Tag: Electioneering

It’s time to end the lie that Labour and Tories are ‘the same’ on austerity – Sunny Hundal & Sue Jones

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It is a claim so ubiquitous that most people repeat it without even having to explain it:

‘there’s hardly any difference between the main political parties’.

It’s a claim the Greens, SNP and UKIP now repeat endlessly without being challenged. It is also a claim exposed as complete falsehood last week.

For all the Chancellor’s giveaways and triumphant rhetoric during the Budget, the most significant change was a capitulation to Labour’s charge that the Tories were cutting spending to 1930s levels. In fact the difference between Labour and Tories – especially on economic matters – is the biggest it has been in over a generation. To claim otherwise is to be ignorant of the facts.

Let’s go over the numbers first. In December last year, Osborne said he would slash government spending until it reached 35.2% of GDP, a level last reached during the 1930s.

Rather than accept the cuts, Labour attacked his plans as “extreme and ideological” and said they would not match Osborne’s race to the bottom.

The difference between Labour and Tory plans on spending is colossal. To cut spending to 35.2%, the IFS said Osborne would have to cut departmental spending by £55bn from 2015 to 2020, over £20bn more than what has been slashed over the last five years. Key government departments would have to cut spending by over 50%, after already being cut to the bone. It would render many of them useless.

Labour plans are significantly different but lost in technical detail, which has allowed many on the left to wrongly claim they are the same. Firstly, they have committed to raising taxes to cut the UK’s £90 billion yearly budget deficit (i.e. the 50p rate, Mansion tax, bankers’ bonus tax, a higher bank levy), while Osborne has pledged to focus on spending cuts rather than tax rises.

More importantly, the Tories plan an overall budget surplus by 2018-19, while Labour has only committed to a current budget surplus in the next parliament. This sounds like a boring technical detail – and in many ways it is – but the practical difference is vast.

It means that while Coalition had planned over £55 Billion in spending cuts, Labour had pledged only to plug potentially a £4 Billion gap – which could even come from tax rises. A difference of Labour and Tory plans of more than £50 Billion is not to be sniffed at (in comparison the entire Scottish Budget of 2014 was £35 Billion).

To claim that Labour and Tory ‘austerity’ is the same, as some on the left have done, isn’t just ludicrous but a bare-faced lie. It illustrates a huge distortion of the facts. Of course, the Greens and SNP have an interest in saying that Labour and Tories are the same, but that doesn’t make it true.

Last week was significant because Osborne was forced into a u-turn on the biggest issue of the past five years. Of course, the press played this down. He retreated, somewhat slightly, from extreme austerity: pledging to cut spending to 36% of GDP rather than 35.2%. This mostly came from the OBR’s projection that spending on debt interest in 2019-20 will be £9bn less than it expected earlier.

But Osborne’s sleight-of-hand had bigger meaning for Labour: now it means they don’t have to make any cuts over the next parliament, as the IFS pointed out. The difference between the two parties is now even more stark.

To the naysayers who still maintain that Labour and Tories are ‘the same’, a bit more explanation is required. Last year Osborne said he would publish a ‘Budget Responsibility Charter’ and test whether Labour would vote for it. It put Labour in a lose-lose position: they would be painted as ‘profligate’ if they didn’t sign up, and painted as signing up to Tory austerity by the left if they did. Neither was true, since signing up was consistent with Labour’s initial plans. Labour decided to avoid Osborne’s trap and he didn’t bother publishing the Charter. It changed nothing.

Furthermore, the claim that Labour has signed up to Tory austerity until 2016 is untrue. As a matter of technicality, Labour cannot reverse plans already put in place for that fiscal year after being elected.

This has always been a somewhat technical debate, obfuscated by many who have an axe to grind. For political and economic reasons, Labour could never be like Syriza, so it has always been ridiculous to hope it could. Plus, it’s easy for the Greens and SNP to make wild claims about rejecting austerity without spelling out how a massive increase in spending required would be funded.

