It’s time to end the lie that Labour and Tories are ‘the same’ on austerity

25th March, 2015 7:31 am

It is a claim so ubiquitous that most people repeat it without even having to explain it:

‘there’s hardly any difference between the main political parties’.

It’s a claim the Greens, SNP and UKIP now repeat endlessly without being challenged. It is also a claim exposed as complete falsehood last week.

For all the Chancellor’s giveaways and triumphant rhetoric during the Budget, the most significant change was a capitulation to Labour’s charge that the Tories were cutting spending to 1930s levels. In fact the difference between Labour and Tories – especially on economic matters – is the biggest it has been in over a generation. To claim otherwise is to be ignorant of the facts.

ballsosborne

Let’s go over the numbers first. In December last year, Osborne said he would slash government spending until it reached 35.2% of GDP, a level last reached during the 1930s.

Rather than accept the cuts, Labour attacked his plans as “extreme and ideological” and said they would not match Osborne’s race to the bottom.

The difference between Labour and Tory plans on spending is colossal. To cut spending to 35.2%, the IFS said Osborne would have to cut departmental spending by £55bn from 2015 to 2020, over £20bn more than what has been slashed over the last five years. Key government departments would have to cut spending by over 50%, after already being cut to the bone. It would render many of them useless.

Labour plans are significantly different but lost in technical detail, which has allowed many on the left to wrongly claim they are the same. Firstly, they have committed to raising taxes to cut the UK’s £90 billion yearly budget deficit (i.e. the 50p rate, Mansion tax, bankers’ bonus tax, a higher bank levy), while Osborne has pledged to focus on spending cuts rather than tax rises.

More importantly, the Tories plan an overall budget surplus by 2018-19, while Labour has only committed to a current budget surplus in the next parliament. This sounds like a boring technical detail – and in many ways it is – but the practical difference is vast.

It means that while Coalition had planned over £55 Billion in spending cuts, Labour had pledged only to plug potentially a £4 Billion gap – which could even come from tax rises. A difference of Labour and Tory plans of more than £50 Billion is not to be sniffed at (in comparison the entire Scottish Budget of 2014 was £35 Billion).

To claim that Labour and Tory ‘austerity’ is the same, as some on the left have done, isn’t just ludicrous but a bare-faced lie. It illustrates a huge distortion of the facts. Of course, the Greens and SNP have an interest in saying that Labour and Tories are the same, but that doesn’t make it true.

Last week was significant because Osborne was forced into a u-turn on the biggest issue of the past five years. Of course, the press played this down. He retreated, somewhat slightly, from extreme austerity: pledging to cut spending to 36% of GDP rather than 35.2%. This mostly came from the OBR’s projection that spending on debt interest in 2019-20 will be £9bn less than it expected earlier.

But Osborne’s sleight-of-hand had bigger meaning for Labour: now it means they don’t have to make any cuts over the next parliament, as the IFS pointed out. The difference between the two parties is now even more stark.

To the naysayers who still maintain that Labour and Tories are ‘the same’, a bit more explanation is required. Last year Osborne said he would publish a ‘Budget Responsibility Charter’ and test whether Labour would vote for it. It put Labour in a lose-lose position: they would be painted as ‘profligate’ if they didn’t sign up, and painted as signing up to Tory austerity by the left if they did. Neither was true, since signing up was consistent with Labour’s initial plans. Labour decided to avoid Osborne’s trap and he didn’t bother publishing the Charter. It changed nothing.

Furthermore, the claim that Labour has signed up to Tory austerity until 2016 is untrue. As a matter of technicality, Labour cannot reverse plans already put in place for that fiscal year after being elected.

This has always been a somewhat technical debate, obfuscated by many who have an axe to grind. For political and economic reasons, Labour could never be like Syriza, so it has always been ridiculous to hope it could. Plus, it’s easy for the Greens and SNP to make wild claims about rejecting austerity without spelling out how a massive increase in spending required would be funded.

I suspect that most people who have already decided that Labour and Tories are the same won’t ever be convinced. Labour’s plans won’t catch the world on fire, but to claim they are the same as Tory austerity plans is a lie that has finally been laid to rest.

