Thursday 2 March 2017

Jeremy Corbyn has come out fighting on the economy, but is it too late in the day for Labour?

Jeremy Corbyn landed one of his best blows yet at Prime Minister's Questions yesterday. In response to yet another display of tiresome evasive waffling from May that culminated in some ludicrous rhetoric about how Labour would "bankrupt Britain" Corbyn's riposte was to point out that since 2010 the Tories have created more new public debt than every single Labour government in history combined.

It's extraordinary that it's taken Labour so damned long to attack the Tories on their woeful economic track record, but at last Corbyn has finally landed a punch, which although late in the day, is still more than can be said for his predecessor Ed Miliband.

By 2015 it was absolutely clear that George Osborne's austerity agenda was failing to deliver the complete elimination of the budget deficit that he had promised that it would. Instead of blasting the Tories for the failure of their headline promise from 2010, Labour decided to actually ape Osborne's ineptitude with their "austerity lite" electoral strategy and even allowed the Tories to reframe their woeful failure to eliminate the deficit as a glorious success with their brass necked "we've cut the deficit by a third" bragging!

The problem for Labour of course is that the right-wing fairy tale that the Tories are better with the economy than Labour is almost completely ubiquitous. The myth of Tory economic competence is one of the many ridiculously counter-factual economic fairy stories that are treated as unquestionable axioms by the mainstream media, which means that Labour will always have to fight incredibly hard to get their message across.

The strategy devised by Ed Balls was to not bother to even argue it, and to instead weakly imitate George Osborne's ineptitude. The two Eds clearly believed that the truth could never beat the right-wing propaganda, so they threw away the 2015 General Election by offering the public a staggeringly uninspirational "austerity lite" agenda.

The actual evidence is very clear indeed. Since the 1940s Labour's average annual borrowing has been significantly lower than the Tories. When it comes to repaying debts, Labour have repaid over five times what the Tories have (in 2014 prices). In 2015 the Tories blatantly failed to live up to their promise of eliminating the budget deficit, and all of the extra borrowing they've been doing since 2010 means that they've created more new public debt than every Labour government in history combined!

We can obviously never know for sure, but it's surely a possibility that if Labour had made George Osborne's economic incompetence a central theme of the 2015 General Election, the Tories might not have won a majority government, and Britain wouldn't be edging ever closer to a disastrous Tory nuclear Brexit.

It's obviously too late for "what ifs?", but one thing is for sure. If Labour can't begin to land the punches when it comes to Tory economic ineptitude then they really don't have a hope of winning elections for the foreseeable future.

The Tories promised that their harsh austerity agenda would have totally eliminated the budget deficit by 2015. Now they're admitting that there's no way that it'll still be over £20 billion in 2021. Over eleven years to achieve what they promised to do in less than five, and the accumulation of more new debt than every Labour government in history combined.

If Labour can't even make their criticisms stick when the Tories keep handing them such easy ammunition, they don't have a hope do they?

The only slight glimmer of hope is that someone close to Corbyn has cottoned on to the fact that the Tories are actually incredibly weak on the economy, using mind-numbingly stupid platitudes ("living within our means", "bankrupt Britain" ...) to cover up their ineptitude. It may be years too late for Labour to come out fighting on the economy, but at least Corbyn's actually fighting now, rather than meekly surrendering and actually endorsing George Osborne's economic incompetence like his predecessors did.

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