Building a campaign against Tory cuts – here is our plan


9:20 am - July 16th 2010

by Sunny Hundal    


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If the left does not and cannot use the Tory ideological war against the state to organise, mobilise and strengthen ourselves, then frankly we may as well give up politics.

The anger, and the hunger to do something, is obviously there. I’ve lost count of how many mailing lists I’ve been included on to try and organise a response.

Are we approaching the most fertile and interesting time since the Iraq war in activism and ideas? It feels like it. But lots needs to be done.

Yesterday a small group of us met in central London to discuss where we could take this, and I’m reporting from the meeting as well as inviting you to get involved.

1. We need a narrative in response.
I don’t think “no cuts at all” works simply because it won’t resonate with the public. Sure, it will resonate with the Labour base (some of them) but if we want to turn public opinion against the Coalition’s cuts then we have to start with a proposition they won’t be immediately sceptical of. I wrote about this yesterday for Labour Uncut.

My suggestion? The Cuts Won’t Work – a slogan used by a new website set up by two activists.

The advantage of the narrative is that it is forward looking. It isn’t just about protecting services and can easily include the main proposition: that the Tories are wrecking the economy and destroying the lives of future generations.

In addition to the main message you can add a secondary slogan that fits in with your specific agenda (on protecting front-line services), about unemployment or the green economy.

2. Start collecting information for the fightback.

This splits into three categories.

(a) Where the cuts taking place? The TUC are running ‘cuts watch‘, as is the Guardian. There’s also a blog called ‘A Thousand Cuts‘ – which is collating all this information and adding more. If you want to get involved, email the author.

(b) How is it affecting people? These will be published on Libcon. We would like to hear people’s personal stories on how they are affected by the cuts. ITV have started a series called ‘Cuts – the Inside Story‘. Can someone keep an eye out on the series and grab those videos? I’d like to publish those on LC too.

(c) What is happening in response? What activism, local campaigns and demos are taking place? How are people being lobbied and what local successes are there? We’ll be covering this on LC too.

3. Create the infrastructure
Our longer term plan is to build a comprehensive online information bank for activists (and separately) the public. You should be able to find out where the cuts are taking place, who they are affecting, and how they’re wrecking local communities.

We’re planning a separate website focused on this, in addition to all the collating done by different blogs. It should offer people information they can distribute to others, help on starting local campaigns and making it easier for them to connect with other campaigners.

Let a thousand flowers bloom. We want ordinary people to start their own campaigns, and yet be plugged into this national network that will help them and connect them.

4. Turn around the narrative.
Most of the mainstream media, especially the BBC, will ignore how the Tory ideological war is affecting people. They won’t bother will original journalism, nor will want to look too harsh on the government.

It is our job to highlight these stories and spread them. It’s our job to challenge the media and illustrate how this is affecting people across the country.

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Economy ,Fight the cuts

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Reader comments


1. Flowerpower

Interesting.

There is perhaps one additional factor you will need to consider. The government is aware that there will be individuals within the public sector bureaucracy and within local government who will want to make the cuts as painful as possible in order to feed your campaign.

The former MP Paul Goodman flagged this up before the election at ConHome and much thought has been given to the problem since. Here’s what Goodman warned:

This is a true story.

A friend of mine recently met a Labour-appointed and Labour-supporting Quangocrat.

“Is the Government asking you to make cuts in your budget,” asked my friend, “and if so, what are you doing?”

“It’s very difficult,” the Quangocrat replied. “Obviously, we don’t want to make cuts in our budget. But my first duty is to the Ministers who appointed me. I’m drawing up a plan for savings that won’t make headlines – a recruitment freeze, more early retirements, back-office savings, that sort of thing. No cuts to politically-sensitive projects with a high public profile.”

“And if a new Conservative Government asks you to make cuts in your budget,” asked my friend, “what will you do?”

“It’s very simple,” the Quangocrat replied. “Obviously, we don’t want to make cuts in our budget. And my first duty is to the organisation I serve. I’m drawing up a plan for savings that will be made in a way that the public will notice.”

“Cuts to politically-sensitive projects with a high-profile?” asked my friend.

“In a way that the public will notice,” repeated the Quangocrat.

The Coalition has a plan up its sleeve to make Labour pay the political price of this kind of opportunism.

I’m not going to tell you too much, but let’s say you should be prepared to find the Tories (yes, even Cameron & Osborne) are even more vociferous opponents than you will be of ‘cuts’ that are targeted on the most vulnerable by politically motivated bureaucrats and councillors.

Your suggestion: nick someone else’s suggestion!

The Cuts Won’t Work website is very good actually, even though I personally support them.

3. Flowerpower

I think there’s a missing ‘don’t’ there cj.

At least I hope there is!

