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Another day, another attempt by Labour to define its message. When it comes to salvaging the economy, let alone their credibility, they are utterly bankrupt.

To words and phrases such as ‘credit crunch’ and ‘quantative easing’, let us add ‘preditribution’ to the ongoing befuddlement that is the politio-economic lexicon. Or is that the ongoing befuddlement that is the Labour party’s latest response to stimulate the near-death pulse of the UK economy?

At his podium, Mr Miliband presented himself not unlike an evangelist preacher spreading The Word, an affectation that had a bearing on his lexical choices – on being quizzed about how he would feel working with the Lib Dems in a future coalition, the insipid Rev. Miliband replied ‘They made a tragic mistake, but I welcome all people who recant’. How benevolent. Ultimately, this Good Shepherd offered his political equivalent of turning water into wine through ‘predistribution’ (the old New Labour habits of buzz words and spin obviously die hard):

Our aim must be to transform our economy so it is a much higher skill, much higher wage economy. Think about somebody working in a call centre, a supermarket, or in an old peoples’ home. Redistribution offers a top-up to their wages. Predistribution seeks to go further – higher skills with higher wages. [1]

Rev. Miliband proposes that lower paid workers will, through a better skills index, be able to access higher wages previously unavailable to them. This is a radical message from Labour, effectively reversing a philosophy which has hitherto suggested that low paid workers would benefit from wealth distribution – that is, receiving hand outs from those with better opportunities – the cynical may even suggest that this implies they are living off the hard work of others. But like any evangelist, Rev. Milliband issued forth garbled false promises of salvation backed up by no evidence, let alone substance. One person on the BBC News website remarked:

Not sure I get it. Surely simple supply and demand economics means that you’re just down grading skilled workers jobs. The UK only needs a finite supply of electricians for example, say 20,000, if you training 40,000 to do the job your likely to get them cheaper and then have 20,000 people trained for jobs that don’t exist. That or companies will just wack up the prices to cover costs? [2]

Just so. Once again Rev. Miliband continues to deliver the sermon that time and again proves its own vacuity: politicians cannot create jobs. In the costly and unproductive public sector they can, but the private sector is not theirs to master. Indeed, Rev. Miliband has found another use for the bankers bonus tax; this time his populist panacea could be used to fund 25,000 new affordable homes. True to form, Labour have far exceeded the revenue such a tax would grant them with promise after promise about where and how the money would be spent. Listen carefully and one can hear the greasy fat hands of Friar Balls rubbing together with delight.

Rev. Miliband (who, as it transpires, has a hotline to St. Cable the Business Secretary) is a charlatan of the highest order. His promises of a better post-depression afterlife are the stuff of whimsy and outright fantasy, with ‘predistribution’ the latest gimmick to ensnare those members of the electorate who have not yet gone through political Enlightenment of their own. Rev. Miliband can promise idealism because it comes as cheap fodder to the uncritical mind. He may be willing to forgive the Lib Dems who recant the current economic policy under which this country endures, but anyone with sense, who uses their eyes, their ears and their mind will know never to forgive Labour for the ruinous state in which they left this country, nor to entrust them with responsibility for the economy ever gain [3].

Amen to that.

© thepanopticonblog, 2012

Notes

They may be several points ahead of the Conservatives in the polls, but when it comes to making a point, Labour are still the spin-happy party of presentation over policy.

Whilst many will be surprised to learn that there is any point to the Labour party at all, one may be yet more surprised to see that they have come up with a five points in an effort to legitimize their claim to the governmental throne.  Their ‘Five Point Plan for Jobs and Growth’ [1] is as follows. Who knew it was so easy:

  1. A £2 billion tax on bank bonuses to fund a real jobs guarantee for all young people out of work for a year and build 25,000 more affordable homes.
  2. Bringing forward long-term investment projects schools, roads and transport – to get people back to work and strengthen our economy for the future
  3. Reversing the Tory-led Government’s damaging VAT rise now for a temporary period – a £450 boost for a couple with children – immediate help for our high streets and for struggling families and pensioners.
  4. A one year cut in VAT to 5% on home improvements, repairs and maintenance – to help homeowners and small businesses.
  5. A one year national insurance tax break for every small firm which takes on extra workers – helping small businesses to grow and create jobs.

