I may be being a little unfair but reading Philip Milton's letter commenting on my article (see earlier post) reminds me of Denis Healey's famous quote. When referring to an attack on him by Geoffrey Howe, Healey responded - " it was like being savaged by a dead sheep".
But to address his substantive point about the state of the economy in 2010, he, like all his fellow Tories continue to perpetuate the idea that Labour's economic policy was to blame for all our current economic woes. This has been politically astute - if you repeat a lie often enough it gains currency and acceptance. What is clear is that most objective observers have a somewhat different view. I quote below an extract from William Keegan's article in the Observer last August where he refers to an article in the Oxford Review of Economic Policy whose author paints a much more realistic picture of Labour's economic record. In particular Philip should note the final sentence - "The line that the Labour government was responsible for leaving a disastrous fiscal position which requires great national sacrifice to put right is pure spin,"
What Philip also needs to accept is that Labour was taking the right action to respond to the recession between 2008 and 2010 and that Coalition policies have been responsible for holding the recovery back and leave us facing the prospect of more economic woe in the years to come.
"I strongly recommend the spring issue of the Oxford Review of Economic Policy. It covers the economic record of the 1997-2010 Labour government in considerable and balanced detail, warts and all. The chapter of particular relevance to the austerity policy is the one by the economist Simon Wren-Lewis, who is widely respected in the profession, and who played a notable role in the famous "five tests" study published in 2003 – which ended in the conclusion that Britain should not join the eurozone. Wren-Lewis finds that fiscal policy (taxation and spending) was actually too tight in the early years of that administration, overcompensated in the middle period, and failed to correct sufficiently in the final years.
But in the face of the great recession, the supposed benefits of tighter policy in the latter years would have been small: "The debt-to-GDP ratio in 2007 was lower than its level in 1997, and the net borrowing requirement was fairly close to a neutral 2% deficit, so it cannot be said that fiscal policy was seriously deficient over this period."
Wren-Lewis concludes that, with the onset of the recession, "the Labour government had two key fiscal decisions to make: by how much, and by what means, to try and stimulate the economy … and how quickly to plan to correct the deficit caused by the recession and any countercyclical action it took … my own view is that the government was absolutely right to try to use fiscal policy to mitigate the impact of the recession, and it was also right to plan to correct the deficit relatively slowly."
This rigorous academic observes that is it is unfortunate, but hardly surprising, that the Labour record of this time has become highly politicised. "The line that the Labour government was responsible for leaving a disastrous fiscal position which requires great national sacrifice to put right is pure spin," he says."
.. or read it online at http://www.northdevonjournal.co.uk/need-economy-benefits/story-20339435-detail/story.html
Thanks to the North Devon Journal for letting me respond - good to see they are prepared to provide a balanced view!
As the dust settles on last week’s local elections, time to take stock here in North Devon. The big losers were the Lib Dems who now only have 1 seat in North Devon. Labour has made some useful progress, especially in Ilfracombe and Braunton, and we significantly increased our overall share of the vote.
The challenge for Labour is to build on this performance. We have to establish ourselves as a credible representative of those who share a progressive view of society and share our values of fairness and justice for all. The Lib Dems will have a hard job defending their record in 2015 and there will be many who will be looking for an alternative voice. We have to be better at explaining our position to the people of North Devon and become ever more engaged with community concerns. It’s good to see as a first step to that end, we will be holding an open meeting to look at Labour’s policy alternatives – specifically on Housing and the Living Wage.
The time has come to be clear about what our policy priorities in government would be – it’s time to be bold and show how a Labour government would be radically different to the Coalition.
The latest Lib Dem ‘Focus’ leaflet arrived this morning with yet more boasts about Lib Dems putting ‘cash back in your pocket’. What they don’t say is that while personal tax allowances have gone up, a whole raft of working benefits and child benefit have effectively been cut.
Based on figures from the Institute for Fiscal Studies, it is calculated that since 2010 families on average have lost over £800 a year as a result of the Coalition’s tax and benefit changes and not 'gained' £700 as the Lib Dems claim.
In addition, according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 2.4 million families on low incomes will pay on average £138 more in council tax this year as a result of cuts to council tax benefit and 660,000 people will lose an average of £728 per year or £14 a week as a result of the ‘bedroom tax’, according to figures from the IFS.