4. Luis Enrique

I don’t think “no cuts at all” works

If you don’t want the left to campaign against all cuts, somecuts need to be endorsed / accepted. But how’s that going to happen? Are the TUC, The Guardian, and left-wing activists ever going to identify cuts that they agree with? I know that there are some cuts the left would like (Trident, ID cards etc. etc.) but I suspect that any left-wing opposition to Tory cuts is going to turn into de facto opposition to all cuts.

You are looking for examples of how the cuts are “wrecking local communities” you are not looking for examples of how cuts are, say, trimming bloated bureaucracies, giving taxpayers better value for money, and getting the state out of things it ought to be into.

5. Luis Enrique

still, this is politics, which means it’s quite normal to say “we are not opposed to all cuts” while in practice opposing all cuts

Problem for you is that the government has a mandate for cuts.

Luis, “the left” is not going to agree on which cuts to endorse because “the left” is a vague term that in reality reffers to millions of people with differing viewpoints, interests and knowledge. So the more intelligent question is:

“Are the TUC, The Guardian, and left-wing activists ever going to identify cuts that they agree with?”

For which you’ve already suggested the answer – tridant, id cards etc, and I’d add subsidies to business to that as well.

I know that there are some cuts the left would like (Trident, ID cards etc. etc.)

Might be tricky for Labour to run with these though too quickly, given that both were an integral part of their manifesto.

In the 2010/11 Operating Framework for the NHS Andy Burnham said that there must be £15-20bn of “efficiency savings” (ie cuts, but note the range) in the NHS. He also froze the “national tariff” (every treatment in the NHS is paid by the tariff, hence this is the source of income for hospitals). Freezing the tariff means a cut at the rate of inflation (since the same work has to be done for less). Since inflation in healthcare is twice that of CPI this is a big cut. These were the plans for the financial year starting around the time of the election.

What did Cameron do? He said “I will cut the deficit, not the NHS”. What does “no cuts” mean to you? He said “there will be year-on-year real terms increases in the NHS budget”.

So has the national tariff been unfrozen? No. So what’s happened for this “real term increase” in funding? What about the “efficiency savings”? Well they are now being quoted as £20bn, ie £5bn more than Labour.

Cameron has broken the electoral pledges that arguably de-toxified the Tory brand sufficiently to make them the largest party. We must make these facts more widely known.

#6 Richard.

“Problem for you is that the government has a mandate for cuts.”

Please define “mandate”?

The government has no mandate for the NHS cuts because as I have mentioned in #9 Conservatives said that there would be no cuts in the ringfenced NHS budget.

11. Luis Enrique

Planeshift,

I find that a pretty odd response, in the context of an OP about what “the left” is going to do to oppose cuts. Why not tell Sunny that “the left” is millions of people with differing viewpoints etc.?

and OK, yes as I said there are some cuts the left can point to and say “we’d cut that”, but still in practice it still looks very much to me like all the actual Tory cuts are going to be opposed, leading to what is effectively a “no cuts at all” position (apart from hypothetically Trident, ID cards etc.)

[ your addition of "subsidies to business", does illustrate your point that the left contains differing viewpoints, because as I recall from, for example, the left's reaction to the Sheffield Forgemasters' loan being rescinded, most of the left actually like "subsidies to business" ]

12. Luis Enrique

I’ll try an make my point clearer.

Sunny argues that voters will not respond positively to a position of “no cuts at all”.

If you accept that he’s right, that means that the left has to be seen to be taking a different position, endorsing “some cuts”

If the left’s position is in effect: “we oppose all the cuts the Tories are actually making” (apart from a small set of things [ID card, Trident] some of which the Tories are not cutting, and some of which they are cutting but were actually Labour plans in the first place) is that sufficiently different from a position of “no cuts at all” to be responded positively to by voters?

If it’s true that voters really won’t like a position of “no cuts at all” then perhaps voters want to see “the left” endorse some Tory cuts because, aside from things like ID cards, voters think the state has gotten to big an needs trimming back in places. If voters don’t think that, then perhaps Sunny is wrong about “no cuts at all” being unpopular. I am asking whether the left is ever going to identify Tory cuts it endorses. Is the left capable of “trimming back the state”? If it cannot do that, then it’s going to find itself effectively holding a “no cuts at all” position which Sunny argues voters will not like.

But one piece of this narrative missing (primarily because only Plaid/SNP) proposed it, is the ability to pay down our deficit are a far longer time, and using growth/tax rises as a bigger factor in paying it down.

So bring the 50% income tax in at £100k

If we must have it, make the ‘first 10k tax free’ only available to those earning up to the national average

Get out of Afghanistan

Raise the minimum wage so us taxpayers have to stop subsidising Tesco’s poverty wages through tax credits

Invoke a higher VAT on luxury goods such as sports cars, caviar and what not.

Get behind the EU transaction tax more fully

Set up a people’s post bank, and set up a sovereign wealth fund with the profits made

To me, and I accept you may not be all Labour voters, but it seems all focused on doing best by Labour, not the left. It is a hobson’s choice to say ‘no cuts vs. which cuts’, it is about the proportion, depth and speed in which you cut the deficit, coupled with the society you want to build off the back of it.

