Monday, September 28, 2009

Labour's death wish

It’s almost hilarious to see Alastair Darling in the Observer saying senior Ministers in the UK are “losing the will to live” in respect of how the government is limping along. Gordon Brown’s absolute rank incompetence as a politician is demonstrable, with Labour facing the very real risk of the Liberal Democrats getting the same proportion of the vote as Labour. Why?

Gordon Brown claims to have saved the economy, yet all that is happening is a small bubble of speculation using quantitative easing cash (borrowed money) on the sharemarket and in property. There is no real of growth in consumer confidence or employment. Besides which, his attempt to blame bankers has half backfired. After all, who was in charge at the time? Who let the property market bubble (indeed positively encouraged it with loose credit and significant state spending on the “social housing” sector)? After 12 years of government, with people seeing that the UK is worse hit than its major trading partners, is there really any credibility left with the public?

The most recent debacle has been the complete failure by Gordon Brown to portray the coming election between Labour “investing” (read, spending borrowed money from future higher taxes) in Britain and “savage” Tory cuts. The problem was that most people didn’t believe it. With public debt set to soar above 100% of GDP, with constant budget deficits, it takes little to figure out that promising to spend yet more, without substantive tax increases, doesn’t add up. On top of that, most people don’t want to spend more tax. In other words, the British public get it.

They do not believe government spending is efficient or good for them anymore, they want less, they want most of the deficit to be eliminated through spending cuts. So whilst Gordon Brown lied about there being scope for spending increases, the Liberal Democrats came out of left field (where they usually occupy) and promised spending cuts. Yes, the party that was filling the gap to the left of Labour swung into the middle and proposed a long list of spending cuts, many of which are difficult to argue against.

I'd happily tick this list off:
- Abolishing the ID card scheme;
- Freeze public sector pay;
- End civil service bonuses;
- Eliminate family tax credits for higher income earners (welfare in reverse);
- Cut public sector pension schemes;
- Abolish regional development agencies;
- Cut training and skills budgets;
- Cut export credit guarantee department subsidies;
- Sell surplus land (although selling Highways Agency land may well mean future road projects are harder to build).

Although more abolish would be preferred. Sadly, the Liberal Democrats couldn’t resist proposing to abolish Britain’s nuclear deterrent and a silly tax on homes worth more than £1 million. At least it was a start, and bolder than others.

So now Gordon Brown has admitted there need to be cuts. One nuclear submarine is one clear cut, but the rest is more mealy mouthed discussion about efficiencies and some “hard decisions”. Labour doesn’t want to play into the territory of the Tories, it wants to force the Tories to play their hand. A hand they haven’t played very well regardless.

All the Tories have said is that there will need to be cuts, BUT the NHS is immune. This is ludicrous, given that since Labour was elected the NHS has seen spending increase on average by 6.5% every year, in real terms. Most of that has been pocketed by those working there with no increase in productivity, all that has happened is that British medical professionals are now among the best paid in the world. Those who claim there is no profit in this state behemoth monopoly don’t look closely enough at the rent takers that work there.

So where does that leave Brown? Well the Labour conference in Brighton was a sombre affair, whilst Brown attempted to get them excited about fighting back, the only person with any conviction and belief appeared to be the most senior unelected person in Cabinet, Peter Mandelson. He said the “new Labour” project was “far from complete” and describe the Tories as “shallow”.

The problem is that while Mandelson is right about how shallow the Tories are, as they sleepwalk to victory, he is wrong about the future of the “project”. New Labour has increased state dependency, it has been the problem of the past 12 years, and its only achievement has been to largely leave intact much of the reforms of the Thatcher era. In the meantime, it has grown the welfare state, new bureaucracies, new initiatives and taxes, and it is this tinkering that has helped contribute to the failure seen today.

While it is difficult to see much to inspire from the Tories, with its education policy the only shining light, it is more difficult to see how new Labour – with its endless budget deficits, its submission to Brussels, its failed social policies and its ever growing nanny state, has anything left to offer Britain. The Labour Party, which for decades helped stagnate Britain in a post war time warp of planned economic policies and unionised nostalgia, before offering to abandon the Western world and be a democratic version of the USSR, has shown its project to be a failure.

Let the election roll on.


Robert said...

Thats why the liberals will never again run this country, thank good! cut training places and leave the kids sitting at home for a life time, all you lot have done is move to the Tories right in other words take over from New labour.

libertyscott said...

The private sector creates jobs, it helps if government isn't crowding them out, and isn't taxing them to buggery.

It might also encourage kids to be self starters, set up businesses, be innovative, instead of the tradition of so many of waiting for someone to come to them.