“Rocks on which hopes of Mr Miliband will be dashed”

John Rentoul

embudg Rocks on which hopes of Mr Miliband will be dashedPhilip Collins in today’s Times (pay wall) says the Budget revealed Labour’s weakness:

The most calamitous error, from which there has never been a clear way back, was not to concede, early and clearly, that Labour had carried on spending long after retrenchment was needed. Refusing to admit any culpability at all gave Mr Osborne the opportunity he relished to pin all the blame on Labour. It was and is an unfair charge but Labour should have seen it coming and conceded guilt to the lesser charges in order to avoid going down for the job lot. …

It was a mistake not to set out a list of indicative cuts that Labour was actively proposing. The accusation of being profligate and soft-headed was a serious charge that Mr Miliband never did enough to counter. The Budget repeated another obvious truth, which is that the next term of government will be dominated by more cuts to state spending. We still have almost no idea at all how Labour will cope with this. …

The Budget did not cause these facts but it will be an occasion on which they are confirmed and observed. … Real politics is happening underneath the surface. Slowly, the water is receding, leaving only the rocks on which the hopes of Mr Miliband will be dashed.

We Blairites have been saying this for four years now. Now we will find out if we are right.

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  • JohnJustice

    Mr Collins should keep his wishful thinking to himself, particularly when it is based on dubious economic analysis simply repeating Tory propaganda.

    The “calamitous error” he refers to was nothing of the sort. Labour’s spending prior to the crash was the right thing to do to restore our public services after years of Tory neglect and the extra debt incurred was perfectly manageable in normal economic times. It would have been grossly irresponsible of Labour to hold back this vital spending against the possibility that a once in a lifetime global financial crisis might occur (which no prominent pundits, certainly not the Tories, saw coming).

    Mr Collins and his supporters should acquaint themselves with a report published last year by the LSE’s prestigious Growth Commission. This presented an overwhelmingly positive view of the economic performance of the Labour government between 1997-2010 – and, in particular, between 2007-10. Among its conclusions:

    - British economic performance was strong throughout the period of Labour government, and GDP per head grew faster in the UK than in France, Germany, Italy or Japan.

    - Productivity growth in terms of GDP per hour was second only to the US, and improvements in employment rates were better than in the US.

    - This success, they say, was NOT due to an unsustainable bubble in finance, property or public spending. From 1997-2007, finance contributed around 0.4% to a 2.8% productivity growth.

    - They also dispute the view that this was all due to Thatcherite reforms which were then accepted as a norm. Instead, they point to improvements delivered by Labour changes to competition policy, a major expansion in education and immigration.

    - On education, they pointed out that by 2007 the UK was spending more on education as a proportion of GDP than Germany and the US, and the percentage of the relevant age group going to university was higher than in France or Germany.

    - Furthermore, they believe this had a positive impact in the fight to reduce crime and illegal immigration.

    - Crucially, they make clear the crash was an international phenomenon which cannot be blamed on Labour policies, and that Labour did not leave Britain more vulnerable once the crash occurred.

    - They say the structural element of the deficit was 1% of GDP in 2008 – it rose to 5% by 2010 only because of the crisis in consequence of the fall in tax receipts. So the increase in the deficit was a consequence not a cause.

    - They praise the Labour government’s counter-cyclical policies post crash, pointing out that these went some way towards limiting the fall in output, and say Labour ministers were right to recapitalise the banks and maintain demand.-

    As a Blairite Collins should be banging the drum about Labour’s record instead of putting the boot in just because Brown took over in Labour’s last years of government.

  • Toocleverbyhalf

    How will you find out if you’re right?

  • Pacificweather

    As Mr Collins wrote this in the Times behind a pay wall only a few of the faithful like JR will have read it. Those who, having read it, are likely to change their vote had been doubled to two by JR repeating it. Thanks to you, John, those influenced by Mr Collins has reverted to one.

    Now, you would think a great Internet searcher like JR would have found the LSE’s report and brought it to our attention. Surely that could not have been prejudice on his part? If Mr Rentoul does not look to his laurels we will soon be reading the John Justice column instead of his. Well posted.

  • Ciaran Goggins

    So the Indy (truth wall since firing Jody McIntyre) now wakes up to how jejune Miliband is? Thing is, Labour has no viable leader in the wings, nor policies. Blair Lite (TM). Wesrminster delenda est.

  • bugedone

    It seems to me that the Blairites’ contention is that Labour have no economic credibility until they make Tory arguments against their own record in Government. Odd.

  • mightymark

    The problem is that all too many Labour people can’t bring themselves to defend anything at all done during the Blair years, which are seen solely as years of “betrayal” and “Tory policies” – neither of which are true..

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