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150113milibandalternative

It’s amazing, the lengths to which some people will go in order to discredit someone else.

As this is being written, Twitter seems abuzz with claims that Labour has finally admitted its full support for austerity because it has supported the latest updates to the Charter for Budget Responsibility.

The charter commits the government to a goal of balancing the structural deficit by 2017-18, and to ensuring that debt is falling as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2016-17.

According to the BBC, “The Treasury says that to meet these targets a new government would have to make additional tax rises or spending cuts of around £30bn – more than Labour plans.”

But Labour has supported the targets, saying they match its plans to eradicate the current deficit “as soon as possible” in the next parliament.

That’s why, at the vote, only 18 MPs opposed the changes. Anti-Labour campaigners on Twitter hastened to flag these people up as the only anti-austerity MPs in the House – possibly because they included Green MP Caroline Lucas, and the Green campaign seems to hinge on painting Labour as a party of right-wing neoliberals.

Silly, silly people.

You see, tax rises or spending cuts are not the only options available. They never were.

What about economic expansion? Ed Balls has been trying to tell the world that Labour intends to create an expanding economy in which the UK can pay its way. Martha Kearney might have cut him off on November 10, but that didn’t stop him saying it.

Remember, this is how Labour set the UK on the road to recovery – real recovery – after World War II. We had 30 years of expansion before Margaret Thatcher and her stupid, selfish neoliberals messed it up for 30 pieces of silver.

It cannot be by chance that Ed Miliband referred to that success in his New Year message.

Link this expansionary economic strategy with other plans, such as those for progressive taxation – ensuring that those who can pay, do pay – and suddenly we’re not looking at austerity at all.

Labour will stick to spending plans for 2015-16 because it would take a while to release the UK government from existing contracts. But that isn’t proof of a commitment to austerity either.

The difference is huge. In the BBC article, Institute for Fiscal Studies director Paul Johnson said “Under the Autumn Statement plans, Conservatives could be cutting unprotected budgets by 26% after 2015-16 – or an extraordinary 41% over the period from 2010.

“Labour would need to implement cuts of just three per cent.” And that’s without the benefit of an expanding economy.

The cynics and manipulators have their own agenda – and it’s not about helping you.

So let’s not rush, open-mouthed and wide-eyed, to believe them.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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