There is now a strange air of unreality about the handling of the deficit. Osborne has made it centrepiece of his political narrative, although his prime motivation is not to reduce the deficit, but to shrink the State and the deficit gives him the pretext to do it. Even if it was his prime objective, he has utterly failed to carry it out since in his first budget in 2010 he promised to cut it to zero by 2015, and it actually turns out this year it is still a mountainous £90bn. He now promises to cut the deficit to zero by 2018-19 and to have a surplus in the last year before the election. Does anybody believe anything that this man ever says?
But given how mischievous his declared intentions and given anyway his total failure to achieve them, it seems odd for Labour to be proclaiming that it will match Osborne. No doubt that’s for reasons of economic credibility, even though Osborne represents such a poor benchmark for that objective. But far more important than all the sparring over matching Osborne’s plans is whether there is the slightest possibility of their being realised by 2018-9, and it’s pretty obvious they won’t be, and by a very large margin. Continue reading
Jeremy Corbyn’s latest move – to give reassurance that Labour will campaign to remain in Europe and then, if elected in 2020, reverse from the inside any diminution of workers’ rights which Cameron may have secured – is a smart move when it is linked with pushing through the £50bn financial transactions tax on almost all EU bond, share and derivative transactions. But in terms of the wealthy making a fair contribution to paying down the budget deficit, which is Osborne’s excuse for prolonged austerity whose real aim is to shrink the State, there are many other options to serve that goal. Continue reading
It is fairly clear, even among Europhiles who want to stay in, what most people object to about the current state of the EU and what they would like to see changed.
- The membership fee is uncomfortably large, some £11bn every year.
- Free movement of labour works well between countries of similar living standards, but not between countries at very different levels of economic development.
- The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and Common Fisheries Policy still take 40% of the entire EU budget, and cause considerable resentment in many countries, including the UK.
- Most people, including most businesses, support free trade, but doubt whether the Single Market is worth the bureaucracy it generates.
- It is widely felt that the EU is too regulatory and too protectionist.
- Not many people in the UK want to see Britain becoming part of a federal United States of Europe, but that’s the direction favoured by many of Europe’s leaders.
If there is one single reason why Labour lost the election, it’s that Osborne realised the critical importance of framing his project in a way that made it acceptable in the eyes of a majority of the electorate. The fact that it was a string of lies didn’t matter as long as people believed it.
This was Osborne’s line: the Labour government left a terrible economic mess, we’ve cleared it up by the only means possible, it’s been painful but we’re all in it together, we’ve succeeded in our recovery and should stick with it. Every statement there is false, but in the absence of Labour refuting all these lies, it was the only tale in town. Continue reading
After all the slurs about unelectability, the Tories have very quickly changed their tune and acknowledged that they are now facing a very real threat that they’ve not encountered for the last 30 years. At a meeting of the political cabinet last Tuesday they decided to focus on the idea that they offer a better future through lower taxes, a higher minimum wage, more jobs, and better public services, while a left-wing agenda would deliver insecurity through higher spending, higher taxes and more borrowing. If that is their plan, they have a real fight on their hands since almost all of their claims are downright wrong. Continue reading