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
WHEN THIS GOVERNMENT AND ITS REPRESENTATIVES SAY ‘THE MESS WE INHERITED’ – AS THEY OH SO SURELY WILL – THEY ARE LYING: IT IS A ‘BIG (FAT!) LIE’!…
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.
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.’
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.