Labour ‘fiscal charter’ rebels are ignoring the evidence

Mr McDonnell in Redcar with shadow business secretary Angela Eagle and constituency MP Anna Turley [Image: Ian Forsyth for the Mirror].

Mr McDonnell in Redcar with shadow business secretary Angela Eagle and constituency MP Anna Turley [Image: Ian Forsyth for the Mirror].

The shock and anger professed by some Labour MPs at shadow chancellor John McDonnell’s decision to oppose George Osborne’s Charter for Budget Responsibility – in line with Labour’s anti-austerity policy direction – defies belief.

Mr McDonnell has claimed his decision was triggered by a meeting with steel workers in Redcar, where the factory is to be closed down after the Conservative Government wouldn’t lift a finger to save it.

He said: “Originally what I said to people was, ‘This charter is a political stunt; it is a political trap by George Osborne; it is virtually meaningless; he ignores it himself time and time again.

“‘He never meets his targets, so this is just a stunt. Let’s ridicule it in the debate and vote for it because it’s a meaningless vote’.”

But then he went to Redcar. “I met the steelworkers and I had families in tears about what’s happened to them as a result of the Government failing to act, failing to intervene.

“I came back and I realised, as the consequence of the Government’s failure to invest in infrastructure, in skills, the cuts that are going to start coming now, I realised that people actually are going to suffer badly.

“It brought it home to me and I don’t want the Labour Party associated with this policy.”

This Blog has already reported that the change of heart was also prompted by the worldwide economic outlook. The Charter commits the government to balancing the books within three years, provided there is not another global crisis. Mr McDonnell announced in a letter to fellow Labour MPs: “In the last fortnight there have been a series of reports highlighting the economic challenges facing the global economy as a result of the slowdown in emerging markets.

“These have included warnings from the International Monetary Fund’s latest financial stability report, the Bank of England chief economist, Andy Haldane, and the former Director of President Obama’s National Economic Council, Lawrence Summers.”

According to the BBC, former shadow chancellor Chris Leslie criticised the U-turn and said Labour should set out its own motion: “To go from one extreme to the other is wrong in economic terms but also it sends the wrong message to the general public as well.

“I think to be fair to John McDonnell this is a very difficult balancing act, it’s a very difficult topic, but it’s incredibly important that he is clear and consistent and explains fully not just what Labour’s position is but also why he backed George Osborne’s surplus a couple of weeks ago and is now against it apparently.”

But Mr McDonnell had already explained his reasoning in the letter to the Parliamentary Labour Party and, according to Paul Mason of Channel 4 News, he had indeed planned to move its own alternative to the charter, and to table amendments – but “both these possibilities have been ruled out by the clerks of the Commons.”

The Guardian reported the responses of Labour MPs John Mann and Mike Gapes: “In a comment piece written for the website Politics Home, Mann said “There has been no debate, nor any consultation within the Labour Party.”

But the new developments Mr McDonnell cites all happened within a very tight period. When was there time for a consultation or debate, prior to last night’s meeting?

Mann continues: “The reality is that to have voted with Osborne would have led to political meltdown in Scotland… New Corbyn supporters would have been bemused and demoralised. It would have been a political disaster with huge consequences.”

On one aspect of this, it seems likely he is correct. SNP supporters, ignoring the vacillation of their own party’s leader on this subject (she opposed it – and Labour – during the election campaign, then supported it after the Tories won. Now it seems she and her party are opposing it again) have leapt to the attack in any case, claiming – improbably – that it is Labour that has wavered, in denial of the fact that a new leadership has brought new policies with it.

New Corbyn supporters are anti-austerity, though. They will be delighted by Mr McDonnell’s decision.

The Graun continued: “Mike Gapes, Labour MP for Ilford South since 1992, took to Twitter on Tuesday morning to condemn his party’s state. ‘There is now no collective Shadow cabinet responsibility in our Party, no clarity on economic policy and no credible leadership,’ he wrote. Challenged by another user of the social media site to show loyalty to Corbyn, Gapes responded: ‘I will show loyalty in the same way as he was loyal to Kinnock, Smith, Blair, Brown, Beckett, Miliband and Harman. Ok?'”

No. How about showing loyalty to the majority of the party who support Messrs Corbyn and McDonnell and the policies they are promoting?

All in all, it seems the Labour leadership won’t be able to do right by these ‘rebels’ (if they can be called that) no matter what they choose to do. McDonnell was criticised on the pretext that supporting the CBR was against his anti-austerity beliefs (and never mind the fact that he explained his reasons for it) and now he’s being criticised for opposing it, in line with his anti-austerity beliefs.

Do these people – Messrs Leslie, Mann and Gapes – realise that they aren’t making sense?

