...a blog by Richard Flowers

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Day 4651: A Reminder Of Why Hard Labour Cannot Be Allowed to Change the Argument On the Economy


This week I thought Ed Balls got something right.

It’s a good idea to get Labour’s budget plans audited by the Office for Budget Responsibility. The Liberal Democrats have long asked the IFS to check our figures; it would be very useful to voters to have an independent eye scrutinise the numbers of all the parties to have choice based on priorities not dogma. And it would make Mr Balls spell out Hard Labour’s policies well in advance of the election.

I just don’t think that makes him the fiscal paragon that Polly Toytown seems to think he is.

Iron Balls, Polly? Really?

Yes, I know I shouldn’t read the Grauniad. Especially not Pollyanna Toytown and her increasingly absurd hagiography of the Hard Labour hierarchy.

(Sunday’s Andrew Marrmite paper review where Polly’s partisan points are repeatedly punctured by Matthew Parris is moderately hilarious. It would have been funnier if she realised he was taking the proverbial.)

Ed Balls, Mr Frown’s representative on Earth and a very central part of the former Chancellor and Prime Monster’s extended campaign of attrition against anyone who looked at him funny, remains a hugely divisive figure and probably the Achilles heel of Mr Milipede’s operation. For all his undoubted political skills – as a prophet, he’s made so many claims about the economy that some of them were bound to come right – he’s played fast and loose at the Treasury (not to mention with his colleagues’ careers) too often for him to be trusted.

But this denialism about Labour’s responsibilities for what they did in government for thirteen years is all part of their plan to pin the blame on the Coalition and snatch back power in 2015. And we cannot let it stand.

The short form is “You can’t blame Labour for the Worldwide recession”, which sounds superficially reasonable, but it’s hiding some of the key facts.

It’s a bit like this:

“I went driving too fast in a snowstorm and crashed the car, but you can’t blame me for the snowstorm.”

Well, no, but you could see that it was snowing and you were driving too fast.

“But you can’t blame me for the snowstorm.”

It’s a strawman argument.

And it keeps being regurgitated like a form of self-hypnosis so that left-wing commentators, left-leaning voters and Hard Labour themselves can all permit themselves to forget that the biggest crash ever happened on their watch and excuse themselves of their culpability.

Here’s some of Polly’s take on it.

“Some primal political myths are now firmly lodged in the public mind.”
But that’s not going to stop them trying to use “big lie” techniques to try to dislodge them. Repeat this Labour-apologism often enough and maybe someone will start to believe it. What’s sinister is the way it starts out appealing to the conspiracy-theory freak tendency in the anti-establishment by accusing the accepted version of events of being “myth”.

“Labour's public spending didn't crash the economy.”
No, it was Labour’s failure to regulate the banks that crashed the economy, coupled with Labour actively encouraging a boom based on borrowing; Labour’s public spending just meant that we were in a far, far poorer position to recover afterwards. Also, who said “we’ve abolished boom and bust”?

“Labour was borrowing less than it inherited from the Tories.”
Well that’s just plain wrong because Polly’s forgotten to include the qualifier “in 2007 before the crash” from her crib card. Borrowing in 2008, ’09 and ’10 was astronomical.

But even if we give her a pass on the borrowing in 2007, what she’s saying is that at the height of the biggest boom in history when every Keynesian on the planet would tell you you should have been running a surplus, Labour were still borrowing. Yes, the Conservatives had badly lost control of the economy by 1997; that’s kind of why they lost, isn’t it. But since when did being a little less rubbish than John Major and Norman Lamont become the acme of economic prudence? It was actually by sticking to Ken Clarke’s plans in their first term – as they promised but no one, especially the Conservatories believed they’d do – that enabled Labour to pay down a reasonable sum off the national debt; but from 2001 onwards Gordon Brown did nothing but add to our borrowings.

“Osborne inherited a growing economy from Alistair Darling”
Darling borrowed 10% of GDP to generate 2% GDP growth. Any idiot could do that! But it’s not remotely sustainable is it, and of course the wheels came off again as soon as his artificial stimulus reversed. It was Darling, remember, who cancelled the capital investment program, Darling who promised “cuts deeper than Thatcher’s” and he was planning a post-election VAT rise to 20% to make the sums add up too. To the shame of both of them, Gideon being Chancellor made very little difference.

Those three points – “it was broken when we found it”, “we cut borrowing (if you squint at the figures)” and “Darling’s legacy of growth” – set on perpetual rinse and repeat are the clearest warning (if Damien McBride’s book was not enough) that Hard Labour have not rid themselves of the habit of spin.


Gareth Aubrey said...

I'm sure I've said elsewhere, if you're the finance minister of a small non-emerging economy you have a chance at claiming that global financial governance is nothing to do with you. When you're the finance minister of the world's sixth-largest economy and hold yourself up as a leader in the subject, it's rather harder to escape culpability after the fact...

Mike Taylor said...


I'm putting together a book of my Doctor Who reviews, and would like to mention you by name in the acknowledgements. I'd prefer to use your real name, but I'm not sure what it is -- are you Alex Wilcox?


Alex Wilcock said...

No, I'm Spartacus!

I'm Alex Wilcock. Millennium Dome is Millennium Dome, Elephant. But as the discreet strapline at the top suggests, Millennium is assisted in his blogging by Richard Flowers (who, though we're often mistaken for each other, is my partner and a separate person from me. Just not necessarily from the Elephant).

Mike Taylor said...

Now I'm really confused. Who writes the Doctor Who reviews on this blog? Alex or Richard?

Millennium Dome said...

Hi Mike,

for clarification if you want to reference any of my reviews on the Very Fluffy Diary, then the hat tip is to Richard Flowers.

Good luck with the book :)

Mike Taylor said...

Excellent -- many thanks!