UK poorer under Labour – Tory attacks mount

Note the bold outflanking move by boyish shadow chancellor George Osborne in the Guardian today. parking his tank on Gordon Brown’s lawn in advance of the beleaguered Prime Minister’s fightback expected from next week.
“We have discovered that state attempts to guarantee fairness through monopoly provision by monolithic public services turns out to be as unfair as previous ideas of 98% tax rates and forced equality of outcome. So if monopoly state provision is not the answer, what is? Evidence from around the world shows that, just as a broad consensus now exists that we should be free to make our own choices and to innovate in the private sphere, so we must trust choice, competition in provision, and local decision making in public services.”

“A fair society” is of course Gordon Brown’s signature slogan. He has to answer the charge that the wealth gap has widened under Labour. Brown’s problem is that no government anywhere has managed to allow an economy to grow without opening up some wealth gaps. Redistribution by itself is a blunt instrument if only because human nature seems to dictate that take-up is so patchy.The best most governments hope for is that “a rising tide lifts all boats”.

But Osborne’s vague if cheeky stuff only adds to confusion over what the main UK parties stand for. Market mechanisms in the public services are as Blarite as they are Tory. “Taking responsibility” is code for welfare to work, a policy embraced by the Conservatives as long ago as the mid 80s, adopted half-heartedly by Brown as Chancellor in 1997 and now reheated in James Purnell’s supposedly new welfare payments plan, in a desperate attempt to cut the stubbornly high disability and welfare budgets. Yet these can’t be bought down if unemployment increases, as it’s bound to do more and more in the turn-down.

As Conservative blogger Iain Dale devastatingly demonstrates, Labour will have to do better than the hapless Yvette Cooper’s poor efforts to stigmatise Cameron and Co as “all frisbees and photo ops”.
Little bribes like extending utility subsidies to poorer families won’t do the trick. If Brown can’t come up with a convincing reply to the mounting Toryattack over the next few weeks, he probably never will.
The parties could do worse than take the advice of former Tory MP now Independent columnist Michael Brown and “tell the truth”. Will they? They might yet surprise us.

  • DC

    Problem rests with wealth-creation remaining in London catchment, better Britain might mean some positive action throughout the other regions.

    Proof in the pudding of this reluctance rests with the likes of Varney reports and this can be dropped into Scotland too, where perhaps if the Tories were serious, Labour too, they would offer to spread capital wealth around more.

    To be able to do that more independence on budgetry matters is essential, I doubt whether that will happen.

    Until then London has benefited from the slave-trade built London-centric wealth creation that sits hand in glove with Downing Street centralisation of powers, as organically this is the growth point of Britain economically speaking.

    State welfare is not the answer, Barnett neither, nor cutting for example (in Scotland) road tariffs and uni fees etc. If we are accepting globalisation then the rules of the game must change.

    A follow on from Blairism, and Thatcherism, in line with capital investment and wealth creation would be to correct many years of England-centric politcical control and capital investment by stimulating business into areas with more attractive taxation levels.

  • It was Sammy McNally what done it

    The Anti-posh-Tory line will work well in Scotland and Wales but not in middle England where the good folk oft aspire to talk and live like the Royals.

    First thing Labour should do is

    Sack any advisor who was in anyway associated with the 10% tax fiasco (which was even sillier than Wee Davy Ford’s original pronouncements on the transfer of Police and Justice).

    Next they need to try a few drastic measures as they are staring down the wrong end of the mother of all beating if they dont.

    They could start by stating they got it wrong over IRAQ and taking the heat from that now – with the election over a year off – such a policy of anti-spin might catch Posh Dave off guard OR of course it might be the most obvious political suicide since the boy Trimble signed up to the GFA.

    They could also try taking troops out of Afganistan which is clearly an unwinnable war and has the potential to be a fiasco – this would put clear blue water between them and the Tories and show Britain has a foreign policy independent of the Yankies. Nato allies would jump up and down then have to accept it.

    Better to go out in a blaze of principle than die a slow death by mulitple by-election and as a pale and poor imitation of the Tories.

  • Letter in todays Guardian on this,

    George Osborne should be aware that we older pensioners know that if Margaret Thatcher had not cut the link with earnings in 1980, the basic state pension would now be £155 a week.

    Alan Mowatt
    Bream, Gloucestershire

    Over to you George, if you are genuine, return the pension link to earnings, no thought not, just another bunch of lying politicians.

  • Now try the Financial Times leader, which starts:

    There are active philosophical debates about what “fairness” means. The UK Conservative party has little time for such niceties. For the Tories, “fairness” is what they want to do. “Unfairness” is what the government does. Launching a campaign called “Unfair Britain”, George Osborne, the shadow chancellor, has landed some solid blows on the government, but he has also highlighted the strengths and weaknesses of the opposition.

    This, let it kept in mind is the Pink’Un, no less!

    It goes on to make specific points:

    “Mr Osborne complains about inflation, but he intends to keep the government’s monetary policy framework. He frets that pensioners are too poor, but has no intention of giving them more money…”

    “The most glaring weakness in the Tory critique concerns the tax credit system. The Conservatives rightly note that the system is impossible to administer and the ensuing effective tax rate on many poorer workers is far too high… Serious reform would mean the Tories deciding which group of people they want to keep in work – an unappetising choice.”

    “Mr Osborne complains that the UK is missing its targets on carbon emissions, that the cost of motoring has risen and that the poor are paying more tax than ever. If he is serious about climate change, he will need to introduce a carbon price. This would mean that driving would become more expensive and poor people would pay more tax. Which is it to be?”

    The punchline is that the Tory proposals lack “beef”:

    ideas, as Mrs Thatcher showed, do matter.

    The Tories need to offer a greater sense of strategic direction rather than endless micropolicies.

    There’s a degree of rewriting history there: for example, it took Thatcher some way into her first administration to achieve any “ideas” or “strategic vision”.

    On the other hand, the main thrust of the FT piece seems sound to me, not just in philosophical terms but also in terms of practical politics. My recollection and interpretation is that the UK electorate has repeatedly sniffed out incoherence in manifestos and platforms, election after election. I can easily see the wheels coming off the Cameroonie band-wagon, despite all the “implementation” committees, in the run-up to whenever.

    For all of the media froth, the enstoolment of Dave is not a done deal.