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Nailing Tory lies about the Cuts

The reason Labour is not already ten points ahead in the polls is that the Tories have propagated three fundamental myths – that the country’s in the state it’s in because of Labour over-spending, that the only way to redress this disastrous legacy was to cut the deficit, and that the focus had to be on spending cuts rather than raising taxes.   All three seemingly plausible propositions are profoundly wrong. But the public believes them, and until Labour can thoroughly discredit these canards,they’ll continue to give the Tories the benefit of the doubt on the grounds that it’s not the Tories’ fault and there’s no alternative but to endure the pain to get things better.

It should of course be easy to counter this nonsense.   Before the banking collapse began in August 2007, the UK  had a lower debt to GDP ratio than any other country in the G7 apart from Canada; the Labour government was certainly not over-spending.   As for tackling the growing deficit once the bank bail-outs had grossly distorted the national budget, even the IMF-OECD (no less) in a joint report six months ago argued that the most effective way to fight recession was by spending to promote growth rather than taking the axe to public expenditure; in other words the Tory message was profoundly misguided.   And on the tension between cutting spending or raising taxes, it is preposterous to pretend that the 1-2% richest enclave within the population, who have quadrupled their wealth since 1997 to an eye-watering £377bn today (according to the Sunday Times Rich List), should get off scot-free while hundreds of thousands of poorly-paid public sector workers lose their jobs, their income and even their homes.

So why doesn’t Labour find it easy to deliver a knock-out blow?   The main reason is that Labour is still stuck with the Blair-Brown legacy scarcely distinguishable from the Tories’ own position.   As Osborne continually loves to point out, New Labour were themselves going to cut public expenditure by £70bn, not much less than the Tories.   New Labour favoured the rich over the poor, turned its back on redistribution, and kept the unions firmly on a leash while further consolidating the power of Big Business.   Until Labour can firmly repudiate these pro-Tory policies, it will not regain the credibility to fight the cuts effectively.

What Labour needs more than anything in 2011 is to champion a wholly different economic strategy – one that puts the focus on job creation to get people back to work so as not to be dependent on State benefits, one that penalises those responsible for the recession (the bankers, hedge funds and private equity) and not the innocent victims, and one that uses the State to meet people’s deepest needs where the market has failed (house-building, pensions, employment, banking, energy) and not merely as a temporary stop-gap to bail out a failed system.

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