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The Tories are all bluster. Labour must show it’s different

Cameron v MilibandThe Conservative Party has spent the last week or so braying about the principle of ‘freedom’. But their noise is all bluster – designed to hide from the public a stark and disappointing fact: George Osborne’s budget was one of the most unprincipled pieces of politicking in recent history.

Even his flagship policy, the scrapping of our near-compulsory pension annuity safety-net, comes unstuck when you look at it properly. He says it is about giving people choice, about setting people free. Of course the annuities market needs reform but for the nearly 6 million public sector workers who live out their vocation in nursing, teaching and local council services, George Osborne has decided ‘freedom’ doesn’t matter after all. 

If he was really standing up for a principle then he would say that public sector employees have worked equally hard for their money and are entitled to their pensions on the same terms as anyone in the private sector. Yet they are barred from taking advantage of the elaborate tax loophole that Osborne has just gifted the rest of the country. I wonder if that’s because they tend not to vote Tory anyway.

The truth is that George Osborne is a very clever man. David Willetts, one of the most thoughtful Conservative Ministers, who is currently being nudged towards the exit by Cameron, used to say that Osborne was good at ‘grammar school solutions’. That’s not a compliment. I take it to mean the Chancellor is very good at theory – working out what should work, but appalling at the practice.

When it comes to the real world, George Osborne is lost. He has lots of clever answers but never the right answer. He doesn’t know how to make Britain a better place in the long-term. And what’s worse, I don’t believe he really cares.

We have seen the consequences of Osborne’s ‘grammar school solutions’ previously, when a budget unraveled before our very eyes. He’s learned from the pasty tax fiasco, and the impact of this budget will probably not be Osborne’s to clean up. But someone will have to fix the mess created by this Government’s short-term and transactional cynicism.

It could well be the Labour party that is tasked with cleaning up the mess left by the Tories. That’s why I couldn’t vote for the so called ‘welfare cap’. I don’t often rebel and I always want to support my party and leader. But Diane Abbott was right –  you cannot play with people’s lives in the name of temporary political tactics. It is unprincipled.

And worse than that, it is trying to play Osborne at his game, when really we need to be talking about the alternatives.

There will be tough decisions to take if Labour comes to power. But we need to show the British people that we are prepared to take them in the interests of a shared national purpose – in the name of ambition for Britain – not on the whim of the latest focus group.

A more entrepreneurial Britain. A fairer Britain. A Britain that prizes kindness. All of this is possible if we apply ourselves to the question ‘what kind of country do we want to build?’ rather than the question of ‘what does YouGov say about this amendment?

This article first appeared in the Daily Mirror

2 Comments

  1. Bernie Evans says:

    Letter to Observer:Labour`s need to be bold

    Your editorial rightly advises Miliband to “articulate a much-needed different direction for society”, and “take his chance” in the election. (Osbornism holds sway. It needs a bold response,23/03/14) By offering weak challenges to the coalition`s shrinking of the state to 1948 levels, to its unnecessary education reforms, and to its gradual destruction of the welfare state and privatisation of the NHS, Labour has left itself open to criticism from those who claim there is little to choose between the mainstream parties.

    Is it really a “bold response” when all the changes needed to transform society would meet with almost universal approval? There cannot be many who think obscene pay and bonuses, soaring house prices, tax avoidance and increasing inequality benefit the way we live. Fear of being accused of being “too chummy with the brothers” should not deter the proposal to give unions a greater say, especially as co-determination has worked so well in Germany since the early 1950s. Western leaders intent on change in modern times have all faced right-wing opposition, from political opponents and the media, and anyway what is the alternative? Having to arrange a coalition with the Lib Dems, and spend the next five years repealing laws which were only passed because of support from the duplicitous Clegg and his cronies?

    Policies can be radical without threatening revolution, and have the benefit of attracting support from the young and disenchanted. The TUC`s Fair Pay Fortnight could be followed by proposals relating to a Fair Pay Commission, a Fair Pay Mark and corporate tax concessions to eligible companies. Accepting the “austerity framework” should not mean reform is impossible; passing legislation often necessitates a thick skin more than bulging coffers. Just because the other parties drop principles willy-nilly, does not mean Miliband`s Labour should follow suit!

    1. Ged Dempsey says:

      Letters Page

      Comrades,

      Is it any wonder that Labour is losing ground on this evil ConDem excuse for a Government?

      When most of the Labour MPs supported the disgraceful tory welfare cap last week.

      If we are not to be saddled with the unthinkable and be consigned to another term of this bunch of posh millionnaires; then Labour must get some Labour Movement convictions and give a real alternative to the crude Tory social agenda. 

      The mess was caused not by the poor but by the unregulated and reckless bankers and fatcats running the economy like a casino.

      I believe that instead of MPs and HoC demonising and victimising the vulnerable and poor of our country with more pernicious cuts and austerity measures etc

      As a priority and first step, we should deal with are:

      zero hour contracts, 

      tackle flexploitation and casualisation of the workforce, 

      ensure a national living wage; 

      deal with bad employers being subsidised by tax payers/tax credits 

      Deal with tax avoidance and evasion by the wealthy and corporate vested interests.

      Investment in social housing and decent jobs.

      Public ownership of our utilities, transport, NHS and energy rather than leave them to the unfettered rule by bankers and profiteers.

      Perhaps the Bullingdon Broadcasting Club (BBC) should do the real benefits street depicting the real scroungers like the expense rip off, the latest being the Culture Secretary, Tax avoidance firms and the Royals – who are not clobbered either with the odious bedroom tax?

      In solidarity

      Ged Dempsey

      Printworker & Labour Member
      Unite
      Rotherham

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