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  • blackwater54

    The reality is that we don’t need austerity, deficit reduction or balancing the books to figure in Labour’s plans at all. Sadly this is just another one of those lies being pedalled by ALL the main parties who want to deceive people with the claim that State spending is like a household budget and we can only spend what’s in the kitty. This is twaddle and nonsense. Governments are not constrained by revenues and spend to tax not the other way round. We are not broke and cannot go broke as the State is the sole issuer of its own currency and the deficit is not the bogey man they want you to believe. We should be more concerned by the huge levels of private debt rather than the national debt and deficit – these are indeed red herrings.

    • David Battley

      Yes that explains why Russia can never go bankru… oh hang on.

      • Dave Postles

        GB/Russia both made the mistake of the ‘cash crop’ former colonies. If you over-rely on a single sector/export, there will eventually be trouble: financial services in GB; oil/gas in Russia.

        • David Battley

          Or GB’s over-reliance on our manufacturing industry in the 70s?

          • treborc1

            Or the banks and financial sector in the nineties, which was worse I think it was the nineties..

          • Dave Postles

            Current account deficit now back to about 6% of GDP; even BIS acknowledges that there must be more diversity, including development of particular manufacturing sectors .

      • David,

        Russia as the issuer of the rouble need never have involuntarily defaulted on any debts issued in roubles.

        That doesn’t mean they can never involuntarily default on debts issued in US$. They can. They don’t control the $.

        They can also choose to voluntarily default on rouble debts. I’d say the Russian default of the previous decade was mixture of both.

        • David Battley

          Sometimes defaulting is the last worst option, as the Russian default showed. Whether you choose to classify that as optional our involuntary is purely semantic

          • “optional” and “involuntary” have completely different meanings. In fact, the two words are antonyms. It’s not a question of nuance.

            Didn’t you know that?

          • David Battley

            They had no choice but to choose the option to default. The words are not antonyms, but their actions are.

            But more fun to argue semantics than to acknowledge the hole below the waterline of your argument, eh

          • There’s always a choice for any currency issuing government. The only time when it may make sense for such a government to default is after a political revolution, or some major defeat in a war, when the new government may decide to wipe the slate clean and start again.

            That happened at the end of WW2 and defeat of Nazi Germany. There was no need for the new Governments (either East or West) to default on any obligations it may have had in Reichsmarks, but there was rampant inflation in the post war period. The feeling, in the West, was that it was better to start again with a new currency the DM.

            Anyone holding large amounts of RM lost heavily. The new government could of course blame the Nazis for creating too many RM. It was pretty much the same story in Russia after the fall of the USSR. It was almost certainly a one-off measure – at least for the foreseeable future.

            Governments always have the choice of default. The US government could default tomorrow if it chose to. It could default even if its debts were only 5% of what they actually are and regardless of the state of its economy. If it chose to. That’s just a statement of the bleeding obvious!

          • David Battley

            If all of that is true why do your suppose that Russia defaulted.

            Or Argentina.

          • Argentina defaulted because its debts were largely in US$. Argentina doesn’t control the US$ therefore it was possible for it to become insolvent.

            Russia also had dollar debts. In the late 90’s the price of oil fell and it was unable to service its foreign currency debts. Russia optionally defaulted on its rouble obligations in a post revolutionary situation after the fall of the USSR.

          • David Battley

            The “option” was closer to Hobson’s Choice.

    • bikerboy

      Quite correct. We can rely on the next generation to sort it out.

      • blackwater54

        Government deficits do not leave debt burden to our children and will not mean higher taxes tomorrow. Our children get to consume whatever they can produce and their standard of living will not be lower because of our deficit spending now.

        • bikerboy

          Mr Candelas has already made my next point, so it only remains for me to say if you want that kind of economy move to Venezuela.

          • treborc1

            Not a bad idea really…ATOS has not arrived there.

          • bikerboy

            Well fancy that… in the Staggers an article about the mess Venezuela is in. Who’d have guessed?

    • Dave Postles

      Private debt – yes, it’s escalating again.
      Current account deficit (balance of trade) – it’s awful.

    • jaime taurosangastre candelas

      How would you react if sterling became devalued? So that everything we import became twice the price? Your notion may be technically correct that we can keep on spending, but ignores the reality that we live in a globalised world.