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14 thoughts on “Labour ‘fiscal charter’ rebels are ignoring the evidence

  1. Martin Odoni

    “I came back and I realised, as the consequence of the Government’s failure to invest in infrastructure, in skills, the cuts that are going to start coming now, I realised that people actually are going to suffer badly.”

    Well yes they will suffer badly, but not due to the Charter. Its terms are so vaguely defined and its goalposts are so easily moved that it doesn’t really mean anything firm at all. The reason people are going to suffer badly is just that the Tories don’t want to help them, full stop.

  2. AndyH

    Japan is the third largest economy in the world – their debt to GBP ratio is 230% (which is roughly 2 and 1/2 times larger than ours). The idea we are on the brink of bankruptcy is spurious.

  3. Nick

    Mr McDonnell is right you cant keep pandering to the conservatives on their favorite topic of cuts any fool cold go down that route

    The steelworks are a major part of the uk irrespective of the cost as without a steel base you would be at the mercy of others for an important component of your infrastructure

    we are already reliant on others countries for gas and oil and that is no way to run the country

    And yet when trident is mentioned the conservative are all ears and a must have irrespective of cost

    most of the labour mp’s should move out over to the conservatives as they have nothing to offer the labour party other then doom and gloom

    This country needs to be rebuilt in so many ways that will take at least 20 years to get to the level of a decent country with services to match

    At the end of the day only the HOUSE OWNER and big business vote conservative as i believe that’s how narrow this country is with everyone else destined for failure in their lives as without a home of your own you are a failure however and whatever way you dress it up

    And without your own home you just goes round in circles in life getting nowhere and in so many cases becoming involved in crime along with excessive drink and drug taking as the penny’s dropping your life is going nowhere

      1. Nick

        that is unusual max as home owners will normally only protect their main asset which is their home and with the conservatives you can always be sure of low interest rates and high rents

        and if your retired they will look after you even when wealthy

        glad to see max that you have another take on life a more humble one a more caring one

    1. Michele Witchy Eve

      Even with your ‘own’ home you are probably doomed to failure unless you can purchase said home outright in short-order, either outright in cash or by paying off your mortgage in less than a couple of years rather than the usual 25+ years. Otherwise, your ‘own’ home belongs to the organisation who loaned you the mortgage and they will be demanding your home be returned to them should you hit any financial troubles, which is becoming more and more likely for everyone earning under the £250,000 pa mark. Even then, when you manage to navigate to retirement holding onto your home, you’re still at risk of losing it for some political ideal (eg care services, housing shortages requiring you to down-size or whatever other good wheeze that can be thought of). Success, these days, is akin to winning the lottery and like the lottery prone to being manipulated to reduce the number of winners. Anyone who still thinks success is based mainly on effort and hard work hasn’t been keeping up with events. It is truly staggering the number of people who are voting for their own debt-driven servitude.

      1. maxxev

        14 years remaining on ours, our family income was just about low enough to still get tax credits. I am concerned about retirement though, but if we are forced to do what my parents did (move to Scotland) it won’t be at all bad, lovely place up there :).

    2. Daniel

      I wonder if the Conservative (and the right wing of Labour) scramble to renew Trident is less about defence, and more about appeasing the shareholders of the American corporations that own 66% of Trident? (A fact not many people are actually aware of)

      1. Nick

        Indeed most MPs have fingers in many pies you only have to look at their bank accounts or the value of their homes to see their lifestyle is way beyond £75,000 per year
        They go into politics on the basis of a lie to help people ? but the reality is they’re in it for themselves and when they have had enough they go out to speak like this guy to make their fortune

        William Hague set to make £20MILLION after quitting as a Tory MP

        most MPs only talk rubbish if you or I talked like them in the workplace you would be sacked and it’s as simple as that

        most MPs haven’t done a days work in their life and never will do it will be the cradle to the grave – in style where you are; i will have to settle for a piece of cheese if we’re lucky

  4. mohandeer

    If Mr. Gapes has no loyalty to Jeremy Corbyn, then it follows he has no respect for the party members who voted for JC – a 59% of that membership voted for policies of anti-austerity in opposition to the Tory Lite Labour Party. If Mr. Gapes would like to resign his post as MP for Ilford South I would be delighted to be rid of him from what we hoped would be a membership led party, rather than the arrogant “f**k the membership” brigade that previously hi-jacked the socially democratic party from it’s members. It must be reeeel irritating to have to consider those pesky members wishes.

  5. Vasco Pereira

    May I add that John Mann has twitted the following:

    “Whips discovered on Sunday that I and others were voting against Osborne’s austerity charter. That is why McDonnell did his U-turn.”

    Let’s ignore the possibility that Mann’s own ego may be somewhat colouring his version of events. But if he was indeed set to vote against the charter, shouldn’t he actually be delighted in McDonnell’s apparent U-turn?

  6. che

    The trouble is Mike all the media and the BBC are all against Corbyn and McDonnell, so they will never do the right thing.

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