The reason that the British people are sceptical about being told that Labour will ensure that the country always lives within its means is that they were told by the Tories five years ago that Labour caused the economic mess, and since Labour never denied it, it has stuck in the public consciousness ever since, despite being the absurd lie it is. If people are told endlessly over the last 5 years that Labour caused the economic mess, and Labour never denied it, most people will then believe it. What makes this so unbearably frustrating is that it is terribly easy to refute it by simply reciting the economic record. Prior to the financial crash in 2008-9, the largest budget deficit under the Blair-Brown governments in the 11 years 1997-2008 was 3.3% of GDP; the Thatcher-Major governments however racked up a budget deficit bigger than that in 10 out of their 18 years. Moreover the Thatcher-Major governments secured a surplus in 2 years, whereas the Blair-Brown governments got a surplus in 4 years. So which party was profligate? Which party were the over-spenders? It’s a no-brainer.
This argument can be extended robustly in several different ways. If the Tory case is that Lbour caused the financial crash (when obviously it was caused by the banks and the international recession), how come then that the same financial crash crippled every other country in Europe and beyond? If the Tory charge is that New Labour (Blair) installed a ‘regulation-lite’ regime in the City of London – which was certainly a far-reaching and serious mistake caused by Blair’s desire to suck up to the financial and corporate elites – why is it that the Tories wanted to go further and have virtually no regulation at all? If the Tory accusation is that Labour’s bailing out of the banks left a huge budget deficit, which it did, why is it that Osborne before 2010 signed up comprehensively in support of Labour’s policy?
The combination of these arguments is wholly compelling that the Tory attempt to dump the blame for the economic collapse on to Labour is pure mischief and a brazen lie, but astonishingly effective in planting a big seed of scepticism in the mind of most of the public about Labour’s economic credibility. That well of scepticism has not gone away. It takes a lot more to remove it than a statement issued from the lectern at party conference that Labour has learnt its lesson and it will all be different in future. If the evidence which justifies it with watertight certainty is not supplied at the same time, and repeated in spades over the next 5 years, Labour may well not escape its elephant trap in 2020 as in 2015.