It is a typically vague and notional effort. Are Messrs Milliband and Balls seriously going to hit the part of our economy responsible for some of the UK’s biggest revenue with a tax that will see them move overseas? Let us not forget that Labour were not just in bed with but prostituted themselves to the banks and financial industry they now claim to scorn. Apart from the taxpayer, who else do you think they went to in order to ingurgitate money for their spending projects that have saddled a generation with debt? And what is a ‘real jobs guarantee’? Governments cannot legislate or create jobs unless they are authorising public spending projects, in which case they are taking money from those they claim are already squeezed. Even if they do manage to obtain £2 billion, what are the guaranteed jobs?

‘Bringing forward long-term investment projects schools, roads and transport’ – which ones? When? Next week? In a fortnight? In a few years? Now? If this party is serious then they should offer names, they should propose dates – this is not policy, it is procrastination.

‘Reverse the Tory-led Government’s damaging VAT rise now for a temporary period – a £450 boost for a couple with children – immediate help for our high streets and for struggling families and pensioners.’ This is typically disingenuous; they will reverse the VAT rise, but only temporarily, so presumably it will be reinstated.  Indeed, whilst they engage in meagre and peripheral token politics, they propose ‘cutting’ VAT for a one year cut to help with DIY. Their final proposal is also a temporary one, ‘a one year national insurance tax break for every small firm which takes on extra workers – helping small businesses to grow and create jobs.’ So after a year we know that the national insurance tax break will end, it will no doubt be reinstated at an increased rate just as the VAT on DIY will be reinstated at an increased level and, after a temporary period, the damaging VAT rise will return.

Their five point plan is the sort of disingenuous rhetoric that the ineloquent Mr Miliband and the unlettered Mr Balls have mastered during their time in the doldrums of the shadow cabinet. Conspicuous by its absence is the mention of reversing any of the government cuts the feckless Mr Milliband and Mr Balls have railed against. One might recall Mr Miliband’s rather absurd promise to make no promises, that he does not wish to speculate which cuts he will keep and which cuts he will reverse should he eventually be promoted to the office of PM. Upon reflection, his promise to make no promises is sustained by his five point plan, since it promises nothing in terms of substance or longevity and it promises nothing in terms of its aims: jobs and growth.

These are not the only five points the Labour party have mustered during their time in the shadows. Here, also, are another five billed as an exciting new plan “to help the squeezed middle in these tough times”. My remarks are in italics.

  1. Stop the Government’s raid on pensioners and block its £40,000 tax cut to 14,000 millionaires – this from the party who, under Gordon Brown, effected a tax raid on pension funds and snatched £17,000 from every worker’s retirement pot [3]
  2. End rail rip-offs by capping fares increases on every route – From the party that instigated inflation-busting rail fare rises switching the burden for paying for the railways away from the taxpayer towards the passenger, who are all too often from the same demographic[4]
  3. Force the energy firms to cut gas and electricity bills for 4 million over-75s – How? If utilities are privatised then the government is unable to intervene, they can only exert pressure. Presumably this policy is aimed at off-setting the fact that their pensions raid will leave pensioners without the funds they need to pay for their heating. 
  4. Stop excessive fees charged by banks and low cost airlines – Again, how? These are private enterprises, not state owned companies. The most a government can do is wag its finger and ‘tut’
  5. Defend working families from the raid on their tax credits by reversing the Government’s pension tax break for those earning over £150,000. – Given point one, their are simply no reasons for any thinking person to believe that the Labour party are to be trusted when it comes to pensions. 