New Labour have lost any semblance of moral right to make this case. The VAT debacle, where they abstained from a Plaid/SNP motion to stop the rise sums it up.

14. Flowerpower

Richard Blogger @ 9

Cameron has certainly not reneged on the pledge to maintain year-on-year real increases in the NHS budget. You really can’t call it a ‘cut’ every time a manager moves money from one budget heading to another to reallocate resources in a more sensible way. Ring-fencing means that the total budget is protected, not each line item.

Problem for you is that the government has a mandate for cuts.

Quite right. In the lead up to the election the Conervative Party where absolutely clear about the level of cuts that were required and where they would fall. The voters were extraordinarily impressed with their candour and rewarded their transparency by voting for them in record numbers giving the Conservative an overwhelming mandate to cut state spending in an unprecedented fashion.

Errr hold on a minute.

I appreciate Sunny means well but this is pretty arid stuff.

Where is the alternative narrative over cuts?

Where is properly costed alternatives to gutting the State?

Where are the suggestions for taxing the extraordinary accumulations of wealth – particularly unproductive property wealth- that have accrued over the last 13 years?

Where are the proposals for developing a real productive economy that can grow us out of our fiscal prblems?

You are caught inside the media-westminster-millbank bubble. It really has stunted your imagination and prevented you from considering anything vaguely radical.

Luis Enrique is right. You’re starting with selection bias which will scupper point 1. How many examples are lefty activists going to come up with of cuts that seemed fair and well-organised and impacted on the vulnerable as little as possible?

I would really like to see, for example, a real examination of those 700 school building projects on the BSF list. Forget for a moment whether or not the BSF as a whole was good value for money, just go through on a case by case basis and sort them into:

- immediately vital – children’s health/safety in imminent danger
- important for children’s wellbeing and education options
- would be nice
- frankly not necessary at the moment

Then we could get somewhere in opposing *some* of the cuts, because I don’t believe for a moment they’re all in group 1, any more than they’re all in group 4. The only person I know of doing anything like this at the moment is Fiona Millar and I’m not holding out for nonpartisan rigour.

It’s meaningless (and inaccurate) phrases like “gutting the State” which, if used, will ensure your campaign fails.

Total managed expenditure will still be 40% of GDP at the end of the process.
Under Labour’s March budget it would have been 42%.
In both cases still leaving us running an annual deficit, btw.

Now Labour can lie, will lie and is lying – hello Ed Balls – about the very small difference between what they proposed and what the ConDems are doing.
But you know that won’t work as a strategy. People aren’t stupid.

#16

BSF is a bad example to use because we could easily afford all the schools if the money wasn’t being ploughed into the free schools experiment. Whatever you think of lefties opposing all cuts in general, in this case it is uncontroversial to oppose all the BSF cuts.

However what you’re describing is effectively happening on a local level as local political groupings decide what their best chances of forcing a reversal are. Locally we are pushing for two schools in particular to be reinstated in BSF, although we would obviously prefer all 11 to be reinstated. However those 2 aren’t on the basis of need (although one happens to be the school which most desperately needs rebuilding, which is a safety as well as learning environment issue), the basis is that they were the closest to sign-off (a couple of weeks away, the only reason they were cancelled is the ink wasn’t dry on the contract).

19. Luis Enrique

How important is it for left-wing political movements to create the impression among voters that they are not “opposed to all cuts”? It may be that existing left-wing political movements are congenitally incapable of it.

Maybe Sunny just has to give up on his point 1, accept the fact that voters are going to stay sympathetic to the ConDem cuts and dislike the left’s inevitable response of blanket opposition for now, and wait for the ground to shift to a situation in which the left’s habitual position is more attractive. Maybe time would be better spent coming up with stronger set of positive proposals, as perhaps bubby would like @15.

I don’t know, all this political strategising is too hard for me: I don’t know where everybody gets their views from. Who the hell knows what shade of left-wing “narrative” voters are going to like best. And is anybody listening anyway?

If Labour were planning 5% cuts per annum and the ConDems are implementing 6%, then 5/6ths of each cut could be described as the ‘Labour cut’ and the other 1/6th as the ‘Tory premium’. Looks to me that the danger of keeping focused on the cuts would be that Labour is forced to take the flak for 5/6ths of the misery.

21. Sunder Katwala

The cuts won’t work” is a good slogan. The site seems a good one: on a first glance, that is largely because it immediately recognises that “there is an alternative” is the crucial ground over which to win public debates against the claim that these specific decisions are unavoidable and inevitable. So the premise for an argument is that, in any circumstances, there are always a range of political and policy choices about what to do. That is what the government most wants to close down.

