“No left-wing account of this defeat will be complete without a reference to the Tory press (bonus drink for “Murdoch-controlled”) and its supposed inexorable hold over the political psyche of the nation. Funny: the day before the election everyone decided The Sun was a joke and nobody reads newspapers anyway.
“3. CLEVER TORIES
“It will be said that the Tories, in their ruthlessly efficient way, pinned the blame for austerity on Labour and Labour allowed it to stick. Clever Tories. Few will mention that the Tories were, for the most part, a hubristic and directionless shambles, divided amongst themselves, the authors of several howlingly stupid own goals that would certainly have sunk them had they not got so lucky with their opponent.
“5. THE SNP STOLE OUR VICTORY
“It is true that nobody, but nobody, foresaw the SNP tidal wave. But it’s not true that Labour would have won or even done OK without it. Labour saw a net gain of one seat from the Tories in England. One. Seat. One seat, in an election where everything favoured them. One seat, after five years of a shabby and meretricious government making unpopular decisions and a third party that virtually donated its voters to them. An epic failure.”
Firstly, nobody is blaming the media entirely for voters’ insistence on self-destructively supporting the Tories. The media helped hammer the Tory messages home, by amplifying Cameron’s statements and ignoring or vilifying Miliband’s. After a while – and in accordance with Goebbels’ (Cameron is a big fan of Goebbels) claims about The Big Lie – people start believing the claims they see most often.
This is why Conservative claims must be challenged at every opportunity from now on. Whenever a Tory puts forward a policy in the papers, on the Internet and social media or wherever, let’s try to put the questions in front of them that deflate their claims. It has been said that a lie can go around the world before the truth gets out of bed; let’s kill The Big Lie before it can get its shoes on.
Secondly, nobody This Writer knows is saying anything at all about “ruthlessly efficient” Tories. This lot are about as stupid as they come. It’s just a shame – and this was a constant problem for bloggers like Yr Obdt Srvt – that nobody in the Labour leadership saw fit to counter the silly Tory claims with a few ounces of fact. Therefore we must conclude that, not only are the Tories monumental imbeciles; most of Labour were, as well.
This is why the Conservative Party as a whole should be undermined at every opportunity. Whenever they make bold claims about their record – especially against that of the last Labour government – let’s put up a few embarrassing facts to pull the wool out from under them.
Finally, nobody but the SNP and its supporters is making any claim that the SNP’s “tidal wave” – alone – stopped Labour. As This Writer has already mentioned (and the election result was only known yesterday), the Conservative Party used the threat of an SNP surge to put fear into Middle England that “loonie-left” Labour would ally with these crazed Caledonians, to the detriment of the nation. Amazingly, people were gullible enough to believe it.
But you don’t have to take This Writer’s word for it. Here’s Professor Simon Wren-Lewis, from his latest Mainly Macroarticle [italics mine]:
“Why do I say Cameron is lucky? First, largely by chance (but also because other countries had been undertaking fiscal austerity), UK growth in 2014 was the highest among major economies. This statistic was played for all it was worth. Second, although (in reality) modest growth was not enough to raise real incomes, just in the nick of time oil prices fell, so real wages have now begun to rise. Third, playing the game of shutting down part of the economy so that you can boast when it starts up again is a dangerous game, and you need a bit of fortune to get it right. (Of course if there really was no plan, and the recovery was delayed through incompetence, then he is luckier still.)
“The Scottish independence referendum in September last year was close. 45% of Scots voted in September to leave the UK. One of the major push factors was the Conservative-led government. If Scotland had voted for independence in 2014, it would have been a disaster for Cameron: after all, the full title of his party is the Conservative and Unionist Party. That was his first piece of Scottish fortune. The second was that the referendum dealt a huge blow to Labour in Scotland. Labour are far from blameless here, and their support had been gradually declining, but there can be no doubt that the aftermath of the referendum lost them many Scottish seats, and therefore reduced their seat total in the UK.
“Yet that led to a third piece of luck. The SNP tidal wave in Scotland gave him one additional card he could play to his advantage: English nationalism. The wall of sound coming from the right wing press about how the SNP would hold Miliband to ransom was enough to get potential UKIP supporters to vote Conservative in sufficient numbers for him to win the election.”
While I’m not convinced about the UKIP claim (UKIP’s vote share enjoyed the largest increase of any of the parties in Thursday’s election) the rest rings true.
You have already heard an awful lot of hogwash about the reasons for the Conservative Party’s slim win. Don’t believe everything you hear.
It’s long past time that facts and evidence were reintroduced to politics.
Not impressed: Members of the Labour front bench display their incredulity at George Osborne’s claims during today’s debate.
