International recognition of what we always knew: ‘inherited mess’ = myth

The Observer published a very interesting article on Sunday, in which its senior economic correspondent, William Keegan, noted that two economists of world renown have recently assessed the economic performance of the last Labour government and come to similar conclusions:

The ‘inherited mess’ – that most worn-out of Tory accusations against the Labour party – is a complete myth.

Since that touches on one of the seminal posts of this blog, dating back over a year, and one which has been the subject of much attempted-but-failed derision by Tory trolls visiting this blog, I’m going to indulge in a little bit of ‘I told you so’.

Keegan quotes economist Simon Wren-Lewis – the economist whose intervention kept the UK out of the euro – in the Oxford Review of Economic Policy:

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.

In my post The Myth of the Inherited Mess in May 2012, I wrote:

In fact, although not shown on this graph, the debt when Labour took power – the ‘inherited mess’ from the previous Tory government! – was higher than at any time during Labour’s tenure until the 2008 global crash.

Keegan quotes Wren again:

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

I wrote:


Keegan observes:

The difference is that the fracture to my shoulder was the result of an accident, whereas the austerity policy was no accident, but deliberately inflicted on an economy that had been gently recovering from the financial crisis.

I wrote:

They want to fool you, so they can continue wrecking our great country and siphoning our money into the pockets of the so-called elite who pay into Tory party coffers (and Tory ministers’ bank accounts, it appears).

I also wrote:

Anyone who knows me very well will know that I talk a lot about the ‘Big Lie’ concept. In a nutshell, this says that the bigger a lie is, and the more emphatically it’s spouted, the more people are likely to think, ‘Well, they wouldn’t dare say it, and especially not like that, if it weren’t true!’ But of course, it isn’t true – that’s the whole point. As someone said to me the other day, a plausible lie, shouted loud enough and often enough, usually gets to be taken for the truth.’

Keegan comments,

It has to be conceded, however, that the coalition’s judgment that it could fool a lot of the people a lot of the time with this blatant misrepresentation was all too shrewd.

While Wren-Lewis called it “unfortunate, but hardly surprising, that the Labour record of this time has become highly politicised.”

As I pointed out in 2012, the ‘Big Lie’ on Labour’s handling of the economy is used to justify the equally big lie that austerity is the right path to recovery, when it fact it merely intensifies and extends the economic misery for millions.

Keegan calls George Osborne “the most dangerous chancellor of my career” – a sentiment with which I would wholeheartedly concur. I’m not alone. Keegan quotes new US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, in a tacit but unmistakable condemnation of the Tories’ economic policies:

While long-term fiscal policy requires tough decisions, we knew we could not cut our way to prosperity.

In 2012 I wrote:

Tory spending cuts, even without a global ‘meltdown’, are pushing debt up and making the debt-block fatter. Countries like the USA, who under Barack Obama took a positive approach to stimulate their economy, have experienced growth during the same period that we’ve increased debt and suffered recession. 

But the point of this post is not really to pat myself on the back, even though it’s nice to be proved right (though it would be much nicer not to have to be!).

The real point is this: nothing has changed.

In spite of a very, very minor economic upturn which (since the Tories are happy to blame bad weather for downturns) is probably due to nothing much more than the weather, the Tory ‘direction of travel’ has not changed at all.

In a period in which the cuts already made are beginning to bite, with millions in hardship because of the bedroom tax, cuts to benefits and decreasing wages pushing hundreds of thousands of children into poverty, and hundreds of thousands of disabled people joining them – the Tories are routinely speaking of ‘fat on the bone’ still to be cut.

Francis Maude and others have recently been interviewed on BBC Radio 4 stating that further welfare cuts are required to ‘balance the books’ and avoid the need for tax rises. Rhetoric about the ‘bloated’ welfare state and public sector is still commonplace.

And it’s all still based on a ‘Big Lie’ so big that the concept of ‘big’ is dwarfed by it.

The Tories still believe that they can “fool a lot of people a lot of the time with this blatant misrepresentation”.

But the word is out, and articles like that in the Observer represent a glimmer of light and of the hope of dispelling the blatant, cynical lie. Most of the media won’t, of course, carry it – they’ll continue to propagate the nonsense-myth, shamelessly.