**
In making the case for an alternative, one question is how much emphasis in challenging the current approach to place on “won’t work” and how much on not fair. Clearly, most challenges or alternatives will do both. I disagree with Sunny’s earlier advocacy that the fairness challenges aren’t important and should be dropped, as I think it is very important they are central.

That is partly because the implications of leading on “won’t work” over fairness suggest a more technocratic frame. In some ways, Sunny is proposing rather a Brownite response, which depends primarily on winning an argument about political economy. That didn’t resonate in the last election for any number of reasons, some unconnected to the merits of the case: but a contributory factor was that the arguments about the future sources of growth (while important) are quite abstract and technical. That leads to debate about the relative impact of the VAT rise, etc many of which are contested and specialist questions.

“Not fair” seems to me a much more important political challenge, both in motivating and mobilising people and in challenging the government. There are different approaches which arise from “what would be the fair way to address the public finances and current deficit”

(1) are the burdens and costs of deficit reduction being shared fairly? That has both behaviour and causes aspects (who got us into this mess) and need-based concerns (what does a fair burden sharing look like, in terms of ability to contribute)

(2) is the government meeting or reneging on its own promises that “we’re in this together” and that deficit reduction won’t hit the poor harder? What would it need to change in its own plans to get closer to doing so? (In my view, to meet this promise, one has to go slower, and change the tax/spending ratio: if the government won’t accept that, it is saying these features of its plans trump any fairness aspiration it may have had).

Of course, one reason this matters is that key figures in the government (Cameron, Osborne and Clegg) must all demonstrate that they are striving to meet this fairness commitment – having made it – and so will face public and media pressure including (to a limited extent) from within the coalition, mainly from Liberal Democrats to make choices that meet that promise. (Though their earlier promise not to touch frontline services is a dead duck I fear). Thererefore advovacy of alternative approaches because they will be fairer could be able combine external challenge with the potential for some internal pressure too: They will be more publicly salient because they are holding the government to its own promise.

That will be less true of “won’t work” challenges, which in public political terms is likely to at best play out into a no-score draw, as each side cites its own economic academic/business/civic society experts. It doesn’t mean that it doesn’t matter that this challenge to the economic theory behind the government’s agenda isn’t mounted strongly, but I would not expect it to be the most salient or accessible part of a broad public debate.

***

The question of how much detail to give about alternatives (including what sort of answer to give to “so what would you cut”) is not a simply polarised questions. Not everybody is going to agree. It depends who you are. The Labour Party has to say it is capable of forming a government which would have a different agenda; local people campaigning against a specific project being cut do not have to do that.

There is a great deal of space between nobody saying anything about deficit reduction at all and setting out a full comprehensive spending review 3-4 years before an election (which is both impossible and a bad idea), about how to effectively signpost the shape and content of an alternative approach – the scale and speed of deficit reduction, the balance of spending/tax and the effects of growth, and examples which show what the priorities are in spending and tax.

In some ways, Sunny is proposing rather a Brownite response, which depends primarily on winning an argument about political economy. That didn’t resonate in the last election for any number of reasons, some unconnected to the merits of the case: but a contributory factor was that the arguments about the future sources of growth (while important) are quite abstract and technical. That leads to debate about the relative impact of the VAT rise, etc many of which are contested and specialist questions.

I’m sorry but this is nonsense.

It didn’t resonate because no political party attempted to spell out any kind of plan for what our economy might look like in the future. Nobody discussed how we were going to grow key sectors of the economy or where jobs were going to come from in the future. Industrial/Economic policy is a complete political black hole.

As for our claim thaty such concerns are unlikely to ‘resonante’ because they are too ‘technical’ or ‘abstract’ can I suggest that you get out a bit more and actually talk to some real voters. I spoke to hundreds across the country and one of the major concerns – especially in areas which previously had a large manufacturing presence – was that we didn’t make things anymore. People wanted to know why we didn’t have a strategy for rebuilding our manufacturing base.

Heh Sunder – am not going to get into the fairness argument again, but it easily works as a secondary message! I don’t have a problem with occasionally using it. Also, don’t you can compare the last election with what’s happening now in terms of the impact it will have on people’s lives.

Luis and Alix: If you don’t want the left to campaign against all cuts, somecuts need to be endorsed / accepted. But how’s that going to happen?

As I explain in my Labour Uncut article – it is foolhardy to go around saying ‘we agree with the Tories but only to a lesser extent’.

There are alternatives – and you explain them. But that isn’t your main narrative. Or at least that isn’t our main narrative because it cannot be simply an issue of percentages (of tax revenue vs cuts) or people’s eyes will glaze over.

You have to shift the debate on to your own ground. That’s partly the challenge for the left – moving the debate on to a narrative that favours them more.