I suspect that most people who have already decided that Labour and Tories are the same won’t ever be convinced. Labour’s plans won’t catch the world on fire, but to claim they are the same as Tory austerity plans is a lie that has finally been laid to rest.

With big thanks to Labourlist author Sunny Hundal.

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Recently, the SNP, Greens, TUSC and other parties on the so-called  left have made the claim that: “Labour voted for austerity.” This is such a blatant lie. The vote, clearly stated on the Hansard record (see 13 Jan 2015: Column 738, Charter for Budget Responsibility), was pertaining strictly to the motion: “That the Charter for Budget Responsibility: Autumn Statement 2014 update, which was laid before this House on 15 December 2014, be approved.”  That isn’t about austerity at all.

The charter sets out that the Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR) will continue to monitor our fiscal rules. As we know, the OBR has written extremely critical economic forecasts and analysis of austerity and the Tory spending cuts, clearly expressing the risks that the Chancellor is running and the scale of the damage his strategy will inflict on what remains of our public services.

Furthermore, austerity and fiscal figures are not mentioned at all in the Charter.

It’s worth noting that whilst Ed Balls challenged Osborne, there was a curious silence from the SNP and the Green Party. It was Ed Balls that challenged Osborne’s outrageous claims regarding “halving the deficit”- such a blatant lie, upon which even the exceedingly Conservative Spectator spluttered contempt. Or any of the other lies, some of which have already earned the Conservatives official rebukes from the Office for National Statistics (ONS). (See “bankruptcy lie” for example, on the hyperlinked article)

Furthermore, it’s about time that some MP’s, including Caroline Lucas, amongst others, recognised that there is a fundamental difference between the meaning of the word budget and the word austerity. Conflating the two for the purpose of politicking is unprincipled and dishonest.

It’s also worth noting from the same debate on the Hansard record:

13 Jan 2015 : Column 746

Caroline Lucas: Does the Chancellor agree with me that with the feeble and inconsistent opposition coming from the Labour Front Bench, there is a very good reason for seeing the SNP, the Greens and Plaid as the real opposition on this issue because we are clear and consistent about the fact that austerity is not working?

Mr Osborne: That shows why we want the hon. Lady’s party in the TV debates.

Yes, I just bet they do, to collaborate with the Tories in attacking and undermining the Labour Party, not the Coalition, who are, after all, the ones responsible for introducing austerity measures. I don’t imagine for a moment that Osborne values further challenges to his outrageous claims of efficacy regarding austerity measures.

What is very evident when you read through this debate, is that Ed Balls and a couple of other Labour MPs presented the ONLY challenges to Osborne on this matter, just to reiterate this important point.

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It’s also worth bearing in mind that Ed Miliband established the International ANTI-austerity Alliance. Back in 2012, Miliband said: “There is a grip of centre-right leadership on Europe which has said there’s only one way forward and that’s austerity, and you’ve got to have a decisive move away from that.(See also: Labour leader Ed Miliband’s anti-austerity alliance will fight for the European dream.)

And why would Miliband be attending ANTI-austerity protests if he supported austerity?

Labour leader Ed Miliband speaks on stage at Hyde Park, during the TUC organised protest against austerity measures in London

Labour leader Ed Miliband speaks on stage to over 150,000 at Hyde Park, during the TUC organised protest against austerity measures in London.

It’s interesting to see the Chicago Tribune’s article: Ed Balls, UK’s anti-austerity finance chief in waiting.  Balls dismissed Osborne as a “downgraded chancellor” after Britain lost its triple-A credit rating.

One of his main charges has been that the government is unfairly spreading the economic pain it deems necessary to fix the economy. Austerity cuts are the burden of the poorest citizens.

Balls says that a decision to cut the top tax rate amounts to an unjustified “tax cut for millionaires”, whilst his party has been scathing of the Conservative “reform” of the welfare system.

A point echoed many times by Ed Miliband, too. Accusing the government of making lower or no income groups pay for the recovery while shielding the rich is a claim which strikes a chord with some voters who view Cameron and his government – many of whom were educated at the same top fee-paying school – as out of touch.

