Austerity & Labour
In the spirit of Hopi, who used to hoist my comments from his comments section before I started this blog…
Last week Charlie made a really interesting point that I think more people should see.
Both political parties wish to avoid being fully open about the nature of the problems ahead, for fear that honesty will send the electorate screaming in fear into the arms of their opponents. So Cameron et al wish to continually infer that the problems are all about Labour profligacy, and the government, in so far as it has a discernible communications strategy on these matters, want to focus on the prospect of Tory cuts.
I have a very strong hunch that whoever is in government after the next election will both have to raise taxes and make cuts (or, just as important, not expand spending in reflection of the demographic time bomb represented by the aging population’s health and allied needs). Of course the balance of tax rises and spending cuts is a key question- but not one that is currently highlighted in any front line policy discussions.
It is the Tories who have raised the slogan of ‘Austerity’ – but I wonder if it can be turned to the left’s advantage? After all the last time the UK went through Austerity as government policy was to pay for the consequences of a war, and rebuild the country after the economic exhaustion of 1939-45. That rebuilding crucially involved stuff like founding the NHS. Many people have made the point that ’solving’ (if that is what has happened) the bank crisis has left us with a bill equivalent to fighting, and possibly losing, a small war. So there is a rheotric of rebuilding the economy and our ability to function in the global marketplace which should surely be available to the left. (This is surely what Duncan’s programme of industrial retooling is about) Sacrifice now for gain latter. But for it to work it has to take the majority of people with it- it may mean raising taxes and holding down real wages for a while but there must be some compensation in terms of measures of social solidarity, analogous to the founding of the NHS. Pensions seem to me to be a likely key issue here given the aging population….
But i don’t expect Labour to take this option. I think they’ll try to stick with the frankly ludicrous line of ‘Things Aren’t That Bad/Look They’re Getting Better/We Saved the World Economy You Know/The Tories Want to be Thatcherite Beasts and We Don’t.