24. Luis Enrique

Fair enough Sunny … although if you think it’s a bad move to offer limited agreement with the Tories on cuts, then unless some examples of cuts the left would make the the Tories are not can be found, then I still suspect left-wing campaigns are likely to leave voters the impression the left is opposed to all cuts. Certainly every time I hear a left-winger talking about cuts in the media, it is to oppose them. I like that Cuts Won’t Work website (although I disagree with parts of it) and perhaps if you are loudly saying “Cut Later” and “Cut Less” it won’t matter to much that the box marked “What We Actually Would Cut, Later” is more or less empty.

BSF is a bad example to use because we could easily afford all the schools if the money wasn’t being ploughed into the free schools experiment.

The BSF budget had risen to an estimated £55bn over 10 years. I very much doubt that the free schools will cost govt anything like as much as this.

then I still suspect left-wing campaigns are likely to leave voters the impression the left is opposed to all cuts

When the Tories shifted the debate on to the debt & deficit from talking about the danger of falling back into recession, did people believe that *wanted* a recession?
Secondary messages – that’s what they are there for.

Ace.

Though I wonder if public support for the Lib/Tory cuts are wholly based on the economy? I don’t think we can ignore the fact that “too much needless bureaucracy” has become an accepted argument – dropped lazily into speeches and articles even by voices from the left.

Sure, people will baulk when confronted with the negative consequences of coalition policy, but many (possibly most) will still say that “something needs to be done” about the “excessive size of the state”.

If we want to safeguard the Labour approach to strong, effective public services, at the very least so they can receive the investment they’ll need to recover after this government has been expelled, Labour have to do a better job at arguing the case for a “big state”.

We’ve been on the back foot with this issue ever since Labour failed to defend the role of NHS managers. Now the Tories want to tear up our health service and, oh too late, we’re realising that maybe, when you think about it, letting GPs treat patients while professional, intelligent and well-paid admin-types get on with the organising may make sense after all. Labour gave ground to the Tories by echoing the narrative about “front-line” services (immediately evoking a child-like vision of a traditional English village, with all its needs served by one postman, one policeman, one doctor and his nurse, one kindly teacher, and possibly a fireman – no vast horde of bespectacled beancounters knitting it all together), and now this de-bureaucracised small-state solution appears to have something of a mandate.

I agree that “the cuts won’t work” is a strong line to take. But we also need to convince people that Labour’s view of the state extends beyond just artificially inflating growth in the short-term by maintaining “public sector non-jobs”, but is based on a belief that the role of government is not to ensure money continues to flow into the pockets of the wealthy, but to deliver a better quality of life for all, free at the point of use, and powered by the best people this country has to offer.

28. Luis Enrique

er, you’ve lost me there. No. And?

“it is foolhardy to go around saying ‘we agree with the Tories but only to a lesser extent’.

There are alternatives – and you explain them.”

I think there is a need to move beyond saying “we are against (some of) the cuts at this time because we can balance the budget over a longer period through growth, and anyway the deficit works as a stimulus”. There is a need to not only explain what the alternative to cuts is, but also to construct it as part of a wider programme that aims to change the economy. The problem at the moment is the political parties are arguing how best to restore the economy to the pre-2007 levels, without realising that for the majority outside the south east the boom years weren’t that good and characterised by high housing costs, casualised and insecure work outside of the public sector, and fast paced pressure in the workplace.

But we also need to convince people that Labour’s view of the state extends beyond just artificially inflating growth in the short-term by maintaining “public sector non-jobs”, but is based on a belief that the role of government is not to ensure money continues to flow into the pockets of the wealthy, but to deliver a better quality of life for all, free at the point of use, and powered by the best people this country has to offer.

Yes, completely agree with this.

[deleted]

It would be a pity if the campaign focused just on public spending cuts:

“£3bn NHS shake-up will distract from patient care, says British Medical Journal editorial”
http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/jul/16/nhs-reorganisation-patient-care-bmj

#14. Flowerpower

Cameron has certainly not reneged on the pledge to maintain year-on-year real increases in the NHS budget. You really can’t call it a ‘cut’ every time a manager moves money from one budget heading to another to reallocate resources in a more sensible way. Ring-fencing means that the total budget is protected, not each line item.

You didn’t actually read what I wrote, did you? Let me make this easy for you. My local PCT has had an increase this year (2010/11) over last year, of 1.8%. Now tell me how I am supposed to interpret this as a year-on-year real terms increase? Sure, that figure was set by New Labour, but Lansley has already provided a new Operating Framework to replace the one produced by Burnham – except that he conveniently forgot the “real terms year-on-year increase in funding” pledge from the Conservative manifesto.

I hope this helps you understand this vastly complicated (NOT!) piece of public finance.

#26. Crunkfish

I fully agree. Doctors should be doing medicine, not admin.

