Anti-Labour campaigners, get real; supporting the OBR charter isn’t supporting austerity


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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  1. kittysjones January 13, 2015 at 10:28 pm - Reply

    I spent a couple of hours on FB challenging the meme that claimed Labour supported austeriy, as I had read the Hansard through – long read! But I concluded the same as you, you beat me to it with the excellent article, wil book mark this – thanks Mike

    • paulrutherford8 January 13, 2015 at 11:18 pm - Reply

      I’m glad to see I’m not the only one to read Hansard!! Will look at FB in a few minutes.

      • kittysjones January 14, 2015 at 12:09 pm - Reply

        It’s essential now, precisely because of this kind of blatant lying and negative campaigning. It’s not long ago the SNP claimed Labour had abstained on a vote on a bedroom tax debate that Labour had tabled…Hansard said otherwise. It’s bad enough with the Tories lying, without the lunatic fringe at it.

      • paulrutherford8 January 19, 2015 at 2:02 am - Reply

        The SNP are saying that to this day. They refer to the 12/11/2013 debate [which I attended], where 46 Labour MPs – as SNP say – ‘didn’t bother to turn up’.

        They never mention, probably because they don’t know, that 83 Tory and 23 LibDem MPs were also ‘absent’. I believe the Labour MPs were actually paired with 46 of the other non-attendees.

        It is remarkable that people believe the lies, despite hard evidence that the SNP [and Tory}, lies are just that… lies.

  2. kittysjones January 13, 2015 at 10:59 pm - Reply

    The SNP and Green Party endorsing the lie (just challenged it on twitter, too) have no integrity whatsoever. Give them power and they will turn into authoritarians barely distinguishable from those currently in office, because people don’t suddenly become honest and grow principles from nowhere. How could we trust them ever to tell the truth when this is what they do during their election campaign?

  3. paulrutherford8 January 13, 2015 at 11:00 pm - Reply

    If anyone is suggesting that Labour supported the Tories today, they’ll have a real shock when/if they read the Hansard transcript of the debate.

    There can be no dispute that Labour are confident in their costed policy proposals so they [cleverly], voted to ensure the deficit is reduced and reducing debt.

    “In a second”, was probably the most used phrase of the debate… read it to see why!!

  4. Samuel Miller (@Hephaestus7) January 13, 2015 at 11:41 pm - Reply

    Brits will likely face austerity irrespective of who wins May’s general election.

    • Mike Sivier January 14, 2015 at 1:38 am - Reply

      Possibly – in which case it’s a question of how much, and whether the pain will be shared out equally or only amongst the poor.

  5. Bluebell Eikonoklastes January 14, 2015 at 10:14 pm - Reply

    Labour Supports Cuts and Austerity. Fact.

    • Mike Sivier January 14, 2015 at 11:17 pm - Reply

      On whose planet?
      Anyone who writes ‘Fact’ at the end of a statement has nothing to support their claim.

      • Adrian Cruden January 15, 2015 at 8:39 am - Reply
        • Mike Sivier January 15, 2015 at 12:51 pm - Reply

          Hyperbole by the newspaper. Is it owned by Tories? I notice the paper says more “huge” spending cuts will have to be made, while Mr Balls merely says he “can’t wave a magic wand” to restore funding – he has to “get the economy moving again” in order to do so, which is of course what he was saying in the House of Commons the other day.

      • terrycrow January 15, 2015 at 1:32 pm - Reply

        Have we seen the Labour leadership deny this report?

        • Mike Sivier January 15, 2015 at 2:40 pm - Reply

          It hardly inspires confidence – in the report – that the headline says Mr Miliband “pledges” spending cuts every year, but in the article he only mentions “common sense” spending reductions. Suppose lots of working people start getting the living wage and don’t have to claim Housing Benefit or tax credits. Would you still want your government to pump money into those services at the same rate, even though it was no longer necessary?
          Further down the article, we see a possible source of the confusion – Ed Balls‘ memo to shadow cabinet ministers, saying there will be spending cuts every year until Labour balances the current budget. That’s not every year, indefinitely.
          Then we could go into what these spending cuts might entail. Labour might be planning to get rid of all the expensive private companies that are currently taking retainers from the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. That’s public money going into private pockets as profit, without having paid for any service at all. Doesn’t it make sense to cut out that kind of ridiculous profligacy by the Tories and Lib Dems?

  6. philip January 14, 2015 at 11:36 pm - Reply

    The thing is, lots of people no longer believe a word Labour say. No longer believe it is the party that represents a fight against capitalism of any sort. I’ve joined the green party because of that. People will switch voting for Labour to voting for other parties because of that. Your time is over. Scaremongering that you are the only opposition is doomed. You are not the opposition. You are more of the same piss, just slightly diluted.

    • Mike Sivier January 15, 2015 at 1:05 pm - Reply

      That is the thing – lots of people don’t believe Labour. But why? Because of what Labour did last time? There were lots of very strong social reforms and achievements and, while the economy ended up in a state because of a global financial crisis and Blair’s adherence to ‘Third Way’ principles that involved right-wing economic practices (not re-regulating the banks), for the most part the economy was better-run than under the Tories. Also – and we should never forget this – Alistair Darling’s plan to restore the nation’s finances after the crash worked much, much better than George Osborne’s.
      That being said, even the most casual reader of this blog will know that I don’t approve of right-wing economics at all. The Third Way was a cul-de-sac and outright neoliberalism is the Road to Ruin (as our satires of that Tory poster say).
      That is why I applaud when Labour announces every new intention that turns away from such policies – like the rejection of TTIP for any public services, or the plan to review the status of all the private energy suppliers, and the plan for the railways. These are to be encouraged. It is also why I support pressure on Labour to completely revise its Work and Pensions policies, clearing out the private companies that have been advising the DWP for too long and returning the welfare state to its proper function.
      Meanwhile, people like your good self have nothing to offer but abuse from the sidelines.

    • Mike Sivier January 15, 2015 at 1:08 pm - Reply

      Alternatively, do people disbelieve Labour because other people tell them to? Did they read it in the papers? Did they get it from a supporter of a different party, like you, who has an ulterior motive? If so, did that person mention that they support a different party and have a motive to get people voting other than for Labour? Do people believe Lynton Crosby’s hoary old line that “They’re all the same”?
      If they do – and haven’t checked the facts before switching their position – then shame on them.

      • philip January 15, 2015 at 1:45 pm - Reply

        Actually, I made my own mind up! I was on the demo prior to the Iraq war. I won’t forgive labour for what it did and I don’t trust them, whatever they are saying. I have seen what labour say and what they do. And what I say is not abuse, it’s a representation of my honest feelings. And feelings matter.

        • Mike Sivier January 15, 2015 at 2:49 pm - Reply

          Sure, you have honest feelings, and feelings do matter when you consider your vote. Trust your gut instinct. I do get that.
          So, are you saying Labour has learnt nothing from the ill-advised adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan?
          If so, how do you explain Ed Miliband’s decision not to support strikes against Syria, and the way he managed – from the Opposition benches – to prevent David Cameron from dragging the UK into another pointless conflict?

          Times change. Do you think as many people would have voted for the Conservatives in 2010 if they knew then what they know now – that the Tories were lying about so many major policies, and would place the National Health Service on the edge of collapse for silly ideological reasons?

  7. AndyMMT January 14, 2015 at 11:38 pm - Reply

    We only worry about growth as we worry about “debt” Steph Kelton. For someone I know reads MMT blogs this is awful.

    • Mike Sivier January 15, 2015 at 12:57 pm - Reply

      I’m not sure I understand. Does anybody else?

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