This country is broken. The economy is crippled by government debt. We stand on the precipice of oblivion and only one man can help us now. The transition from failure to success will be painful for all of us; but with the Tories at the helm, the country will see itself into calmer economic waters and society will be ‘unbroken’.
Now, myths have abounded in the news that has come out of Manchester this week, but the whopper to sink all whoppers is the assertion that the Conservatives have won the argument on the economy. Apart from being patently false (a point dealt with in several other LabourList posts), this lie gets its sting from the possibility of becoming true. I do not mean that the Conservative plans for the economy are, or will be, the right ones for the UK now or in the future: I mean that they might win the argument. If they do this, it will be by continuing that argument that has been coming from top-Tories this week and was the main force behind Cameron’s speech.
They will do it with brinkmanship.
But it will be false brinkmanship, based on the out-and-out lie that Britain is teetering on the edge. It’s a clever move from the Leader of the Opposition: he can blame Labour for bringing us here, show himself as the last resort for recovery, make voters submit to policies they will find ‘painful’ and build in an excuse for his party’s later inaction, should they win in May. And if we in Labour allow this tactic to continue, we will lose.
The lie is easy to dispel: it is a simple matter of fact. We can start by showing that the UK has been set firmly on the path to economic recovery by the Government’s actions, not just in saving the banks, but minimising the impact of unemployment (including new jobs, training, mortgage holidays) and setting up the beginnings of a new green economy to see us into the future.
We can do it by showing that ‘painful’ spending cuts are simply unnecessary pain: a growing economy is the best way to pay down debt, but Tory plans will stunt the economy meaning that debt repayments will hit services harder and thus begin a self-perpetuating vicious cycle. We can do this by showing that the Tories’ sums simply do not add up and more money will be needed, likely from more cuts.
Cameron’s got a head start: in hard times, it is natural to be pessimistic and having been surrounded by the recession for 12 months, people will be only too willing to believe that the situation is dire.
But that does not make it true. Labour has to fight this election on optimism, dispelling the many myths that have come from Messrs Cameron and Osborne this week and countering their dour messages of austerity and pain.
This will be easier once green shoots emerge, but we cannot wait for them. We have to show that this is the best course, as global leaders and respected economists have testified, and that to stick it out is the quickest and best route to economic recovery.
It’s doable, I do not doubt that: the best thing about false brinkmanship is that it can be countered by plain simple fact.