So it’s up to us to use the tools and connections available to us to spread the word and combat the Big Lie with the far bigger Truth that will be far more powerful if it just reaches the ears of enough people. And it’s up to us not to grow weary or lose hope – or if we do, then to grit our teeth and keep fighting out of sheer, bloody-minded refusal to let the cancer grow unfought.


  1. Reblogged this on Vox Political and commented:
    Since the myth that Labour had mishandled the economy is something that Vox Political has tried to expose many times, this is an article we can support wholeheartedly.
    The truth is out: The Tories have lied extravagantly about the cause of the UK’s current economic woes. It follows that they are lying about the solution, and therefore every hardship that you or people you know have been forced to endure in the name of austerity is also based on a lie.
    They’ve taken billions of pounds away from people who desperately needed that money – many of them to survive. Many of those people are no longer with us now.
    All for the sake of a big lie.
    How does that make you feel?
    Spread the word, eh?

  2. my parents never trusted the tories years ago neither did i as they all lie to get the public to vote for them labour too have done the same over the years..but this government the coalision are the biggest liars from here to hell when they throw austerity at us the disabled and sick as well as working classes..billions of pounds have been taken away from us all..i am totally gutted this government can lie after lie not just that over 10,600plus people have died through them via DWP and ATOS the internet company saying people like me are fit when we aren,t this government are guilty of manslaughter .

  3. What politicians want to create is irreversible change because when you leave office someone changes it back again. Estelle Morris

      1. I read this and your right- stop anybody from reversing our changes. Of course, a strategy to leave such a a mess, financial and social that it would be near impossible to rectify helps!

  4. Carole Frost reply:
    Again, this only reinforces my belief that this government is hell bent on the survival of the fittest (richest), by using eugenics to get rid of the elderly, disabled, young, homeless, and the poor! In fact, genocide!

  5. Government policy hasn’t changed since 1979. This sort of blaming is angels dancing on pinheads.

  6. Along with many others I’ve written often about the raft of Tory Lies, here there is independent evidence of Osborne’s rationale for the ongoing Economic Cuts to the Economy and perhaps more importantly “The ‘inherited mess’ – that most worn-out of Tory accusations against the Labour party – is a complete myth.

    Here is the latest post by The SKWAWKBOX International recognition of what we always knew: ‘inherited mess’ = myth.

  7. As someone – with little or no knowledge of finance and GDP etc (probably one of those that Govt spin of all shades is aimed at) I can find a couple of cracks here that don’t hold water: 1) Was it Liam Byrne who now left the infamous note which proclaimed, ‘Sorry, the money’s run out’ ? He must have had at least some grasp of the financial situation and 2) why can’t/won’t the hierarchy of the Labour Party elucidate the past position as clearly as you and your friends appear to have? Surely it don’t take 2 to 3 years for the Observer to round up a couple of economists to spill the beans ? On your general point I am in much agreement. A friend at my local betting shop provided me with a copy of a letter which he had sent to The Times (sigh) months before the “crash”, spelling out exactly how, why and when said ‘crash’ was going to happen. He never got a reply but he was right. On the even wider point of trust in politics in the UK there is a simple accusation which sums things up: There – at present – can be no trust in anyone at Westminster whatsoever. I leave out no-one or no one party. They are all entirely corrupt. Even so-called radical left wingers. They all stink. A conference (perhaps running to a week or 10 days) needs to be arranged for all those with tales of such corruption being allowed to speak their minds (with proof). The list would almost endless. Rant ends. Thanks for your work however; you offer an entirely new perspective on important matters.

    1. Thanks for the compliment! On the point of why Labour don’t elucidate – that’s a matter of great frustration to me, too. However, I understand it – can you imagine what Cameron in PMQs and the Tories/media generally would make of it? “Labour in denial!”, “What, no debt?!” etc. It’s the kind of truth that almost has to percolate out from people not in the opposition. You do hear a Labour MP occasionally voice some of these facts – and be almost entirely ignored by the media, show presenter etc.

      As for Byrne – well, personally I think it was a stupid, stupid joke for which I’d happily have him flogged. But you also need to remember that he’s a Blairite, on the right of the party and someone who gives credence to the whole ‘structural deficit’ myth in the first place. He would look at the position and only see overspending, when others would see under-taxing (which doesn’t necessarily mean raising tax rates, just enforcing what you already have properly). There are two ways to balance the books, and one of them – cutting – kills economic recovery.

