George Osborne: During the debate on the Charter for Budget Responsibility, one person on Twitter suggested, “George Osborne would be better off coming to the despatch box & folding a towel into a swan than talking economics.”
The only difference is that, in 2015, a Conservative had suggested it.
Tuesday’s ‘fiscal charter’ debate in the House of Commons was full of these hilarious U-turns.
The one that’ll be in all the news media will be John McDonnell’s decision to reverse a policy he announced two weeks ago and oppose George Osborne’s Charter for Budget Responsibility. It is bitterly unfortunate for him that, trying to be heard over the usual Tory catcalls and childishness, he repeated the word “embarrassing” four or five times. That’s what the right-wing media will quote.
And that’s a shame, because he also put to bed – definitively – Tory claims that Labour was responsible for the financial collapse of 2007/8/9 and the global crisis that came with it. He said (boldings mine): “Over six years, the Conservatives have managed to convince many people that the economic crisis and the deficit were caused by Labour Government spending. It has been one of the most successful exercises in mass public persuasion and the rewriting of history in recent times. Today I am going to correct the record.
“The Conservatives backed every single penny of Labour’s spending until Northern Rock crashed.
“The average level of spending under Labour was less than it was under Mrs Thatcher.
“It was not the teachers, the nurses, the doctors and the police officers whom Labour recruited who caused the economic crisis; it was the recklessness of the bankers speculating in the City, and the failure of successive Governments to ensure effective regulation.
“In opposition, this Chancellor and his colleagues wanted even less regulation of the banking sector that crashed our economy.
“The deficit was not the cause of the economic crisis, but the result of the economic crisis.”
John Redwood tried to claim the Tories had warned about the possibility of collapse but, having read numerous accounts of those times, This Writer finds his comment unconvincing. For the record, he said: “I chaired the economic policy review for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor and there was strong advice that tougher regulation was needed on bank cash and capital. We expressly warned that the banks were over-borrowed and over-geared and that the whole system was very shaky, and I remember the Opposition constantly warning about excess debts in the system.”
An economic policy review does not necessarily equate to Conservative Party policy, but nevertheless his claims will have to be checked. Isn’t it interesting that nobody has mentioned this in seven years since the crash happened?
Mr McDonnell also warned us about the consequences of Tory economic policies. Responding to criticism by former Chancellor Kenneth Clarke, he said: “His Budgets balanced, but when they balanced, there were 40,000 homeless families in London. People were dying on waiting lists before they got their operations. Those were the consequences of his economic policies.”
He said if he were Chancellor, he would reverse tax cuts that favour the richest.
He would empower HM Revenue and Customs to chase tax avoiders and end the ridiculous situation that allowed Facebook to pay just £4,500 in its annual tax return – less than many low-income earners.
And he would invest in the UK economy to grow us out of debt.
Let’s have another U-turn – the SNP. According to Stewart Hosie, it now opposes the Charter for Budget Responsibility again. That’s nice, after Nicola Sturgeon’s little speech in support of it on May 26.
In seriousness, Hosie gave a cracking little speech. This Writer’s favourite part was the response to Tory James Cartlidge. Hosie said: “I will happily give way to the hon. Gentleman if he can tell me why he is going to support the economics of the madhouse.
Cartlidge’s reply was: “He talks about punishing the poor, but last week the Office for National Statistics showed that the number of workless households is at the lowest level on record. Does that not show that our strong economy is delivering not only stability, but social justice?”
Not according to Hosie! Without hesitating, he said: “I am absolutely delighted when workless households get one or more people into a job and have the opportunity to better themselves, but what I am not prepared to tolerate is people who work harder than us having £1,300 a year cut from their tax credits, which stops making work pay.”
Also U-turning were the Liberal Democrats, whose Tom Brake told the Commons the party would not support the fiscal charter. This is strange, since the Liberal Democrats helped introduce it, while in coalition with the Conservatives before the general election. Now reduced to just eight MPs, it’s a little late for them to have seen the error of their ways.