      The government may issue the currency, but it has no control over how it is valued.

      • blackwater54

        I didn’t say that we can keep on spending. What I said was that Governments are not constrained by revenues and we must not be deceived by the lie that state finances are like a household budget. Of course we can’t just keep on spending without due regard to economic conditions this would lead to inflation. Governments tax not to get money but to take away our spending power i.e tax is a mechanism to control inflation.

        • David Battley

          “Governments tax not to get money but to take away our spending power”

          If my eyebrows weren’t connected to my forehead they’d have crashed through the ceiling at that sentence.

          So… given inflation is currently heading to zero the government should be cutting taxes: yes or no?

          • treborc1

            Nope unless of course your hoping to get elected.

          • blackwater54

            Yes, you cut taxes as you need a fiscal stimulus. But more to the point you redistribute taxes so that the rich aren’t accumulating vast cash reserves whilst the poor drown in debt. And you spend more, but on things which will be investments, not more bubble boosting property subsidies.
            With an economy as shot as ours, where people can’t see the wood for the trees because of all the lies we are told about the economy it may sound strange when someone speaks the truth!!
            We need higher taxes on the rich, lower on the poor. As raising tax thresholds and reducing the lower rates of tax actually benefit everyone, tax credits are a better solution at the moment (not in the long run). Put money in the pockets of the low paid and it all goes back into real economy spending.

            Sent from Samsung Mobile

      • PeterBarnard

        Er, sterling has been “devalued” over the long term, Jaime. When I was growing up (1950s childhood), we used to refer to that magnificent coin, the half crown, as “half a dollar,” as a throwback to the time when there were four dollars to the pound (pre-1948 devaluation).

        In more recent years, the USD almost reached parity with the £ (early 1985) ; in the early 1980s, when the £ was viewed as a “petro-currency,” it had been around two dollars to the £. Within just over a year from early 1985, the £ was back to USD 1.50.

        Such is the nonsense perpetrated by the financial markets. In two mature western economies like the US and the UK, there can be no rational justification for a currency to halve in value (against the other currency), and then rebound by 50%, all in a three or four year period.

        As of writing, it’s something like USD 1.48 to the British pound.

        • I think that’s right. There’s no way of accurately predicting the future value of a currency. Or, the future value of a share. Anyone could make a lot of money if they could.

          Having said that, the pound is overvalued at the moment on the basis of the UK’s trade. The UK government keeps its value up by selling gilts. Governments in Denmark and Switzerland like to reduce theirs by creating extra currency which they sell on the foreign exchanges.

          Who runs the smarter economies? Those who have a surplus in IOUs like Denmark and Germany? Or those countries like the USA and UK which have a surplus in real goods and services?

    • Its good that there’s now two of us saying exactly the same thing! The constraints on government spending/ taxation are inflation on the one hand and recession on the other.
      Government ‘debts’ , if issued , in its sovereign currency never have to be repaid. Why? Because they aren’t really debts in the normal sense of the term.
      No matter how anyone may huff and puff about “magic money trees” and “the economics of Zimbabwe” that’s the reality of 21st century capitalism. It’s not just the UK, its the same in the USA too.
      Anyone objecting to the way the system works is objecting to capitalism -just as a Marxist might object. That’s fair enough, of course – but what would be a better system?

      • blackwater54

        I support Mary Mellor’s view that money should be a public resource, a commons if you like. It should not be for private gain which is currently the case. Neoliberal/neoclassical ideology has dominated for 40 years and more and it has brought us to our knees all apart from the very rich that is. Modern monetary theory needs to go mainstream as an alternative to the destructive system which benefits fewer fewer people.

  • Doug Smith

    “signing up [to Osborne’s austerity plan] was consistent with Labour’s initial plans.”

    And only one Labour MP voted against it: Katy Clark.

    As with the Better Together coalition with the Tories, during the Scottish referendum campaign, Labour’s PLP Blairites are too timid to attack the Tories and offer an alternative.

    In truth, Labour’s Westminster elite believe economic credibility is only achieved by broadly mimicking Tory policy.

    • Tom Miller

      “Labour’s PLP Blairites are too timid to attack the Tories and offer an alternative.”

