour to repeal it, and they responded positively. It’s to go. Upwards and onwards!

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  2. Thank you for yet another very well articulated and researched article Sue. This is very useful when we are bombarded with criticism, trolling, negativity, and disenchanted voters who are brainwashed. Thank you…

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    1. Thank you for your…’critical analysis’ John, from an SNP supporter, with an anti-labour agenda, I think I’ll just reflect on the fact that rather than engaging in any genuine debate, you prefer to silence the most cogent left wing voices by blocking them from your site, describing them as ‘labour trolls’ having previously been on protests with them, and supped a pint or two with them, unfriending them on FB…. Now THAT’s bullshit. We should be working on our common aims, united in our support of vulnerable people, because that is more important. Had I wrote this article without any mention of the labour party, I know damn well you would have been in agreement.

      I never write bullshit, I evidence what I write. And that’s why it pisses you off enough to invite your churlish, unsubstantiated comment, which you could feasibly apply also to the Yes Campaign, the SNP or anyone else. Best bet is to look at the evidence, eh.

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  3. This is a heavily biased article. I’m not complaining on a personal level and I can’t articulate myself enough to just say it is “bullshit” because it obviously isn’t.
    I was born, more or less, into the Thatcher government and I know I had my best times under Blair but so much more has come to light since then. The underhand infringements on civil liberties, the back door privatisation of public services including the Royal Mail (or Post Office) and the NHS. They were carrying on Thatcher’s work, just like the Tories are doing now. The only difference being that the Tories are so much more blatant about it.

    I know they were fairer but they were still neoliberal and still are. You even mention the IMF above and we all know what they want, more privatisation!
    Unless I, and many other people I know, see some major changes towards the left and away from neoliberalism in Labour then I will not be voting for them, and I am extremely stuck for where to put my cross next year.

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    1. This is an evidenced article, which was aimed at countering biased articles…

      I referred to the IMF in the context of borrowing. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is an organization of 188 countries, working to foster global monetary cooperation, secure financial stability, facilitate international trade, promote high employment and sustainable economic growth, and reduce poverty around the world.

      The last labour government brought us the equality act , and the human rights act, amongst other things, the tories are quietly editing those away. Ask yourself what kind of government would do that, and also, what do you think will remain of our society if the tories get another 5 years? It’s almost beyond repair now.

      Then consider the fact that labour had 13 years to fulfil Thatchers aims and DIDN’T, the tories almost have in 4 years…and it’s lazy politics to call Blair a Thatcherite, he wasn’t that, though I’m no fan of Blair either. But he introduced some excellent policies with socialist principles at their core, too, and I like to see fair and balanced evaluation. I am sick of seeing the lazy repeated commentary about Blair being a Thatcherite. It doesn’t stand up to scrutiny when you bother to look at his policies.

      Have a look at this, and the list of labour policies linked onto it – https://kittysjones.wordpress.com/2014/03/29/manufacturing-consensus-the-end-of-history-and-the-partisan-man/

      It’s also worth considering that Miliband 1) opposed and prevented the war in Syria.2) denounced new labour and Blairism 3) stood up to Murdoch, Blair sucked up to him… 4) Blair has left the building, let’s move on….

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  4. I can not, nor want to argue with any of the points made in this excellent piece Sue; however the real problem for me is those in Labour that have willingly seem to side with the whole Anti-Cuts Austerity Agenda and do not make statement such as those from the leader. For me it is the statements from Reeves “tougher then the Tories on Welfare” that cause me concern; further it is local Councils like mine that have made unnecessary cuts, and have altered the Constitutional Rights of its members – disallowing them access to the full budget for example that are the Real Concern. The Leader and central Labour team allow this and in my councils case refuse to get involved; this is the real worry for me.

    Your view on this, as always, is welcome xx

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    1. Reeves actually said she would be ‘tougher on the causes of poverty’ and this is yet another example of how headlines and soundbites are used to mislead. Reeves was talking about capping rents charged by private landlords (not housing benefit), job creation and a job guarantee. These will reduce the benefit bill.

      “So what is “tougher than the Tories”? Tougher, in cutting the benefit bill that soars each year as long-term unemployment takes an ever greater toll. That’s reducing benefit costs, “but with Labour values”. Its guarantee of a job for all long-term unemployed will save money. Repeating the highly successful Future Jobs Fund will mean jobs offering a real minimum wage with companies (Fujitsu and others are signed up) or councils and voluntary groups paying £157.75 for 25 hours a week – well above the £71.70 on the dole. Taxing bank bonuses will cover the cost.” Rachel Reeves

      Large majorities, including Labour voters, support the government’s vindictive messages: they believe there’s a dependency culture, benefits are too high, and Labour’s ‘generosity’ was out of control. Grotesque examples of large families on high benefits pour from the right-wing press, with few tales told of the hardship.

      How should she set about reversing hostile public opinion? There are some rays of hope: since Labour campaigned against the bedroom tax public opinion has swung against it in just six months. When the car crash universal credit exposes losses of at least £300m, trust in government benefit policies may be dented.

      Reeves had to issue 2 statements because of headlines in the media that were untrue. The other was regarding a lie that she intended to cut benefits for under 25 year olds. She had to clarify that she had never said that. and that labour have no intention of doing so. These are amongst the reasons I wrote this piece. People still don’t know the truth.

      I don’t know the details of your council set up, but I will say this. The government make laws and sets budgets, not labour councils. Labour councils have to abide by those. Altering the constitutional rights of its members will be a directive imposed from central government. Labour councils are being funded less than tory councils, the same happened under Thatcher. That way, labour councils get the blame for the cuts imposed from central government. Hardly fair. It’s akin to blaming teachers for Gove’s crap curriculum. But people fall for the tactic.

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  5. An excellent piece – concise and spot on. If we can’t have everything we want, we should at least be prepared to accept that one electable party is prepared to offer some or even much of what we want. If the Tories remain in a position to do further damage to our public services and institutions whilst featherbedding their rich friends after the next election, anyone who fails to vote for the only way to stop them should hang their heads in shame. Proud to share this, and I will on FB; many thanks.

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    1. Thank you Ian. I write an article that addresses right wing bias in the media, misinformation and propaganda infiltrating the ranks of the left, and get accused of writing a ‘biased article’…..without a trace of irony.

      I have had some grief for writing this article, but for me, telling the truth as best we can to counter mainstream propaganda is crucial, and it’s the main reason why I blog.

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