It’s always fun to see George Osborne being put on the back foot, and today’s attempt at justifying his over-extravagant claims (or indeed lies) about gaining a concession from Europe over its £1.7 billion surcharge was a classic of its kind – even more so because he allowd himself to be flattered into lying to Parliament.
This blog was one of many who challenged his claim within minutes of it having been made, so it was a joy to see Osborne dragged to the House of Commons to answer Ed Balls’ urgent question – a demand for a statement on the matter in which Osborne repeated the claims we’ve heard before: He’d halved the bill, he’d delayed the bill, he’ll pay no interest on the bill.
We know he hasn’t halved it; all that happened was the EU took pity on him and agreed to bring forward a rebate that was coming to the UK in any event, meaning that – instead of receiving some money back from the Union – we’re just paying less in.
It is likely that pity also applied in the decision to delay payment of the bill until the next financial year – one can picture the scene: Osborne imploring, “Please don’t make me pay! The deficit is already out of control this year and you’re asking me to add another billion to it!” – and the decision not to demand interest for every day’s non-payment after December 1. In fact, with an agreement to defer payment until the 2015-16 financial year, it would be unfair to demand such interest.
Having won those concessions from a position of weakness, Osborne’s mistake was to come back and pretend that he was in a position of strength. Nobody believed him.
Today, in the House of Commons chamber, even his own backbenchers seemed to find it hard to put up the pretence. Meanwhile, Mr Balls had the floor:
He began: “Talk about smoke and mirrors, Mr Speaker—I can barely see you through the Chancellor’s fog and bluster!”
He quoted the Austrian, Dutch and Irish finance ministers, saying: “They are queuing up to contradict the Chancellor.
“Is it not now clear that the Chancellor totally failed to get a better deal for the taxpayer?” he asked. “He did not reduce Britain’s backdated bill by a single penny. The British people don’t like being taken for fools, and his attempts to fool them have totally unravelled.”
Labour backbencher Geoffrey Robinson had to withdraw his words after claiming Osborne had committed “a gross act of deception worthy more of Goebbels than the British Chancellor of the Exchequer.” Clearly he is a long-term reader of this blog.
Paul Flynn called Osborne’s “result” – as the Chance(llo)r described it – as “a confidence trick”.
Osborne and his pals were deep in their own narrative by then, whining about details of the rebate and the interest rate on the surcharge, and trying to score points with questions about Labour MPs’ loyalty to their leader. Somebody should have told them that a couple of Labour MPs complaining about Ed Miliband is as nothing, compared to the defection of two Tory MPs to UKIP and calls by a further – 22, was it? – for David Cameron’s resignation or removal.
Oh yes… and a Mr James Arbuthnot seemed to think that the surcharge, which came about because the UK economy had performed better than expected over a period of time, was “because of the stunningly impressive handling of the economy by my right hon. Friend”.
To this, Osborne responded: “One of the reasons why this surcharge, as he puts it, has arisen is because of the strong UK economic performance relative to the continent of Europe.” If he had left it there, we would not be able to call this statement what it was. He didn’t; he added: “We should not be happy about the poor performance of the European continent. We want the European continent to be performing better.”
The second part of his statement makes it clear that he is referring to the recent performance of the continental EU countries, meaning that he was applying comments about the UK’s “strong economic performance” to the period when he was Chancellor.
He was lying to Parliament. We all know that the surcharge has arisen because of the UK’s strong economic performance between 2002 and 2009, when Labour was in office, under chancellors named Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling. It had nothing to do with anyone called Osborne.
Having established that lie, there really isn’t any need to go further into the debate. There is no reason to believe anything Osborne says. The Goebbels reference – not permitted in the Commons chamber – is entirely apt; he was trying to feed us The Big Lie.
What a shame that it isn’t likely to be a vote-winner for you.
Postscript: Ed Balls is also to be congratulated for his handling of Martha Kearney on the BBC’s The World At One today (Monday). Ms Kearney was in belligerent mood, keen to interrupt Mr Balls before he could make any meaningful points about Labour’s economic plans. He was trying to make the perfectly reasonable point that the UK can clear its debts by building up the economy, but she dismissed this as a project that would take many years to pay off (thanks for the vote of confidence, Martha!) and pressed him to tell her what cuts he would make when he had already clarified what he would rather do instead.
Then she asked why he had not supported the #WeBackEd campaign on Twitter. He pointed out that he had made his support for Mr Miliband perfectly clear in a radio interview at the end of last week, before that campaign had started. “I think that was a silly question,” he concluded – and she had to admit defeat.
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