In a letter to the Guardian this week, Michael Meacher, the Labour MP for Oldham West and Royton, reminded readers of a few pertinent facts about what he called "Tory yarns":
Osborne promised in 2010 to eliminate the structural deficit by 2015, but it now stands at £92bn;
he reduced the £97.3bn deficit of 2013-14 by £7.1bn in 2014-15, but expects us to believe he will eliminate it completely by 2017-18, reducing it by £15bn this year, £36bn next year, then £27bn , then a further £17bn.
Since Darling`s reduction of the deficit, "Osborne`s austerity budgets have reduced the deficit by £26bn in three years".
If he pushes through futher cuts, the economy, now only growing at 0.3%,will cease to grow at all.
Shouldn`t facts like these be the ones being emphasised by the candidates for the leadership, rather than bickering between themselved about which one of them can meet the demands of both the "aspirational middle" and of business? The point is that Labour needs to be opposing the Tories constantly. They failed to challenge them back in 2010 and the result was that most voters believed the Tory propaganda about the economic crash being the result of Labour`s mismanagement. If they fail to challenge myths about the Tories` "long-term economic plan" now, blatant untruths about Labour`s policies will again become the key element underlying the Tories` attempts to win again in 2020. The more the Labour government`s overspending, despite the fact that it built schools and hospitals, is seen as an example of Labour`s incompetence by the candidates, the more it will be remembered by voters, especially with the full weight of the Tory party`s propaganda machine behind it. Imagine what the moderate idea, originally proposed by those lefty revolutionaries, the Lib Dems, of a "mansion tax" will become, after a few weeks of Tory spin! They won`t even have to think of a slogan, as Burnham and the others stress how it`s indicative of the "politics of envy". For goodness sakes, it`s merely a sensible extension of council tax, and would cost the owners of these homes, most of them in London, around £3-5,000 annually, an amount almost certainly exceeded by the increase every year in the house`s price! The candidates are providing the fodder for the Tory propaganda instead of exposing the Tory leadership as hypocrits, and standing up for a fair society.
How many of the would-be leaders of the Labour party are focussing their message on the need to expose the Tories for what they are? Is there not an urgent need to challenge their nonsense about "compassionate" and "one-nation" Toryism? The latest report of the Office of National Statistics shows that at some point between 2010 and 2013, 19.3 million persons had an income below 60% of the national median! The party of "aspiration" for all, as Tories now are ludicrously claiming? Within weeks of becoming Education Secretary in 2010, Michael Gove scrapped the Education Maintenance Allowance! How many thousands of young peoples` aspirations were ended at a stroke? Labour needs to challenge the Tory party`s hypocrisy now, before it is too late.
Labour must never stop accepting that this country`s population believes in social justice; that means fairness for all, that the UK`s position of 28th out of 34 in the OECD`s equality league table is a disgrace, that tax avoidance costing up to £40bn annually needs more employees at HMRC, not 20,000 job cuts which the Tories have imposed.
There is a real danger that, given the policies proposed by the candidates, Labour will lose yet more of its core support; it is the party of the "wealth creators" as long as it never forgets who the real creators of wealth are, the workers who currently enable many bosses to be renumerated to the tune of 150 times the pay of their average workers.
With all respect to Michael Meacher, hopes for Labour`s future should not lie in his letters to the media, but at the moment he, at least, is showing what is needed. Shame the same cannot be said for the candidates!