The Lib Dems need to tell the whole story. But then they wouldn’t without having to admit that their policies are hitting ordinary families here in North Devon hard while the wealthiest enjoy huge tax breaks.
They are also claiming a record pensions rise – again Lib Dems - tell the whole truth. This increase just reflects the changes in the Consumer Price Index since 2010 and in fact this year’s rise is because the last Labour government introduced a guaranteed 2.5% minimum rise for pensioners.
Finally – they can’t break the habit of saying it’s a 2 horse race here in North Devon. These 2 horses are from the same stable – it makes little difference if they’re wearing different colours – they’re both on the same disastrous course. Back either of them and you’ll get the same outcome. It’s time to break with the past and back a new runner – vote for your Labour candidates on May 2nd.
Leafleting finished in Barnstaple North and South today – great effort and thanks to all who helped. On the last road a man came to his gate waving the leaflet and called me across. “Is that you?” he said pointing to the photo. I said yes and waited for a comment. He said “ Good luck – we need to get rid of that *****, Greenslade!” Nice to finish on an encouraging note!
The North Devon Journal published the candidate details today – had to be amused about my fellow candidate in Barnstaple North, the Communist party’s Gerry Sables, remarking that he considered the Labour Party in North Devon ‘lazy’. A bit rich coming from a party, who unlike Labour, can only field one candidate in these elections! And by the way Gerry – where were you when we joined the health workers lobby against regional pay plans at North Devon Hospital in the autumn? Too busy plotting the revolution at The Reform in Pilton?
Meanwhile we have the aforementioned Brian Greenslade in his Journal piece bemoaning the interest his opponents have in his seat while he lists the work he’s done for the division. Brian - you receive a decent amount of cash to represent Barnstaple North – as a full time Councillor we’d expect nothing less than full time commitment to your patch.
Thanks to everyone who has come out to help in Barnstaple North this week - over 4000 deliveries completed! We have some small areas to complete so if anyone can lend a hand - please get in touch. Also in Barnstaple South and Ilfracombe help would be appreciated too.
Re my earlier comments on the Lib Dem candidate for Braunton, we've now received her 'glossy' handout and she clearly shows her true colours here - all the more strange that she didn't on her other communication! There is however, the same denial that cuts in Devon have anything to do with the Lib Dems - they and the Tories are in this together and no pretence can cover up the truth that if you vote Lib Dem here it serves to give support to the disastrous economic strategy being followed by the Coalition. Join Labour and help us build a real progressive alternative here in North Devon.
I've just seen the latest 'message' from the Lib Dem candidate for Braunton - Liz Spear. I searched in vain for any indication that she is the Lib Dem candidate but there's not a single mention of her party name. I can only surmise that she's too embarrassed to be associated with them - hardly surprising since they have voted time and again to back the very cuts that she's now campaigning against! Come off it Liz - how about being straight with the voters - say who you're standing for and stop hiding behind the spurious Focus banner! Or you can come and join a really progressive party.
As promised link to Pam and Toby Ebert's letter is here http://www.thisisnorthdevon.co.uk/Lots-pain-poor/story-18732922-detail/story.html#axzz2QuSz38vD.
Local election campaign now in full swing. In Barnstaple North, we have finished leafleting in Pilton Ward and move on to Yeo Valley tomorrow - Ilfracombe and Barnstaple South campaigns also going well. North Devon Journal published our local manifesto today - http://www.thisisnorthdevon.co.uk/Devon-County-Council-elections-Labour-Party/story-18687285-detail/story.html#axzz2QjwX0400 is the link to read it on-line. Also another great letter in the Journal from members Pam and Toby Ebert - I'll post the link when it appears on line.
Finally, interesting to see the Green Party candidate for Ilfracombe has dropped out - and with no Lib Dem on the ballot paper , our candidate Marianna Holdsworth, is the obvious progressive choice on May 2nd!
While leafleting in Pilton in the Barnstaple North division today ( Friday) - I worked out that this is the19th local election campaign I'd been involved in! More importantly, I'm really pleased that the North Devon party has been able to mount a substantial campaign this time. With the Coalition parties fortunes tied to the policy failures of the last 3 years - there is a real chance of making significant progress this time. There are many disillusioned tactical voters in North Devon and these elections are a chance for those who may have 'voted Lib Dem to keep the Tory out' in the past, to give Labour their support. If you want to help with the campaign in anyway do get in touch through the contact page of the website.