Caroline Lucas was born in Malvern to Conservative parents and attended Malvern Girls’ College (which became Malvern St James in 2006), a fee-paying private school. Ed Miliband, on the other hand, went to a comprehensive school.

Polls also show that many voters approve of the government’s drive to rein in welfare costs and the government has demanded that Labour spell out what they would do to fix the economy. They have, but with understandable caution.

Labour’s careful, costed and evidence-based policies include: a Bankers’ Bonus Tax; a Mansion Tax; repeal of the Bedroom Tax; a reversal of the Pension Tax relief that the Tories gifted to millionaires; a reversal of the Tory Tax cut for Hedge Funds; freezing gas and electricity bills for every home a the UK for at least 20 months; the big energy firms will be split up and governed by a new tougher regulator to end overcharging; banning exploitative zero hour contracts; introduction of a living wage (already introduced by some Labour councils); a reversal of the £107,000 tax break that the Tories have given to the millionaires; reintroduction of the 50p tax; scrapping George Osborne’s “Shares for Rights” scheme that has opened up a tax loophole of £1 billion; ensuring Water Companies place the poorest households on a Social Tariff that makes it easier for them to pay their Water Bills; breaking up the banks and separating retail banking from investment banking; introduction of measures to prevent corporate tax avoidance, scrapping the Profit Tax Cut (Corporation Tax) that George Osborne has already announced for 2015 and many more.

These are not austerity measures. They are strongly redistributive policies.

It’s difficult enough opposing the manipulative, lying authoritarian Conservative-led government, without having to constantly counter lies and smears from fringe parties claiming to be on the Left, while propping up the Right simply to gain votes and undermine the only feasible opposition to the Tories, currently.

Shame on them.

Sue Jones

Related

Labour’s fiscal targets mean cuts could end next year – Labourlist

Labour’s fiscal responsibility and caution isn’t austerity, so stop doing Lynton Crosby’s job for him.

The ultimate aim of the “allthesame” lie is division and disempowerment of the Left.

Narxism

Electioneering and grandstanding: how to tell the difference between a moral political party and a moralistic one.

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Pictures courtesy of Robert Livingstone

Electioneering and grandstanding: how to tell the difference between a moral political party and a moralistic one.

1796655_294409220710133_3373329_nThis past four years or so, I’ve watched the media distort the truth, often removing it from a meaningful context and twisting it out of recognisable shape. Or very often avoiding it altogether. I’ve watched minor parties claiming to be on the Left do the same, too, and I won’t ever forgive them for that. Nonetheless we have done our best to share truths and information and to decode rhetoric and re-translate lies.

One thing I can do is analyse social policy, I’ve a perceptive and predictive eye for how policies will affect us – the implications and probable consequences – well before they are implemented. The last four years will bear that out. It’s not just because I studied it, it’s also because I see underpinning ideology, too. I recognise that policy is comprised of a set of scripted motives and intentions on the part of any government and instructions to society on how to organise itself, how to behave and how our individual degree of freedoms are defined, extended or restricted. Policies also send out instructions regarding how social groups are perceived and treated.

Policies may express and extend tolerance and reflect a valuing of diversity, or, as the case is now, they may also prescribe social prejudice and serve to institutionalize discrimination.

Ideology reflects how a government believes society is (and what it isn’t,) and also prescribes how it SHOULD be. The Tories have been imposing their own narrow, nightmarish vision upon us for the past five years.

Today it struck me again just how we have had to decode so very much misinformation. For example, someone asked me about the headline lie that the Labour Party intend to “scrap benefits for young people.” Of course it’s not true. Or rather, it’s a carefully selected, out of context, partial truth.

Miliband is REPLACING jobseekers allowance with another allowance for young people. He thinks that conditional benefits are inappropriate for young people, as to be entitled to jobseekers allowance requires having to be available for work and actively looking for work, so it excludes the very possibility of further education and learning experiences. But young people need the freedom and support to gain from learning. That’s why Ed Miliband will replace out of work benefits for those aged 18-21 with a youth allowance of the same value – currently around £57 a week. This isn’t the controversial issue that was presented by the mainstream media and other parties at all: it’s actually a very well thought out, cost efficient and positive policy.

