This is a strange election. It’s Labour’s to win given that the most recent polls have shown UKIP hoovering up, not just disgruntled Tories, but – much more dangerously – working class voters in the Midlands who have switched to UKIP in their droves. But whilst Tory support is haemorrhaging to the nationalist Right, they still command the narrative about the state of the country which could still turn out to be critical at the polls. What is so perplexing about this is that that narrative is all based on lies, yet Labour is not challenging, let alone repudiating, these lies either because the Blairites in the Labour ranks actually agree with the Tory narrative or because the non-Blairite elements in the leadership are too timid and cautious to take the Tories on big time. Yet that could set the election alight very much to Labour’s advantage.
The first Tory lie is that the country is in its present parlous state because of the legacy of Labour’s profligate expenditure. In fact, the biggest deficit in the Labour years before the crash was 3.3% of GDP, yet the Thatcher-Major governments racked up deficits greater than this in 10 of their 18 years. And whilst Thatcher-Major produced a surplus in 2 years, Blair-Brown produced a surplus in 4 years. So why isn’t Labour shouting this from the rooftops?
The second Tory lie is that continued austerity is the only way to reduce the deficit. In fact, it’s the worst possible way to cut the deficit because the amount by which it shrinks the economy each year is greater than the cuts in public expenditure each year (sizeable and painful though those are). The right way to cut the deficit is to expand the economy, reduce the dole queues (which at 2.4m unemployed cost £19bn a year), provide employment in housebuilding, infrastructure work in energy, transport & IT, and fund it either through the existing publicly-owned banks or via QE or by taxing the super-rich.That would restore hope in the British people. Why doesn’t Labour advocate it strongly?
The third Tory lie is that current policies will produce a budget surplus, according to Osborne, by 2018-9. That is manifestly ridiculous. The deficit is still £111bn and has only reduced by £7bn over the last 2 years. At that rate the deficit will not be eliminated for 32 years till 2045! Why doesn’t Labour point out the absurdity of Osborne’s wildly imaginative claims instead of saying that Labour will produce a surplus 1 year later in 2019-20?
The fourth Tory lie is that this whole process of prolonged austerity is about deficit-cutting. It’s nothing of the kind – that’s just the cover. It is actually about shrinking the State and squeezing the public sector till it becomes marginal in an entirely market-driven society. The banker-generated deficit has actually been a gift to the Tories in enabling them to launch the canard that public expenditure has to be massively cut back which they would never have been able to get away with without the deficit in the first place.
And the fifth Tory lie is to continually propound the notion that the massive programme of privatisation and outsourcing is driven by efficiency and value for money. The truth is that the public sector has been replaced by vast sprawling private semi-monopolies – the likes of Capita, G4S, Atos, Serco & A4E – which have guaranteed profits from the taxpayer, get ‘value for money’ by paring back services and cutting wages and terms and conditions at work, and have massively failed to meet their objectives (G4S over the Olmpics, Serco over electronic tagging of prisoners, and A4E over the Work Programme). Why doesn’t Labour commit to dismantling the whole structure driven by greed, not by service quality? It would be hugely popular.