Senseless and dangerous; the Coalition’s cuts….
What strikes you immediately about the Coalition governments proposed cut-backs is that there is a sum total of zero consideration of their impact on economic growth and how these policies might hamper that and this above else marks them as inspired by ideology; not economics. No doubt people will be told it’s necessary as the Coalition tries to capitalise on the ‘Debt Panic’ it created and initially these measures may well be popular however, as with everything with this government, that popularity is built on shifting sands and once the cuts bite and real nasties emerge; like the VAT increase, the direction of the tide will change.
Early responses from both Ed Balls and Alistair Darling were disappointing and reflected the timidity the previous leadership showed. I, for one, am personally thankful Darling is going because he never seemed to make-up his mind and his interventions were frequently damaging to the goal of producing a coherent economic narrative; ideologically cemented (almost entirely by the Conservatives, the Liberal Democrats have had to rapidly volte face) as the Coalition’s narrative is; it at least has the virtue of greater coherency. Had either of our interventions been backed-up by a radical critique of both the ‘Debt Panic’ and cutting for its own sake (as opposed to the specific purpose of recalibrating and growing our economy) then they might have drawn attention to the toxicity of measures like cuts to ‘Train to Gain’ and the staggering £836 million of cuts of cuts at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.
According to The Guardian:
Possible targets for cuts include an £80m loan to Sheffield Forgemasters, a £20m loan to Nissan to develop green cars, and £270m of support for General Motors/Vauxhall.
In other words; attacks on our industry and support for new ones in the ‘green sector’. Some of the cuts like the £367 million to the Home Office budget do half the math; the practical cost of the lunatic immigration cap will easily wipe out any savings made at the Home Office. The spectre of Greece is hurled-up before us like some ‘bugaboo’ to scare people into accepting cuts; something that relies on a rather one-sided presentation and lack of contexualisation of the facts of the Greek case. How many people, for example, mention the shocking levels of tax avoidance by the wealthy (encouraged by the previous conservative government) that contributed hugely to the Greek malaise? Certainly, not Vince Cable anymore who uses it to excuse something he was not so long ago decrying as economic madness. During the election campaign Cable had this to say:
“Efficiency has become the new politically correct language for sacking people and cutting services.”
Today’s Vince Cable thinks this is a price worth paying:
Mr Cable said that while there may be job losses in certain areas, overall unemployment may not fall.
Labour must be prepared to be radical in response to this agenda. Indeed, not just in Britain but on a pan-European level (where the centre-left is mostly in opposition in key places like Germany and France) this crisis represents a probably historically unique opportunity for the social democratic left to recapture a commanding narrative of how things can be changed radically and for the better. As Adam Lent outlines in the Guardian, far from being outlandish, this is the only sane and rational narrative; Labour must be bold now of all times and shed the timidity that defined the closing chapter of its time in government.