So young people don’t have to be available for work, but they do have to use their freedom to be learning or training. This detail matters a lot and was excluded from most accounts of the policy. Miliband had a good idea, it won’t cost any more than we currently pay young people, but it means we are investing in young people’s potential and their futures.

This is just one example of how truths are being distorted and not just by the media, but also by the likes of the SNP, the Green Party, TUSC and many of the other increasingly authoritarian groups competing for votes from the Left. Yet when you think about how they have lied to you on fundamental issues, (and they really have) would you REALLY trust them with your vote? Would you REALLY have faith that these parties will suddenly become honest and develop some integrity if they ever got any power?  They won’t. Not one bit.

More recently, there was an intentional distortion of the parliamentary debate on the Infrastructure Bill and fracking, with the Green Party in particular being very critical of Labour’s fracking amendments, which involve regulations that were, after all, succesful: they were accepted by the Tories. Labour proposals considerably tighten environmental regulations. In the UK, drilling for shale gas is still at an exploratory stage, though the Conservatives had planned on fast-tracking the fracking process. The regulations will halt exploratory drilling going ahead in the UK for at least a year. Meanwhile, the Environmental Audit Committee continue with its inquiry, gathering the strong, credible evidence we need if there is to be a justifiable, democratic and fully accountable ban on fracking.

A ban would never have been successful at this stage, and Labour knew this. The other thing NONE of the of aggressive, electioneering “critics” consider, apparently, is that had the proposed moratorium actually scraped a successful yes vote, and that was unlikely, the Tories would most certainly NOT have abided by that outcome, leaving them free without amendments and thus no regulation at all, to go ahead and fast-track fracking. Labour got them to agree on considerable restrictions, which will tie the Tories’ hands at least until well after the election. That is a success.

Anyone with concerns regarding fracking and the legislation ought to be big and authentic enough to take their issues directly to the TORIES, they are the ones that introduced this Bill, after all, not Labour. Yet all we have seen is moralising accounts from rival left parties about how Labour should have done things. Labour have made a difference. Only the grandstanding, electioneering parties would and did turn a success into an opportunity for unreasonable criticism. And they do this every single time the Labour Party achieve or present something positive.

Evidence is much more important than rhetoric and gesture politics. Reasoned and evidenced debate, however, seems to have been sidelined by those who, rather than engaging in genuine politics, prefer gesturing and politicking, no matter what that costs us.

Another claim made recently by the Green Party, again, amongst others, is that “Labour voted to keep austerity”. That is such a blatant lie, because the vote, clearly stated on the Hansard record (13 Jan 2015: Column 738, Charter for Budget Responsibility), was pertaining strictly to the motion: “That the Charter for Budget Responsibility: Autumn Statement 2014 update, which was laid before this House on 15 December 2014, be approved.”

The charter sets out that the Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR) will continue to monitor our fiscal rules. As we know, the  OBR has written extremely critical economic forecasts and analysis of austerity and the Tory spending cuts, clearly expressing the risks that the Chancellor is running and the scale of the damage his strategy will inflict on what remains of our public services. It’s worth noting that whilst Ed Balls challenged Osborne, there was a curious silence from the  SNP and the Green Party. It was Ed Balls that challenged Osborne’s outrageous claims regarding “halving the deficit”- such a blatant lie, upon which even the exceedingly Conservative Spectator spluttered contempt. Or any of the other lies, some of which have already earned the Conservatives official rebukes from the Office for National Statistics. (See “bankruptcy lie” for example, on the hyperlinked article)

Furthermore, it’s about time that some MP’s, including Caroline Lucas, amongst others, recognised that there is a fundamental difference between the meaning of the word budget and the word austerity. Conflating the two for the purpose of politicking is unprincipled and dishonest.

It’s also worth noting from the same debate on the Hansard record:

13 Jan 2015 : Column 746

Caroline Lucas: Does the Chancellor agree with me that with the feeble and inconsistent opposition coming from the Labour Front Bench, there is a very good reason for seeing the SNP, the Greens and Plaid as the real opposition on this issue because we are clear and consistent about the fact that austerity is not working?