      Or not stupid enough to get into a debate set by the Tories which won’t actually change policy.

      You decide, readers!

      • Doug Smith

        Have you noticed how Labour’s lead in the polls vanished once Labour adopted the Tory/Progress austerity approach?

        Sensible economists like Paul Krugman routinely talk of “austerity madness” yet Labour persists with mimicking Tory policy.

        • treborc1

          Well they would being Tory Lite Progress.

      • Sam Henly

        It’s the electorate that decides. And it looks like Scotland already has.

  • carlton temple-powell

    From the start the Tories have used the banking crisis of 2008 as an excuse to impose ideologically driven austerity. This on the back of a fake recovery built on QE and fixed interest rates. Something that cannot be maintained but has been maintained long enough to create the myth that austerity creates growth and falling prices. Austerity is the excuse needed to hack away at what is left of the state sector and a dead flatline economy is the price we all pay to support push Tories anti-state/anti-social agenda.

  • Sunny, we have to be honest as to what the phrase ‘economic credibility’ really means, i.e. Labour’s spendings plans being approved by the bond market. Real economic credibility would be putting pounds into peoples pockets, by implementing the living wage and freeing the trade unions from legislation that prevents working people from organising collectively in what could truly be a state backed race to the top. But that would also require a massive and quite fundamental restructuring of the economy in terms of who owns what, and more importantly, who controls our economy. The question over our economic future isn’t simply one of left or right, it’s about democracy vs austerity, and I like many others think democracy will win.

  • Malcolm McCandless

    Labour will give us £30 billion of ‘caring’ austerity, whilst the Tories will give us £30 billion of ‘mean minded’ austerity.

    Spot the difference?

    • David Pickering

      4 legs good, 2 legs bad?

      • treborc1

        No legs your ok…

      • wolfman

        A troll with four legs…Now that would be something !!…

        if you had four it might make you interesting..

    • Michael Murray

      We have Sunny to thank for reminding us that the difference between Labour’s cuts and the Tories’ eye wateringly ideological cuts is £50 billion. And we may not have to make any cuts at all thanks to the economic brilliance of Ed Balls who, I understand, scored the fourth highest exam results in the history of the PPE examinations. We have Sunny to thank for exposing the endless lies and chimeras promoted by the anti-labour trolls from the nowhere parties and the SNP whose only chance of saving their deposits is to characterise Labour as the same as the Tories on everything. A lying narrative that applies to the cuts and our position on welfare and benefits too. And let’s not forget that other great canard peddled by our opponents: that Labour could be like Greece. A moment’s reflection should convince any rational person that this is a complete fantasy. Britain is the sixth richest country in the world. Labour members are committed to exposing the lies and chimeras for what they are, right up to Polling Day. Keep at it Sunny, you are doing a magnificent job.

    • Lewis

      Read the fucking article you chump.

  • David Pickering

    “In December last year, Osborne said he would slash government spending until it reached 35.2% of GDP, a level last reached during the 1930s”

    Perhaps Sunny is unaware that, as the chart below shows, government spending was lower than 35.2% as recently as 2000-01? So, the 1930s claim is simply untrue. That’s what happens when you parrot the lies told by politicians, Sunny.

    • John Ruddy

      Except the comparison with the 1930s came from the OBR, not any political party. That was why it was so embarassing.

      • David Pickering

        The OBR is wrong, as the charts shows. But, even if you accept the OBR view instead of HM Treasury data, you will note that the OBR said is would *probably* be the lowest in around 80 years.

        11/12/2014 “Ed Balls: George Osborne’s cuts will take UK back to depression era”

        17/12/2014 “Ed Miliband has accused the Tories of planning to take Britain “back to the 1930s”,”

        3/1/2015 “Tories will take the health back to the 1930s warns Labour”

        The above quotes show that politicians are quick to throw untrue claims around, when it is in their best interests to do so.

        • MonkeyBot5000

          It’s because all politics is marketing.

          I used to have a job for a food company where I vetted labels/adverts for legal compliance. The policy was to never let marketing say anything that could be factually tested because they’d always exaggerate claims to the point of lying.

          That’s why so many products have slogans/claims that seem good at first sight but are basically meaningless.

          • bikerboy

            Does that experience help you out when it comes to posting on here?

