Tory Treasury tax-avoidance fan and whistleblower-basher David Gauke’s attack on the Labour Party is yet another shot in the foot for the Government That Can Do Nothing Right.
His ill-judged, ill-timed remark that Labour MPs were “turning on each other” is more likely to galvanise Her Majesty’s Opposition into more co-ordinated and powerful attacks on Coalition ideology and incompetence – especially after we learned the Tory claim that they inherited an economic mess from the last Labour government was nothing more than a blatant lie.
“They don’t really have anything to say and they’re now turning on each other and I think their own backbenchers are beginning to realise that the Labour leadership haven’t really got a voice,” Gauke told the BBC in response to a piece by Labour’s Swansea West MP, Geraint Davies, in The Independent.
In doing so, it seems Gauke was trying to distract attention from what Mr Davies was actually saying – which is worth repeating here, because it is likely he speaks for a huge majority of Labour members who are becoming increasingly frustrated by the contradictory and self-defeating behaviour of their leaders.
So what does Mr Davies say?
First: “The electorate doesn’t yet see a clear choice between the parties on cuts vs growth.” This is because Labour has promised not to reverse Conservative-led ideological cuts and to keep spending at Tory-set levels for 2015-16, if returned to office at the general election – even though the Conservatives have decisively lost the argument on austerity. It simply isn’t necessary.
Second: “The Tories have been relentless in asserting that Labour messed up the economy. Not rebutting this charge makes us look like a shamefaced schoolboy admitting responsibility by omission.” Mr Davies makes a second good point here – more so because, as William Keegan reported in Sunday’s Observer, the spring issue of the Oxford Review of Economic Policy exonerates the last Labour government of any economic wrong-doing. Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling did the right thing – and it is worth reminding everybody that the Conservatives, at the time, supported their actions. That was when the Tories were led by – who’d have thought it? – David Cameron and George Osborne, just as they are now!
The Observer article went on to note that US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has also endorsed the Labour government’s actions in his recognition that demand in our economies must be stimulated. Conservative-led Coalition policy has drained demand away. This is why the smart commentators are pointing out that the unforeseen upturn in the UK economy in recent months has nothing to do with government policy; it’s just that things had to get better, sooner or later.
Third: He puts up his opinion – that a Labour government should boost the UK’s productive capacity “by linking industry, universities and councils. We need a sharper focus on the growing export opportunities to China, India, Brazil and Russia. We must invest in homes and transport, use public procurement as an engine to grow small and medium-sized firms…. We need to continue a journey towards jobs and growth, not to be diverted into a cul-de-sac of more cuts.”
The last comment dovetails perfectly with the attack launched by Labour this week on the Coalition’s record – which claims the average worker will have lost £6,600 in real terms between the 2010 election and that due to take place in 2015.
Paraphrasing former Tory PM Harold Macmillan, Labour said many workers had “never had it so bad”, pointing out that David Cameron has presided over a more sustained period of falling real wages since 2010 than any other prime minister in the past 50 years.
The Tories’ only response has been to repeat the lie that the Coalition was clearing up a “mess” that we all now know for certain Labour neither created nor left.
Conservative business minister Matthew Hancock was the one voicing it this time, so voters in his West Suffolk constituency please note: This man is a liar. You must not trust him.
And of course David Gauke weighed in as well. He’s the minister in charge of tax – who was revealed to have worked for a firm specialising in tax avoidance. Do you trust him? He’s also the minister who reportedly green-lit a plan to discredit Osita Mba, a solicitor with HM Revenue and Customs, after he blew the whistle on the notorious Goldman Sachs “sweetheart” deal that wrote off millions of pounds in interest charges on tax owed to the UK Treasury by the multinational corporation. A trustworthy man?
David Gauke is the MP for South West Hertfordshire. Voters there may wish to reconsider their opinion of him.
What these chuckleheads are missing is the fact that Mr Davies is not a lone voice in the wilderness; his article expressed the opinions of a wide majority of Labour members and voters.
And it cannot be coincidence that only a day after his Observer article appeared, veteran Labour MP Michael Meacher weighed in on his blog with a few opinions of his own about what Labour’s leaders should be saying.
“Will the Labour party declare it is opposed to zero hours contracts and will end them?” he wrote (perhaps after reading the Vox Political article on that subject).
“Will it show it is opposed to blacklisting by making it an imprisonable offence, prosecuting the 44 companies who indulged in it if convicted, and making it sure that all the 3,213 building workers secretly subject to blacklisting are informed of the cause of their up to 20 years’ joblessness and fully compensated? Will it say loud and clear that a decade of pay cuts for those on the lowest incomes is flagrantly unjust when the 0.01 per cent richest have not only not paid any price, but have seen their wealth continue to grow untouched?”
This is the sort of fire Labour members and voters want to see from the leaders. There is nothing to fear from tissue paper-thin Tory arguments and outright lies. It is time to stand up for Labour principles, damn the Tories for their evil, damn the Liberal Democrats as fools and dupes, and set out a plan to get the ship of state off the rocks and into calmer waters.
If Ed Miliband, Ed Balls, and the rest of the Labour front bench have any sense, they’ll realise that continuing with the course they have set will put them in a tiny minority that cannot possibly hope to win the next election. Alignment with Geraint Davies, Michael Meacher and the millions like them should ensure an overwhelming victory.
It isn’t even a choice, is it?