The Tories have run the UK into the dirt and Labour needs to ram the point home. Here’s how

Money, money, money: Boris Johnson thinks it’s for handing out to his party’s friends and donors rather than for investing in the UK economy. Labour needs to explain why his Tories, despite their false claims, are silly with our cash.

It’s no secret that Labour under Keir Starmer is failing to make the right points against Boris Johnson’s lying Tories.

Some of the worst falsehoods in the Tory narrative are about the economy – but, as Mainly Macro‘s Simon Wren-Lewis mentioned (on which I expanded), Labour has consistently failed to address them in any meaningful way.

Professor Wren-Lewis has followed up his article with a new piece suggesting possible pressure-points Labour could attack.

I think he’s wrong to suggest Keir Starmer should do so, as Starmer is unlikely to want to – or indeed to be around for long after the local elections next month, but the ideas are sound and whoever becomes the new leader should certainly consider them seriously. They are:

1. Austerity – Conservatives from David Cameron onwards claimed austerity was a vital response to the economic crisis of 2008 onwards; in fact it harmed the economy.

Labour should assert – forcefully – that there was no debt crisis and the economy needed stimulation rather than starvation. Tory austerity not only delayed any recovery, but diminished it so that wages are now – perhaps permanently – lower.

So the Tories attacked the UK’s economic well-being in order to impoverish the wider population.

2. The second wave of Covid-19 was much worse that it could have been because Tory Chancellor Rishi Sunak resisted an early lockdown.

This delay meant not only that many more lives were lost to the virus than ever needed to be, but also that the lockdown that eventually had to be imposed had to be much longer.

So the Tories attacked the UK economy – and caused many thousands of unnecessary deaths – by failing to lock down strongly and early when cases started rising.

3. Brexit has created a bureaucracy mountain that has hit exports and many firms very badly. I suspect Professor Wren-Lewis wrote his piece before the extent of the violence in Northern Ireland became clear to him, otherwise he could have mentioned this.

It means the Tory-created bureaucracy has harmed the UK economy in a way that has actually re-kindled the Troubles in Northern Ireland after 23 years of hard-won peace.

Professor Wren-Lewis goes on to state that Labour avoids the argument because party leaders know the Tories will answer it with claims about “overspending” by the last Labour government.

But these claims have always been false:

Prof Wren-Lewis also suggests a few responses to the usual attacks we can expect from the Tories and their lackeys in the mainstream media. For example:

No, the Coalition government’s austerity measures did not save the UK from a financial crisis. The Conservatives have demonstrated, many times now, that the Bank of England will create any money needed to cover the UK’s debts, if the markets won’t or can’t do so. Risk of inflation is negligible for reasons we’ve seen in action in the Covid crisis.

No, it isn’t reasonable to suggest Labour was partly responsible for the damage the crash of 2008 onwards caused by pointing at its failure to regulate the banking sector. At the time, the Conservatives were demanding even less regulation, meaning they would have caused more harm to the economy if they’d had the chance.

And no, Labour did not “overspend”. That party left office in 2010 with a record deficit of more than 10 per cent of GDP, but only because of global economic events and measures taken to prevent job losses after banks started collapsing. After 11 years of Conservative rule the UK has a record deficit of 17 per cent of GDP – because of “overspending”? Arguments that Labour would also have introduced austerity can be overcome by pointing out that the party’s critics can’t criticise the party for both over- and underspending.

Finally, Prof Wren-Lewis suggests that the argument about Tory economic incompetence may be wrapped up in a larger attack on Tory incompetence in general:

Boris Johnson and his Tories have been incompetent in handling Covid, running the NHS, looking after law and order, and handling public money.

Their only success has been in handing public money to their personal friends and funders.

Put it like that and Labour is on a path to electoral victory again – if that party can devise policies that capture the public imagination (Jeremy Corbyn was very good at that) and defend them against Tory attack lines (he wasn’t quite so successful there).

But Keir Starmer won’t put it like that because he simply doesn’t have the grit for it. That’s why we have to wait for the next Labour leader and hope that they will.

Source: mainly macro: Labour should start contesting the Tory record in running the economy

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1 thought on “The Tories have run the UK into the dirt and Labour needs to ram the point home. Here’s how

  1. stephen Brophy

    all depends on who becomes the next leader! if it’s another neo-liberal then nothing will change! i fear the plp may now never get back to socialism.

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