            😉

          • MonkeyBot5000

            Question everything and check the small print.

        • Dave Postles

          Many commentators believe that the OBR’s projections are likely to be awry. The OBR’s GDP projections depend on interest rates returning to 2% and growth at 2.5%. There are many commentators who suspect that interest rates will not rise to 2% and that growth will not consistently attain 2.5%. The second point is that no one has any idea where Osborne’s cuts will be made, apart from a few identified areas. In other words, there is really no realistic forecast of what the situation will be in 2020.

        • PeterBarnard

          I’d like to know where this “HM Treasury data” is to be found, Can you supply a click-through link, please?

          • David Pickering

            The source of the graph is on the bottom of the graph. I’m sure the author, Tejvan Pettinger, will be happy to assist you.

          • PeterBarnard

            You are wriggling, Mr Pickering.

          • David Pickering

            Pointing you to the person who might be able to help you with your enquiry is not wriggling.

          • PeterBarnard

            Mr Pickering,

            The “economicshelp” website http://www.economicshelp.org/blog/5326/economics/governmenspending/
            has a note at the bottom :

            “Source of Data on government spending : HM Treasury
            Public Finance database”

            The HM Treasury part of the note is a (supposed) click through link. I say “supposed” because when you click through, the following message appears : ” The page you’re looking for is no longer available.

            The information on this page has been removed because it was published in error.

            The Treasury doesn’t produce this data any more.

            Go to the OBR for outturn and projected numbers
            for the key fiscal aggregates in financial years.”

            When you go to the OBR on the click-through link, guess what? The following page appears : http://budgetresponsibility.org.uk/data/ …. which takes you to the same page that I referenced in my first comment.

            Now, that’s what I call provenance ….

            Still, you continue to place your trust in rinky-dink websites such a “economicshelp.” Personally, I would not dream of admitting in public that I used such an outfit to obtain information.

          • David Pickering

            I have to admit, you do patronising with great style.

            I chose the economicshelp chart because it seemed to me to be clearer than the charts on the original site I looked. But as you object to economicshelp, I have included the original graph & chart from ukpublicspending.

            Perhaps you can explain why 1990’s Total Spending As Percent GDP figure is all the same as Sunny’s figure? A figure which he claims we have not seen the like of, since the 1930s?

          • PeterBarnard

            If you compare the two charts from the two different organisations, you will see that they give different levels of public expenditure for the same year. In the case of the ukpublicspending site, this may be because it seems outdated (the “latest budget” link clicks through to Budget 2013, for example ; in addition, ONS continually revises its estimates of GDP) – less so with estimates of GDP a long time ago, more so with recent estimates)

            The OBR series is the definitive tool to use. This is what they say in their latest (March 2015) databank :

            1990-91 = 37.7 % of GDP
            1991-92 = 39.7%
            1992-93 = 41.5%
            1993-94 = 40.9%
            1994-95 = 40.5%
            1995-96 = 40.2%
            1996-97 = 38.2%
            1997-98 = 37.0%
            1998-99 = 36.3%
            1999-00 = 35.9%
            2000-01 = 36.2%
            2001-02 = 37.2%
            2002-03 = 37.9%

            The charts that you supply are not consistent with these numbers

            I can’t see a reference in Sunny’s article to “1990s total spending,” so I can’t comment on that.

            In passing, the comparison with “late-1930s as a share of GDP” (first mentioned by the OBR in its Autumn 2014 Economic and Fiscal Outlook) was fatuous. The nature of public spending has changed enormously since the pre-war period (indeed, it has changed substantially since the early post-war period).

            For example, in the 1950s there was significant public expenditure (6 or 7% of GDP) on capital formation (especially so in publicly-owned housing, electricity, gas, water and communications infrastructure). Social security expenditure has expanded from 4.5% of GDP (early 1950s) to its present level of 13% (from memory) of GDP.

            As the man said, “Comparisons are odorous,”

    • treborc1

      Note 2013/14, government spending as a % of GDP is approx 41.2% of GDP. This is forecast
      to fall to 25% of GDP by 2018-19. This will require several years of
      great government spending restraint and high economic growth.

      As you saw just below your graph is another which shows the massive cuts that are coming. I suspect most of it in welfare.

