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Labour must reject austerity at the Autumn Statement

Ahead of next week’s Autumn Statement by George Osborne, the OECD reports today that the Chancellors ‘deep fiscal consolidation continues to drag down growth’ and that ‘unemployment is expected to rise slightly in 2013’.

At the same time the report is supportive of the ongoing austerity policy, specifically backing the increase in the pension age and introduction of universal credit, as measures to get growth moving again.

Labour should seize on the contradictions in the report and not only condemn the austerity policies and punitive attacks on working people.

When it comes to the Autumn Statement next week, Labour should be ready to offer a positive alternative of long-term public investment to create jobs that will lift the economy into growth.

This was outlined at last week’s Alternatives to Austerity: Investment Not Cuts meeting in Parliament.

Shelly Asquith, chairing the meeting, opened it by saying we can’t sit back and wait for the Coalition lose – we need to win with an alternative message that rejects Tory economic plans and mobilises Labour voters.

Katy Clark MP kicked off by saying we need to recognise that Gordon Brown had made the right call by introducing a fiscal stimulus in 2009. It was that policy that meant the Tories entered government with a stable and growing economy, and the impact of austerity meant we should back the same policy again.

She said it was clear that the Tories spending cuts agenda, with the stated aim of cutting the deficit, was a poor mask for their real aim of rolling back the state and public services.

Mick Burke, in his contribution, repeated the point that it is not sufficient to condemn austerity – we need a positive alternative of investment, in housing, health, education. And while welcoming the direction of the Five Point Plan, he said it was woefully inadequate in matching up to the scale of the economic crisis.

In terms of getting investment moving, and at a much more ambitious level, he said Now we own banks, we should instruct them to invest.

Crucially, Burke highlighted that Osborne was already making plans for an incoming government to make further cuts in 2015-17 – and that Labour should reject them. Justifying this, he said the previous Labour government lost two million votes in 1997-2001, more than in subsequent Parliaments, when it stuck to John Major’s spending plans. George Osborne is laying the same trap.

Steve Turner from Unite urged Labour to reject austerity policies, highlighting Osborne’s trap for an incoming government, and adopt the positive spirit of Labour governments in the 40s, 50s and 60s.

He said the party should consider the real impact on its supporters of the policies it was advocating, and urged them to focus on living standards for ordinary people. In his words, One Nation means nothing if you don’t represent the 99%.

Issues like living wage legislation, developing rent regulation in private housing as well as boosting construction, and taxing bonuses of state banks would all be popular, and would get the economy moving.

The starkest warning however, about the Osborne Trap, was that if an incoming Labour government carried out further austerity on its own supporters, it would risk decimating its own support like its sister party PASOK in Greece.

Now that the Labour Party has opened its policy debate to the public, get online and urge the party to reject austerity.

This article first appeared at Next Generation Labour who will be circulating a model submission shortly.

2 Comments

  1. Patrick Coates says:

    Dont bother writting to the Party, get on your CLP committee’s and promote your cause, nothing will change otherwise.
    The CLP’s have the key to change things, if all 650 turned left now, we will win the next election.
    Otherwise we are looking at another 13 years in the wilderness.

  2. Robert says:

    Sadly my CLP has written to me a number of time to come down to a meeting and I left labour in 2009 when Brown stated he would end DLA for the disabled as it was a wasted benefit.

    My local CLP which was a Labour safe seat but is slowly slipping away cannot get enough people to call a meeting. We now have a Tory Police commissioner who slaughtered the Labour candidate, we look to be losing the people as Miliband seems to be useless at what he does which is not a lot.

    I cannot for the life of me see a reason to vote Labour at the moment simply because all you get from Miliband is we will cut just as hard, fine then we may as well let the Tories wreck the country as have Miliband do it.

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