The first hospital to embrace the new anti-admin rhetoric is Wythenshaw in Manchester. They have decided to have yet another re-organisation and sack managers. The problem is that their jobs will be taken over by consultants who will do one day a week managerial work. Huh? Here we have highly skilled, highly paid and expensively trained clinicians and one day a week they will not be doing medicine. The dunderheads at the hospital say that this is acceptable because the consultants spend some of their time doing research and so they can use that time for managerial work instead. So not only will we have an amateur manager managing a department, but there will be less medical research to boot.

Gosh we really do have a Philistine, anti-innovation and anti-science government.

In his last budget Darling was going to cut “deeper than Margaret Thatcher”, there were over £40 billion of cuts planned by him. Perhaps you should try and persuade him to reveal all of these painless cuts as a contrast to what the LibCons are planning? People would then flock to them. The left would also prove that it isn’t financially incompetant and just opposing for the sake of it. Assuming a plan actually existed that is.

There is a need to not only explain what the alternative to cuts is, but also to construct it as part of a wider programme that aims to change the economy. The problem at the moment is the political parties are arguing how best to restore the economy to the pre-2007 levels, without realising that for the majority outside the south east the boom years weren’t that good and characterised by high housing costs, casualised and insecure work outside of the public sector, and fast paced pressure in the workplace.

Yes absolutely but we also need to construct a case for the kind of economy we want to build. Where will the jobs come from? Which sectors do we want to support?

Sunder Katawala says that arguments around political economy ‘didn’t resonate in the last election’. But no party had anything to say about what the economy should look like. Absolutely nothing.

37. Stuart White

Sunder @ 21: I agree that unfairness has to be a key part of the message too.

I don’t see why the campaign against the cuts can’t use both messages – variations of ‘cuts won’t work’ and ‘cuts are not fair’, without supposing that one is primary and one is secondary.

Look forward to seeing the new site. If Same Difference can do anything to help, do let me know.

39. Roberto C

Sunny, what the left needs to do is far more important than simply criticising the centre-right’s cuts, especially when the last “centre-left” government would’ve implemented them (remember, Darling and Mandelson were far more concerned with the deficit than Brown, who just wanted to avoid dealing with the problem).

What the left needs to do is start deciding what kind of society and state we want. If we want a big state we need big taxes. Then you need to find a way to sell that to the public.

Personally, I don’t think most British people particularly want or need a big state/public sector.

40. Sunder Katwala

Stuart @37

Yes – I agree both messages can be used, though I think “won’t work” is a more technical and abstract argument. I disagree with and don’t really understand Sunny’s advocacy that “unfair cuts” is a secondary message and should be dropped because it won’t resonate. I think the fairness argument is absolutely fundamental, and that it will rightly be central to most advocacy on this, particularly from trade unions and others.

The TUC is running a Cuts Briefing session on July 21st, focusing on the fairness arguments.

Its free: details of how to register here
http://www.tuc.org.uk/economy/tuc-18172-f0.cfm

41. Strategist

I like “the cuts won’t work” slogan & website too, but I think someone ought to acknowledge that the Green New Deal Group had already got there last December:

http://www.greennewdealgroup.org/?p=161

The Green New Deal Group are probably the best and most relevant bunch of economic & political thinkers anywhere in UK at the moment, and I comment their work to everyone on this site

42. Richard W

The problem with the ‘ won’t work ‘ argument is that people do not really understand the argument. First thing to say is the ConDem cuts are unlikely to trigger a double dip recession. Real narrow money is still currently expanding and the yield curve is still positively-sloped. If they were expected to cause a recession the yield curve would most likely be flatter or inverted. Although it should be said that it would be difficult to invert the yield curve with near-zero short-term interest rates. Moreover, another point against the double dip scenario is the continuing conundrum of the UK labour market resilience. Virtually every model predicts that unemployment should be higher and the fact that it is not is a mystery. In fact, UK vacancies are up and are more than offsetting a public sector fall.

What can be implied from the yield curve is not that they will cause a double dip but that growth will be lower than its potential. Growth being lower than potential suits the coalition because it offers them ammunition in an ideological battle to reduce the state. Millions will suffer but unfortunately they are pawns on the wrong side of an ideological battle.

With the UK households savings ratio returning to its long-term average of (6.9%), after spending the last decade well below average the result will be below potential growth if the public sector does not take up the slack. All those empty shops on every UK high street are manifestations of the savings ratio returning to its long-term average. If the government were not ideological they would be taking advantage of being able to borrow in capital markets at a real interest rate of below 1% to massively invest in social housing, world class public transport and various infrastructure projects. They will not do this because they are ideological cutters. These are the real issues but I have no idea how you put them into a political argument, but then I am not a politician.

43. Alison Charlton

When I first met my partner, he asked me what interested me about politics, and I would go on about what was happening in the country, in the world. His response was always ‘Yeah, but what are you going to do about it?”

Apart from showing what a poor date I was, the point is that being aware of what’s happening around us should be a stepping stone to action, not an end in itself.

Collecting and collating quantative and qualitative information on cuts is vitally important, but why, to what purpose? For me it would be to build up a bank of evidence, with a coherent narrative, that can act as a driver to civil resistance and actions.