      • DanFilson

        Is someone omitting debt costs?

    • wolfman

      Where are your graphs showing Tory leads lately ??

      Oh that’s right….Polls only count when the Tories are ahead..

      Troll polls…………..

      • David Pickering

        The trends are intact. Don’t confuse natural variability with a change in trade for the Labour party.

      • Adam Peak

        Every single post you ever write features the word “troll”.

        Could you please explain what you mean by the term?

        See, I thought a political debate website was where people could debate politics. Where does contributing to a debate become trolling in your mind?

    • PeterBarnard

      According to the OBR March 2015 Public Finances Databank available via http://budgetresponsibility.org.uk/data/ total managed expenditure in 2000-01 was 36.2% of GDP – not “less than 35.2%.”

      Someone needs to teach those dudes at that rinky-dink website that you use how to draw a graph.

      • bikerboy

        That table says Public Sector current expenditure for that year was 33.6% of GDP. Total managed expenditure was indeed 36.2% but that surely includes interest payments and anything else that doesn’t provide public services.

        • PeterBarnard

          The “graph” is headed “Government spending,” for which there is no glossary definition. However, if “spending” is taken to include everything that government spends money on, including transfers, eg social security payments and debt interest payable to domestic owners of government paper, then total managed expenditure is the correct category.

          If you take a look at Table C.4 in the Budget 2015 Red Book, you will see that central government debt interest is included in AME (Annually Managed Expenditure – a misnomer if there ever was one, but that’s by-the-bye), and AME is then added to RDEL (Resource departmental expenditure limits), to arrive at current expenditure. This is then added to public sector gross investment to arrive at total managed expenditure.

          Strictly speaking, depreciation (an operating expense) should actually be included in current expenditure.

          Central government debt interest has always been included as a component of government current expenditure.

          • bikerboy

            And what figure do you believe Sunny is using?

          • PeterBarnard

            Table B.5 in the Autumn Statement 2014 forecasts total managed expenditure of 35.2% of GDP in 2019-20 ; Sunny is using this figure.

          • bikerboy

            I doubt Joe Public is interested in depreciation or anything else that isn’t tangible to him/her in an everyday sense.

        • PeterBarnard

          You guessed dead wrong.

          NHS salaries are a current expenditure.

          • bikerboy

            Yes. From the glossary:

            Public sector current expenditure (PSCE) Spending on items that are
            ‘consumed’ in the year of purchase, such as public sector salaries and
            transfers.

      • David Pickering

        I’m sorry you object to the graph. Please take it up with the person who created it.

        • PeterBarnard

          Fascinating.

          Clearly you have no concept of the idea of “provenance.”

          • David Pickering

            Or, I’m not rising to your bait. The source of the graph is clear, and I have already provided you with the name of the author of the article from which the graph is taken.

            Go and argue the toss with him.

  • Markham Weavill

    In practice you cannot get a cigarette paper between the economic policies of the competing parties. They both accept the neoliberal economic consensus. What Labour are proposing is tinkering at the edges to alleviate the more outrageous excesses of the Coalition.
    As Andrew Marr writes in the New Statesman “Labour now lives in a world dominated by big business: to achieve greater fairness, it could simply use its power as a government purchaser to make companies pay a living wage and offer more apprenticeships. It could slaughter the vast number of tax loopholes” He sees glimmerings of new thinking by Labour.
    He must have inside knowledge because I don’t. All I see is the Labour leadership floating proposals that are immediately attacked in the media by interested parties which leads to furious back pedalling.
    As a postscript will someone tell the Labour leadership that putting Chris Leslie up as spokesman for economic affairs on every political programme just puts viewers to sleep or reaching for the remote.

    • DanFilson

      He might not set the world on fire, but In contrast to your perception I find him articulate and self-confident. Better him than a grandstanding Osborne any day. I do wonder though if Chief Secretary (a. Mr No to Spending role) is the best use of him in Ed’s Cabinet.

