Labour’s denialism

John Hemming MP

labour leadership Labours denialism

I have just opened my Labour Leadership ballot paper.   As a Trade Union member I am one of the few non-Labour MPs to be offered a vote in the Labour Leadership election

With the unions committing themselves to opposing any cuts or job losses it is interesting to read the manifestos of the Labour Leadership Candidates.  Dianne Abbott says “the party must put forward the most determined opposition” to the government. Ed Balls says he will “put the case … for stronger public services”. Andy Burnham says he “will fight the [governments] attack on the NHS”. (which is odd since the Labour Party proposed more health cuts than the coalition. David M says the government is “as ruthless and rights wing as any of Thatcher’s”.  Ed M says “I will build on the great things we achieved in government.”

None of them even come close to accepting that Labour may have got things wrong in the past. In contrast the Prime Minister from 2005 to 2007 (Tony Blair) said in his memoirs that “ .. from 2005 onwards Labour was insufficiently vigorous in limiting or eliminating the potential structural deficit.” (page 681-682).

Not only that, but Lord Turnbull (the top civil servant from 2002-2005) has recently given an interview in Civil Service Live. In that he said that excessive borrowing started to be a problem from 2005. “It kind of crept up on us in 2005, 2006, 2007, and we were still expanding public spending at 4.5 per cent a year,” he said, arguing that the Treasury should have been putting more money aside. “You might have thought that we should have been giving priority to getting borrowing under better control, putting money aside in the good years – and it didn’t happen,” he commented. “There were some other places that had begun to accumulate surpluses for a rainy day; places like Australia.”

While Turnbull argued that the primary reason Britain is “in the mess that we’re in” is because “public spending got too big relative to the productive resources of the economy, by error” he added that a loss of output caused by the financial crisis has also contributed to the budget deficit.

In essence he said that the Civil Servants were frightened to tell the Chancellor and then Prime Minister that perhaps he hadn’t abolished boom and bust and was building up to the biggest bust in decades.

Questioned on whether he thinks civil servants should have come forward, Turnbull – who was permanent secretary at the Treasury from 1998 to 2002 – suggested that they were scared to. “Yes, maybe Whitehall should have,” he said. “But it’s quite difficult when your minister is proclaiming that we have transformed the propects of the UK economy.”
That is why the coalition’s policy of having an Office of Budget Responsibility and more transparency about the issue of forecasts is so important.

In the meantime Labour have gone to a mode of denial, denial, denial.  Denial that the country has the largest deficit in the G20. Denial that we need to urgently cut spending to keep interest rates down and the recovery on track and Denial that Labour got things wrong from 2005 onwards.

Image: Getty. John Hemming is a Liberal Democrat MP for Birmingham Yardley

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  • takeoman

    Ireland has taken the path that Osborne is following and that definitely hasn’t worked.

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