Labour does not have the requisite intellectual capacity to see the flaws in their own proposals, let alone the chasm like tears in their credibility. Their five point plans [4] are not just simple in terms of presentation, they are substantially simplistic. As one commentator put it, their strategy is ‘Interventionist, economically illiterate and steeped in the values of the class war’ adding ‘If you were in any doubt that New Labour is dead and buried, here’s the evidence.’ [5]

© thepanopticonblog, 2012

Notes


The most irritating man in politics? To put it mildly. Ed Balls is disliked by colleagues, the opposition and the general public. To be held in such contempt, he must be making an effort to increase his unpopularity. 

‘The purest treasure mortal times afford is reputation’ wrote Shakespeare. Shadow Chancellor, champagne socialist Ed Balls, is not a politician whose reputation divides opinion. Quite unanimously, he is regarded with derision and contempt. This matter of fact has not gone unnoticed by Mr Balls himself (which is quite refreshing among all the other denials about reality that he and his colleagues are prone to) after he commissioned a survey to find out why he and his policies have failed to elicit much support even when the coalition’s malfunctioning economic policy continues to unravel. According to the Daily Mail, ‘results found that Mr Balls is still seen as a turn-off by many, both politically and personally’. [1]

In opposition, Labour’s response to the economic situation remains erratic. They seem to suggest that a levy on bankers will fund millions of pounds worth of projects that will kick-start the economy; they suggest that borrowing more money will give the economy the stimulus it needs; they say that if they win the next election they are unlikely to undo the cuts they have objected to in opposition. The bizarre policy of not making promises now that they may not be able to keep in government does not look like sincere honest politics – it looks like what it is – they have not a clue how to respond unless it is through opportunism. Not wishing to detract from the herculean efforts of Mr Miliband, this is Mr Balls’s speciality.

And let us not forget for one moment – the reason for our dire financial circumstances is a direct consequence of Labour’s economic mismanagement. Yes, the coalition is not making things better, but Labour were at the root of it. That Mr Balls was Gordon Brown’s closest political advisor and economic treasurer to the secretary during the immediate financial crisis makes him as culpable as his then boss in presiding so woefully over the situation.   He is both guilty and guilty by association.

For Mr Balls, financial mismanagement of the taxpayer’s money is something that comes naturally to him. He and his wife Yvette Cooper have been referred to the parliamentary standards watchdog over £14,000 of expenses made in relation to their children. In 2009 it was revealed that he and his wife had ‘flipped’ the designation of their second home to three different properties within the space of two years. In addition, the cost of hiring removal vans and men, which came in at £2,000, was charged to the tax payer via the parliamentary expenses. [2] According to The Telegraph, ‘In June 2008, Mr Balls and Miss Cooper were referred to the parliamentary sleaze watchdog over the designation of their second home, amid suggestions that it was improper for them to claim on the family house in London, where they lived during the week.’ [3] Though they were exonerated of wrong-doing, Mr Balls (and indeed his wife) are mired in the sort of sleaze that sticks.

These ‘mistakes’ he has made concerning public money should be enough scuttle his credibility, but he is damaged goods for other reasons. Whatever his denials, the public see him as implicated in the plot to unseat then PM Tony Blair – the so-called ‘Project Volvo’. [4] Mr Blair may not be held in high regard or with much affection by the electorate, but they detest the likes of Mr Balls for indulging in such ambitious, reckless and self-serving conspiracies when there are very important and very real issues to be dealt with.

Even if Mr Balls has not knowingly committed fraud or swindled the expenses system using the taxpayer’s money, even if he was not involved in conspiracies to unseat a sitting PM and replace him with an unhinged despot like Gordon Brown, Mr Balls always seems to be in the wrong place at the wrong time when these matters occur. If he is not guilty then he is incompetent; if he is not incompetent he is guilty.

The grovelling Mr Balls may yet be chancellor, not because the public vote Labour, but because the do not want the present government, or because they have voted elsewhere. Mr Balls will no doubt colour such a victory as a vindication of his plans (whatever they may be). Regrettably, it is likely that he will plunge the nation’s finances into further choler, so the British economy, like his reputation, will be damaged beyond repair.

© thepanopticonblog, 2012

Notes