We need to give people the evidence, the arguments, and paths of action to hold national and local government (and health boards etc, quangoes, etc.) accountable for the impact, fairness, and alternatives to decisions at all levels. To challenge on a personal, economic and ideological level.

I would like to see a kind of ‘YourGov’. An online project where, yes we record what’s going on evidentially and anecdotally, but where the aim is to use that information to give people the tools and the narrative to challenge and resist through organising actions.

Never mind the ‘spending challenge’, let’s have a ‘citizen’s challenge’.

I’d like people to see what’s happening, or preferably going to happen ‘OnMyStreet’ and to have pretty easy options for online, local or national actions – writing to MPs, councillors, governors, local and national press; dates of council meetings, local meetings, events; flashmobs, citizen journalism, crowdsourcing etc. And, where there is greater motivation or time, the support to set up and organise actions and post them on the site.

Indeed Sunny, Let a thousand flowers bloom.

44. hitmeheadagainstabrickwall

we must make people clear as to the motives behind what the ruling establishment aim to achieve-be it blue,orange or new red tories.a take-over of the functions of the state that may allow multinationals and big business to skim of profit and ensure the populus depend on a corporate state for their basic needs.nothing liberal or progressive about that.
Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power.
Benito Mussolini

45. alienfromzog

The Tory (and now Tory-LibDem) strategy depends on one thing entirely for its success: Being able to convince people they had no choice. You cannot hear a government minister or member of either party speak without the words “the terrible economic legacy left to us by Labour” being used somewhere.

Essentially the 2015 re-election strategy is “We know we’ve made a big mess but its all Labour’s fault…”

(Ignoring the fact of a world-wide economic crisis and the excellent management of the banking crisis by Brown/Darling. And trying to argue that the small deficits prior to the crisis were irresponsible. There is no historical or international justification for this.)

With the tame media this narrative is permeating the entire debate.

The key to winning is stopping this narrative. Thus far, I’ve only seen Andy Burnham show any sign of being up for this fight (Thurs Question Time on BBC1).

This Tory strategy is both a great challenge to the Left and an opportunity.

It is a great challenge because it is very good politics. And it’s thus far working.
It is also an opportunity because the British people hate being taken for mugs. If the dishonesty of the Tories (and sadly their LibDem stooges) can be shown for what it is, they would not survive the backlash.

AFZ

46. Charles Wheeler

The only ‘narrative’ (YAWN) you need is to point out that the Tories are simply doing what they always do best, appropriating as much national income to the top 5% as possible, ensuring that as little is redistributed as is politically possible, and pretending that the ideology serves the national interest. Up to now the casualties of market fundamentalism have been the bottom 30% – the voiceless and disenfranchised, ensuring that political opposition is limited. Now that the middle 50% are in the firing line – teachers, health workers, civil servants, public servants and those whose private sector jobs are dependent public spending, graduates, school leavers, those on median incomes, etc. – the narrative suddenly starts to hit home.

The welfare state has been a victim of its own success, masking the insecurities and dislocations inherent in true market capitalism. The real story of what market forces means to the majority is about to hit home as schools are denuded of funds, as the NHS disintegrates, and as all forms of social protection are ripped away.

How about narratives (burning questions too?) along the lines of:
“it will cost more than we pay now – so where’s the cut?”
“why do we want to send our tax money out of the country?”

Unions need to get their story straight too – they look like a more likely source of opposition than the notional opposition in parliament

Whether or not the cuts are right or wrong, whether or not the cuts destroy the lives of the working man or woman and lead to great distress is it not true that Vince Cable and the parliamentary Condoms, or even the Condems, are suffering from their folly, that of an uneasy alliance?
Vince, the great orator, favoured by the ‘people’ before the election now looks drawn. Is this a function of his 2 months in office? Has his position of power dragged the soul and life blood out of him? Has he bartered principle and belief for power?
‘Now does he feel his title hang loose about him, like a giant’s robe upon a dwarfish thief’
Vince isn’t a dwarf but has he sacrificed too much in order to be part of a coalition?
It seems as though the Lib Dems are finding that fiscal policy handed to them by the Tories may lead to a schism in the political alliance, but not before individual consciences are stretched. Shakespeare’s Macbeth stole power and suffered.
What is to become of Lib Dem integrity? Will Vince, the peoples’ politician, loose his drawn, haggard look and regain his buoyancy and pride?

Hi Alison,

Your point is spot on – and in fact the third part of the project – to record activism taking place and trying to get people to go there and report on what successes people have had – is vitally part of that.

