With the launch of Labour’s manifesto, Ed Miliband has once again taken a bold step and rattled the Tory ranks.
For decades the myth of Tory superiority in managing the country’s finances has endured, with polls consistently showing Conservative governments with higher approval rates than Labour on the economy.
The manifesto addresses this issue head-on. It begins with a “budget responsibility lock” that guarantees funding for every policy, with no additional borrowing, and promises to cut the deficit every year, reduce the national debt and achieve a surplus on the current budget “as soon as possible in the next parliament”.
Mythical fiscal management
The myth of “Tory Good, Labour Bad” at managing the economy has grown under David Cameron and George Osborne as the Tory machine ramped up its mantra that Gordon Brown’s government caused the 2007/2008 global financial crash (aka “The Mess”) in an orgy of borrowing and irresponsible spending. Given the chance, they have reiterated, any Labour government would do the same again.
Never mind the internationally accepted evidence to the contrary – that the crash was caused by the US subprime mortgage crisis, the neglect of governments worldwide in regulating the bankers and the failure of economists to detect the early signs.
Never mind that Mervyn King, former Governor of the Bank of England, has stated categorically that Gordon Brown’s government was not responsible. Or that Labour governments have consistently kept down deficits and borrowing whereas Osborne borrowed more in five years than Labour did in 13.
In stark contrast to the Labour manifesto with its clearly costed policies, Cameron, Osborne et al. appear to be making up policy on the hoof with no idea as to how said policies would be funded.
For example, on The Andrew Marr Show, Osborne refused at least 15 times to answer the simple question of where a Tory government would find the £8 billion a year he has said would be put into the NHS if they come back into power. This shameless attempt to sway voters was mocked on BBC Daily Politics, where Culture Minister Sajid Javid was asked where the Tories were hiding the money tree.
For the past five years the Tory/LibDem government has been brazenly shifting government services into private hands, taking from the poor and vulnerable to enrich their friends in the 1 per cent, under the guise of an austerity programme that is apparently the cornerstone of its oft quoted but never elucidated “long-term economic plan”.
Employing tactics of obfuscation, outright lies and vicious personal attacks enabled by the right-wing press, bully-boys Cameron, Osborne and their cohorts have succeeded in fooling many of the people for much of the time, while presiding over ever-widening levels of poverty and pain – attacking the jobless, the disabled, the carers, while flip-flopping all over the place to keep right-wing rebels on board.
A leader in waiting
In contrast, as Labour back bencher Michael Meacher points out, Ed has achieved in opposition what no other previous Leader of the Opposition – including Thatcher or Blair – managed to do. That is, changing the course of events in ways hugely important to this country without any direct executive power to do so.
- He stopped Murdoch getting BskyB, which would have turned our news system into a UK version of Murdoch’s Fox News.
- He stood up to the Tory tabloids in defence of Leveson’s prescription of redress for people abused by the press over privacy and gross inaccuracies, a big risk when the Sun, Mail, Express and Telegraph (and their Sundays) control 70% of the UK press.
- He caused a furore by daring to promise a 16-month freeze on energy charges after the Big 6 energy companies had been ripping off customers for years.
- He stopped a third Middle East War by opposing Cameron’s plan to support Obama in a missile attack on Syria.
Ed has also promised to tackle tax avoiders and scrap the non-dom tax status, which he has said is part of a discredited belief that “what is good for the rich is always good for Britain”. Cameron, on the other hand, plans to remove inheritance tax from homes worth more than £1 million, which independent economists say would ‘disproportionately’ benefit well-off families and drive up property prices.
Key policies in the Labour manifesto to help ordinary people include:
- Raising the minimum wage to more than £8 by October 2019 – accelerating increases to guarantee they reach this level before the end of the next Parliament
- Helping train passengers and commuters with a fully funded fare freeze
- Supporting the squeezed middle with a firm commitment not to raise the basic or higher rate of income tax, National Insurance or VAT
- Protecting tax credits in the next parliament, to back working families
- Introducing a new National Primary Childcare Service to help working parents.
A clear choice
There’s a mountain to climb to shake off the negative perceptions of politics and politicians among the general public. The question, “Why should we trust you?” and the assertion that “all politicians are the same” are commonplace and often used for making mischief.
But Labour and the Tories are plainly not the same.
The choice of who to vote for is a no-brainer.