Mr Osborne: That shows why we want the hon. Lady’s party in the TV debates.

Yes, I just bet they do, to collaborate with the Tories in attacking and undermining the Labour Party, not the Coalition, who are, after all, the ones responsible for introducing austerity measures. I don’t imagine for a moment that Osborne values further challenges to his outrageous claims of efficacy regarding austerity measures. What is very evident when you read through this debate, is that Ed Balls and a couple of other Labour MPs presented the ONLY challenges to Osborne on this matter, just to reiterate.

10940505_767712909964906_6225427822143651262_nThere’s a clear gap between professed principles and their application amongst the parties that claim to be “real socialists”.  How can it be principled or moral (or “socialist” for that matter) to collaborate with the Tories in attempting to damage, smear and discredit the only viable option of removing the Tories from Office in May? Bearing in mind that many people are suffering profoundly, some have died as a consequence of Conservative-led policies, we can see what the Green Party’s priorities actually are, here. They don’t include the best interests of citizens and consideration of their well-being, that’s for sure.

There is a big difference between being moral and being moralistic. Being moral means that we know what is right and wrong, what is fair and what is unfair, and so on. Being moral means we take responsibility for ourselves. We extend our morality to others, it shapes how we relate to them, our esteem of others and respect. It tends to frame democratic relationships

Being moralistic means we impose on others our own definitions. We tell others what is right and wrong, we define those things for them. Being moral is also about being authentic, being moralistic is often inauthentic and hypocritical. It’s more about control and overburdening others with  responsibility, whilst restricting their choices, than genuine morality. Moralising shapes how we interact with others too, forming power imbalances and inequalities.

We can use this dichotomy to explore political parties and democracy. The Tories often talk about morality, they are a moralistic party that impose what they think is right on everyone else. We know how that has worked out this past five years and it’s got nothing to do with right and wrong, nor is it even remotely related to fairness or social justice. Tory moralising is about control and subjugation of the poorest, liberation and freedom of the wealthiest. That’s what the Tories are all about.They don’t possess any moral core themselves, which is evident in the sleaze and corruption that they tend to leave in their wake.

Labour are moral. This is evident in policies which are coherent, embedding human rights and equality principles. There’s an integrity evident in their social policies, because they reflect core values that Labour have always held, regardless of who has been party leader. They  impose a legal framework of moral codes that establish decent, civilised conduct. Labour’s policies accommodate democracy, equality, diversity and meet a broad array of social needs. In debate, the Labour party are generally rational and reasoned, rather than emotive and judgemental. They favour a learning approach – which is progressive – it’s about development, rather than imposing dogma on the population.

It’s evident that the Green Party are moralisers too. They criticise Labour, often imposing their view of what Labour should do. Meanwhile, the Tories are destroying the country and people’s lives. Even a cursory glance at the Green manifesto indicates plainly that it is a set of policies from idealising moralists, rather than a meaningful democratic representation of the whole population and a balanced reflection of their varied needs.

For example, the universal basic income that the Green Party propose – will it be paid to millionaires as well as the poorest? How would that address inequality – an issue which the Green Party claims to be concerned with? How will it contribute to a so-called steady-state, zero growth economy?

How does banning page three, but legalising prostitution and the sex industry, which is also about economically exploited women being economically exploited, reflect any joined-up thinking? Inconsistency and incoherence.

It’s more dogma.

Think very carefully about what you are voting for. Look for the facts and truth to inform that decision, because in such bleak times, it’s easy to cling to a populist, superficial, dressed-up promise of better things than the Tories offer, but easy fixes don’t exist. Look for coherence, depth and consistency in the narratives being proffered. And look for evidence. You will see that once you look below the surface of false claims, false promises and electioneering, there’s a big difference between moral policies (they tend to be democratic) and moralising ones (they tend to be authoritarian).

14301012075_2454438e62_o (1)Many thanks to Robert Livingstone for his outstanding pictures.