But the biggest U-turn was, of course, that of George Osborne and the Conservative Party itself. In 2010, quoting economist Willem Buiter, he said: “Fiscal responsibility acts are instruments of the fiscally irresponsible to con the public.” At the time, 181 of his Conservative Party colleagues agreed with him.
Yesterday, he said: “This budget charter provides the discipline we need along with the flexibility we might require” – and again led his Tory colleagues through the lobby in support of his argument, which was a clear and utter contradiction of their position in 2010.
Making hypocrites of themselves yesterday were:
Amess, Sir David
Bacon, Mr. Richard
Bellingham, Mr. Henry
Benyon, Mr. Richard
Beresford, Sir Paul
Blunt, Mr. Crispin
Bone, Mr. Peter
Bottomley, Sir Peter
Brady, Mr. Graham
Brazier, Mr. Julian
Burns, Sir Simon
Carswell, Mr. Douglas
Cash, Sir William
Clarke, rh Mr. Kenneth
Cox, Mr. Geoffrey
Crabb, Mr. Stephen
Davies, David T.C.
Djanogly, Mr. Jonathan
Duncan, Sir Alan
Dunne, Mr. Philip
Ellwood, Mr. Tobias
Evans, Mr. Nigel
Evennett, Mr. David
Fox, Dr. Liam
Gale, Sir Roger
Garnier, Sir Edward
Gauke, Mr. David
Gibb, Mr. Nick
Gillan, Mrs. Cheryl
Goodwill, Mr. Robert
Gray, Mr. James
Grieve, Mr. Dominic
Hammond, Mr. Philip
Hands, Mr. Greg
Harper, Mr. Mark
Hayes, Mr. John
Heald, Sir Oliver
Hollobone, Mr. Philip
Holloway, Mr. Adam
Howarth, Sir Gerald
Hurd, Mr. Nick
Jackson, Mr. Stewart
Jenkin, Mr. Bernard
Jones, Mr. David
Lancaster, Mr. Mark
Leigh, Sir Edward
Letwin, rh Mr. Oliver
Lewis, Dr. Julian
Lidington, Mr. David
McLoughlin, rh Mr. Patrick
Miller, Mrs. Maria
Murrison, Dr. Andrew
Osborne, Mr. George
Paterson, Mr. Owen
Pickles, Sir Eric
Prisk, Mr. Mark
Redwood, rh Mr. John
Robertson, Mr. Laurence
Simpson, Mr. Keith
Stuart, Mr. Graham
Swayne, Mr. Desmond
Syms, Mr. Robert
Timpson, Mr. Edward
Turner, Mr. Andrew
Tyrie, Mr. Andrew
Vaizey, Mr. Edward
Vara, Mr. Shailesh
Wallace, Mr. Ben
Watkinson, Dame Angela
Whittingdale, Mr. John
Wilson, Mr. Rob
I make that 92 Tories who are quite happy to throw their principles to the wind.
Oh… There was a question of whether a large number of Labour MPs would abstain in a gesture of defiance against the party’s new direction, and there were a very few abstainers – 21, in fact.
They were: Rushanara Ali, Ian Austin, Adrian Bailey, Ben Bradshaw, Ann Coffey, Simon Danczuk, Chris Evans, Frank Field, Mike Gapes, Margaret Hodge, Tristram Hunt, Graham Jones, Helen Jones, Liz Kendall, Chris Leslie, Fiona Mactaggart, Shabana Mahmood, Jamie Reed, Graham Stringer, and Gisela Stuart.
Some of these names were expected, such as those of Liz Kendall, Tristram Hunt, Simon Danczuk – all of who have earned rebukes from This Blog for behaviour unbecoming of a Labour MP. Jamie Reed resigned as a shadow health minister, practically the instant after Jeremy Corbyn was named the new leader of the Labour Party. And Gisela Stuart covered herself in ignominy when she proposed a “grand coalition” of Labour with the Conservatives, prior to the general election. The SNP had a lot of fun with that one.
Clearly these chumps are out to cause trouble and their future behaviour – or misbehaviour – should be watched very closely. They need to be told in no uncertain terms that their future membership of the Labour Party may be jeopardised if they continue to be embarrassments.
What do their grassroots members think of these antics?
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