50. Terry Miles

You guys just don’t get it do you. You are Liberal Democrats. You chose coalition with the Tories. These are YOUR cuts. You are finished as a party of any kind of resistance or opposition. Be ashamed.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    Building a campaign against Tory cuts – here is our plan http://bit.ly/a5zWtC

  2. Dicky Moore

    RT @libcon: Building a campaign against Tory cuts – here is our plan http://bit.ly/a5zWtC

  3. John Brissenden

    Someone see wht these poindexters are planning? Can't bear to look.RT @libcon: Building a campaign against Tory cuts http://bit.ly/a5zWtC

  4. earwicga

    RT @libcon: Building a campaign against Tory cuts – here is our plan http://bit.ly/a5zWtC

  5. RobSimmons

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  6. sianberry

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  7. No UK Shock Doctrine

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  8. Beachy Books

    RT @libcon: Building a campaign against Tory cuts – here is our plan http://bit.ly/a5zWtC

  9. Oxford Kevin

    RT @libcon: Building a campaign against Tory cuts – here is our plan http://bit.ly/a5zWtC

  10. Fr Paul Butler

    Nothing is inevitable! Resist and campaign against the neolincon cuts! http://bit.ly/9dJgGk

  11. Therese

    RT @earwicga: RT @libcon: Building a campaign against Tory cuts – here is our plan http://bit.ly/a5zWtC

  12. Kate B

    Definitely on the right track http://bit.ly/cXNIqB. The cuts won't bloody work, as it happens.

  13. andrew

    Building a campaign against Tory cuts – here is our plan | Liberal …: Liberal Conspiracy ….. Liberal Conspirac… http://bit.ly/afHGQX

  14. sunny hundal

    Building a campaign against Tory cuts – here is our plan http://bit.ly/a5zWtC

  15. Andrew Tindall

    RT @sunny_hundal: Building a campaign against Tory cuts – here is our plan http://bit.ly/a5zWtC

  16. GuyAitchison

    Organising to fightback against the cuts >> RT @sunny_hundal: Building a campaign against Tory cuts – here is our plan http://bit.ly/a5zWtC

  17. Cornelius Griffiths

    RT @sunny_hundal: Building a campaign against Tory cuts – here is our plan http://bit.ly/a5zWtC

  18. Stephen Brown

    RT @sunny_hundal: Building a campaign against Tory cuts – here is our plan http://bit.ly/a5zWtC

  19. Nathon Raine

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  20. JamieSW

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  21. Clifford Singer

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  22. Chris Paul

    RT @OtherTPA: RT @libcon: Building a campaign against Tory cuts – here is our plan http://bit.ly/a5zWtC

  23. Beatrice Bray

    RT @libcon Building a campaign against Tory cuts – here is our plan http://bit.ly/aJ5KGY

  24. csstone

    Building a campaign against Tory cuts – here is our plan | Liberal … http://bit.ly/d5XfxZ

  25. sunny hundal

    @speckl and @debdebdubdub – you've been blogged! http://bit.ly/9dJgGk

  26. The Cuts Won’t Work - OutofRange.net

    [...] Hat Tip: Liberal Conspiracy. [...]

  27. NewLeftProject

    RT @libcon: Building a campaign against Tory cuts – here is our plan http://bit.ly/a5zWtC

  28. Humphrey Cushion

    "The Cuts Wont Work".. So lets do something about it !!! –>> http://bit.ly/cyr3a0 ( via @sunny_hundal )

  29. Gideon Thomas

    RT @libcon: Building a campaign against Tory cuts – here is our plan http://bit.ly/a5zWtC

  30. Les_Dubh

    RT @OtherTPA: RT @libcon: Building a campaign against Tory cuts – here is our plan http://bit.ly/a5zWtC

  31. Martell Thornton

    Building a campaign against Tory cuts – here is our plan | Liberal …: Raise the minimum wage so us taxpayers hav… http://bit.ly/bQHY0Y

  32. Tim Holmes

    Good Liberal Conspiracy post on organising an effective response to the cuts here: http://is.gd/dxusT

  33. The false economy of the Coalition’s short sighted cuts | Left Foot Forward

    [...] of’. Describing all cuts as ‘an attack on public services’ may be accurate, but it will be insufficient to win mainstream public opinion to our [...]

  34. Resisting the Cuts | Left Futures

    [...] how best to maximise opposition to the cuts in general and thus shift government policy. Here’s Sunny with a good practical post and here’s Gary Younge with some insights from the US into how [...]

  35. Resisting the cuts: building a campaign | Liberal Conspiracy

    [...] Sunny with a good practical post and here’s Gary Younge with some insights from the US into how [...]

  36. Laura

    @brunnenguk http://liberalconspiracy.org/2010/07/16/building-a-campaign-against-tory-cuts-here-is-our-plan/ Don't fall for Tory lies.

  37. crowded_island

    Building a campaign against Tory cuts – here is our plan http://ff.im/-o3djS

  38. Liberal Conspiracy

    [...] making the intellectual case and explaining why the Cuts Won’t Work; and 2. gathering info and pushing that info that explains what’s going on across the [...]





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