In this helpful article William Keegan finally sets to bed a number of the myths about the spending/overspending debate – the global financial crisis and the so-called long-term economic plan. Sadly I am not sure arguing over the facts will help, as Osborne has rewritten history already as the 2015 GE campaign has shown. It is probably too late to make the more subtle arguments about the state of the economy in 2008-2010 as the last Labour economic record has been trashed by the Tories, the media and now many Labour leadership hopefuls. They have abandoned the argument and put it into the too difficult to discuss box. The death knell of trying to take on this misleading interpretation of history was probably the TV debates when the audience turned on Miliband on the issue of debt, trust and economic competence. As somebody who was proud to serve in a Labour government that started to make the much needed investment in our country – after a generation of under investment – I would want our leadership hopefuls to at least put the issue into some context. Rather than trash an impressive decade of growth and stability under Labour. In 2007 we had started to slow the growth in spending but the global crash put paid to any sensible slowing of spending. As I say the Keegan article sets this neatly into context.
But more importantly this article and many more are great at exposing the myth of the need for a pace of austerity that has been damaging to our economy. As you can this is not just me thinking these things but it’s a view supported by the Governor of the Bank of England. Remember growth was running way ahead of the figures of the Chancellor for the last quarter of his 5 years – 0.3% quarterly growth after the longest recession in living memory. It didn’t have to be this painful.
Unfortunately because our leadership hopefuls would like to draw a line under this argument they are conceding the territory and the austerity programme to the Tories. We have fallen for this myth that the national economy is like a credit card and that it was ‘maxed out’. So where does this take us? Over the last 48 hours I have listened patiently to the hopefuls and many other commentators who want to get across their verdict on why Labour lost last week. Again they come from different wings of the party and use every scrap of date to make their point. Some argue we weren’t left wing enough or that we weren’t near enough the centre ground to win seats in the Midlands and South. Others that we didn’t sound aspirational enough or not tough enough on immigration to allow UKIP to steal votes from us in the North. Of course the inconvenient truth is that all these and many other factors – loss of trust on the economy, the performance of Ed Miliband and the SNP factor all helped to make this an awful week for progressives. This is why the fightback is so tough as Labour will have to win again in Scotland, regroup and win back in the North with our traditional vote and then achieve what Blair did in 97 and win seats in the South. We lost in 92 and won with a landslide in 97 so we shouldn’t be totally depresses. of course all the circumstances are different but 5 years is a long time in politics!
This week when I think all of the leadership and deputy leadership candidates have declared I will run my eye over their potential and who I think will win. As the process starts my main fear is already happening – people are looking for a candidate for the Labour party.. whilst all the time we need a candidate who appeals to the country and will look and sound like a future Prime Minister in 5 years time. That’s our task.