      Just for the record, I know a few MPs personally with a great deal of principle and integrity – and not just on the Labour benches. But it’s easy to understand why you and others feel how you do.

      1. Re ‘that’ note.

        Look back at Reginald Maudling when he was ousted as Chancellor he left a similar note for Callaghan. According to wiki:

        “Upon being forced out of the post by the election defeat, Maudling left a note to his successor, James Callaghan, simply stating “Good luck, old cock…. Sorry to leave it in such a mess.”

        The notes are a light-hearted ‘joke’ for the incoming CoE & had Phillip Hammond got that post as expected, he would have recognised it as such – sadly, the expenses thief, David Laws, got it instead & not only did he reveal the notes existence, he embellished it to give it an entirely different meaning.


  8. I never trust figures as they can be manipulated to support either party. In this case I suspect the considerable costs of Labours PFI initiatives and extra public sector pension liabilities have been usefully omitted.
    What we CAN count on is any parties pursuit of its own self interest which means staying in power.
    I can see how creating more debt helps Labour in this regard. Additional, non-essential public sector jobs and more people drawn into the benefits net extends their voting base. Labour could therefore be returned to power regardless of performance. However I cannot see how debt helps the Tories anywhere near as much…..
    Can someone explain this to me?

  9. Dear Sky, with due respect to you and the MPs you know (and I’ve spoken at length to some ‘radicals’ they are all corrupt. Without exception. Let me expand. Should someone go to them with irrefutable proof of the corruption that has stalked Westminster and SW1 generally for the past 10 years, (and still does) they will to a man (and women (sic) incidentally), blink; take a deep breath; and then carry on regardless. Why? because they’re all in it for themselves and, more importantly, their respective parties. They would rather see their constituents go down the tubes rather than (even one of) their ‘friends’ in SW1 and in Brussels. Their corruption lies – if I’ve not made myself clear – in their unwavering antagonism to those who they are required to represent rather than their own governing elite in times of crisis. EG NHS, Leveson . The corruption apparent (and provable) in the latter via politicians (of all stripes); journalists; police officers; even campaigners: the MSM; the judiciary, runs so deep that it’s impossible to plumb. If you’ve got a couple of hours…………………. I think it was said in the backwash to the greatest crime ever committed i.e. Nazi Germany (paraphrase) “It is not the job of Government to keep their electorate in check, but the job of the electorate to hold their Government in check” We are simply not doing that because ‘we’ don’t know the full extent of their duplicity. That which we do know should have us flooding the streets because the whole scenario appears remarkably and chillingly familiar.

    1. I suspect you’ve met the wrong ones and extrapolated from there. I know a number of MPs who are committed to their constituents even when it has a negative impact on their careers. Not many, perhaps, but some – and who are pushing for the right conclusions on Leveson, the NHS etc. That said, the system is certainly set up to try to squeeze them all into conformity – I just don’t share your view that all without exception succumb.

      1. Sky, I would be very interested if you knew any MP, of any stripe, who wanted the truth to be told about Leveson and the matters it is enquiring into. If you are able to reply do not include any who have sat on the Culture, Media and Sports committee. I am informed (by letter) that that does not come within their remit.(!)

      2. Not sure what you mean about remits, mate, as I’d have thought Leveson was smack in the middle. But yes, I know a few – none off the top of my head are in the CMSC.

      3. I thought exactly the same – but, as I say, I was advised otherwise. I’ll leave it there.

    2. I’m sure it’s blindly obvious but can you explain what MSM stands for? I’m afraid these TLAs leave me all of a muddle…

  10. I;m so glad you blogged this, Steve. I wanted to do something on Keegan’s article but have been busy with personal stuff. Thanks so much for bringing it to attention.

  11. Yes Krugman articulated his case well. So well that it was easy to forget that economists -yes even Nobel prize winning ones, are notorious for disagreeing with each-other and getting it wrong most of the time. I ask myself if government spending is the key to prosperity, why did we get into such a mess?
    Meanwhile I read articles about how much the coalition is really cutting? Figures range from tiny percentages that “are only symbolic” to ” oh dear, the coalition is actually spending and borrowing more than the last government”
    I’m getting a bit confused now ….

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