      • bikerboy

        10K for FTT – a bargain

      • Markham Weavill

        That’s the point. Labour have too many spokespeople who sound like they’ve learned a set of figures and then recite them by rote along with the days catchphrase. They look uncomfortable if they get a question that they haven’t been prepped for and start waffling.
        Numbers are OK to reinforce a point but all too often Leslie gets bogged down in the minutiae of a policy rather than explaining it for the layman. Labour are trying to sell their policies to the electorate NOT to a group of economists or PPE graduates. Most of us don’t care about the technicalities of say the deficit. What we want to know is how policies will affect our living standards and the future prospects for ourselves and our children. That’s something Labour are failing to get across.

      • Sylvia

        He also sounds a lot better than Ed Ballls!

  • Sam Henly

    They’ll both be tough on the welfare bill and they’ll both be tough on the deficit. They’ll be tough on bankers and they’ll both “clamp down” on tax avoidance. They’re both “pro-business” no matter what that actually means, and they’ll both “protect” the NHS. They both want Trident.

    So ok, their spending plans may be radically different, but fundamentally, if Labour aren’t the party of the low paid, they’re not socialist and they’re barely seen to be on the left, what exactly are they?

    People who say they’re both the same are wrong, but implying it’s stupid to believe that is counter productive. Labour has given them enough reason. Lots of defensive argument for this subject misses that key point, they’re felt to be the same on issues that matter to the person saying it.

    • Sylvia

      You can’t really believe that the tories will be “tough on bankers”.

      • Sam Henly

        Of course not. But as each party has to tow the most popular line they all end up taking much the same position and end up all sounding exactly the same. They may act different but you need to pay close attention which the electorate doesn’t have the time or interest to invest (because the political class is widely regarded as hopeless).

  • Dan

    How exactly are Labour going to “balance the books” if they’re not going to make massive cuts in spending? Why has Ed Balls said there will be significant cuts in day-to-day spending every year under a Labour government? You can make hay out of minor differences in the %s of the cuts the two parties are planning, but all the electorate hear is “both Labour and the Tories want more massive cuts”.

    The irony is that, for all this talk about a “lurch to the left”, Labour are actually more right-wing on fiscal policy than Blair was in 1997. He simply committed himself to the Tories’ planned modest rises in spending, not significant cuts at a time when public services are already on life support.

    • Sylvia

      The diference is that Labour will bring down the “deficit” over a longer period which is far more sensible than cutting to the bone in just 2 years or even 5. as the Tories will.

      • Dan

        Will they? I thought they were guaranteeing they would get rid of the deficit “in the next parliament”, exactly the same as the Tories.

  • ebc12

    “It is a claim so ubiquitous that most people repeat it without even having to explain it.”
    ———————————————-
    You caution us against reckless generalisations by beginning with one.

  • Michael Farrington

    Campaigning ideas need to be communicated to the general electorate, not just party members like you (presumably) and me. We really must stop talking among ourselves and get ideas out there. because most media organisations will not do it for us – only for our opponents.

    Why, for instance, when emails arrive with me, is Facebook the only available link in almost all cases. I am not a member of Facebook, and I don’t wish to be. All Party campaigning emails etc should offer other links. Why not Twitter etc. It would be simple to arrange, and I urge that all communications by email from Party sources, including the leadership, shadow ministers, mps and officers should offer alternative links to allow posting on these sites.

    I’ve tried writing to Angela Eagle and others about this, but nothing’s happened. Perhaps LabourList could shout quietly about it in the direction of Central Office.

  • Thomas Gardiner

    So because Labour are going to raise taxes a bit more, that means they’re totally different from the Tories? Never mind that they refuse to raise welfare spending to help the hundreds of thousands in desperate poverty. Never mind that their ranks are filled with the likes of Rachel “tougher than the Tories” Reeves and Simon Danczuk (who may as well join UKIP). Never mind that they’ve already ruled out reversing the vast majority of cuts.

    Simply saying “they’re going to raise taxes” and “they can’t stimulate growth through spending because *mumble* economic credibility” isn’t good enough. If that’s your yawning chasm of difference between the two parties, I humbly suggest you need to get your eyes checked.

    I’m not expecting Labour to turn into Syriza. No, the ingrained deference to finance-driven capitalism and the political establishment have put paid to that notion. I just want them to demonstrate that they’re willing to do things that might not be popular with the right wing media but that are just and that help the poor and working class.

    Not bloody rocket science, eh?

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