What are Alan Johnson’s views on the economy?


2:19 pm - October 8th 2010

by Sunny Hundal    


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Here is Alan Johnson in an interview with the Guardian just before the Labour leadership election:

We’ve got to be very careful how we play this,” Johnson says about suggestions from the younger Miliband’s camp that Labour should soften Alistair Darling’s plans to halve the deficit over four years with £44bn of cuts. “We’re coming back up in the polls but all the signs are public are not buying this ‘Labour cuts’ argument: the deficit was something we just did because we just threw money around rather than the fiscal stimulus to save people’s houses. They want to be absolutely clear that we are taking a sensible approach to this. They don’t want to see the deficit go on forever.”

Johnson says Labour must understand why the coalition is ahead in the polls on the issue of the deficit. “I think the reason why they took to the coalition is they thought, well, here’s someone rolling their sleeves up and getting down to the job.”

Labour will only be able to attack the coalition’s more drastic deficit plans, involving £61bn cuts, if it keeps a credible plan itself. “We have to be sure we’ve got a valid, logical, argument for how we would tackle this differently, and why it would not have the disastrous consequences that I think 25% cuts [will] have.”

Labour definitely needs a strategy to end the deficit, but that is not the same as having a strategy for drastic spending cuts. The problem is that AJ doesn’t indicate where he stands on either, above.

Perhaps it means his position will be dictated more by what Ed Miliband wants.

Johnson then also warned against focusing on attacking the Libdems too much:

But it would be wrong for Labour to turn its main ammunition on the Lib Dems. “We don’t have to do driving wedges,” Johnson says of the idea that Labour should try to prise the Lib Dems apart. “That’s a process that’s going on without us. Actually, if we got involved it could harm that … because Lib Dems are saying, what the hell’s going on here and are coming over to us. Cameron’s the target. It is a Conservative administration. And what they’re doing, even cuts to policing, well this is Conservatives.”

This I agree with.

Alan Johnson isn’t too hot on civil liberties though, so I suppose it’s a relief he didn’t get the Shadow Home Secretary portfolio.

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Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


As of today, Alan Johnson’s views on the economy are Ed Miliband’s views on the economy, and if at some point in the future they aren’t, he will have to step down.

He might have been well advised to be more quiet during the leadership election, but there’s enough wiggle room in his comments that he can deliver a sensible line without contradicting his former self.

He’s also likely to be credible, popular, and bring a good personal story to the issue. While I felt he needed more time to work his passage back to the top table, if Ed Miliband is willing to move on, I trust his judgement.

@oldpolitics if your hero Ed Balls had been appointed Shadow Chancellor, would you be now saying that his views on the economy are Ed Miliband’s? Or vice versa? The choice of Johnson proves Ed M understands the needs to cut the deficit, rather than ignore it and hope it goes away, like Balls.

3. Robert Peel

Blanco,
Sorry to disagree! It’s more a case of not being able to put Balls into financial fight given that most people believe he and his ‘mate’ were largely responsible for the mess. Plus, Balls can have a right go at May.

Erm, ok. Interesting attack line there blanco, just a small problem – Ed Balls isn’t my hero – I didn’t vote for him to be leader, and he wasn’t my number one choice for Shadow Chancellor either – check my blog for confirmation of this if you like. I did place a hefty wager on him holding his seat at the General Election so I guess I have some cause to be grateful to him.

Regardless of that, it’s becoming ever more clear that you don’t resolve deficits simply by cutting. This is both the view of a wide range of leading economists, and the evidence of economies which are trying austerity. Shrinking the deficit in part by increasing the pace of recovery, and consequently growing tax revenues and cutting the benefits bill, bears no relation to a policy of “ignoring it and hoping it goes away”.

It’s the difference between playing darts with two darts, and using all three.

Alan Johnson isn’t too hot on civil liberties though, so I suppose it’s a relief he didn’t get the Shadow Home Secretary portfolio.

Ed Balls did, however, and as David Green notes

Balls voted strongly for ID cards and, as Education Secretary, promoted surveillance and database policies with far more enthusiasm than his job required.

Meanwhile, Yvette Cooper takes the role of Shadow Foreign Secretary. That’s, er…

Voted moderately for replacing Trident.
Voted very strongly for the Iraq war.
Voted very strongly against an investigation into the Iraq war.
Voted strongly for more EU integration.

Right.

Can we stop this nonsense of “proving” what new ministers believe by the sole method of demonstrating that they obeyed collective responsibility? On that basis about 80% of the Conservative Shadow Cabinet in 1997 were raging Europhiles.

Well, yes! They might have changed, I hope they have and their actions from here on in will be the judge of that. However: a) the promotion of Balls/Cooper was based, I assume, on their record, so it’s relevant and b) “collective responsibility” is no excuse for supporting foolhardiness/immorality.

what oldpolitics said at 6, Bensix.

I’n getting bored of people predicting future behaviour with previous voting records.

Does anyone seriously think that EM will allow EB to say ID cards were fine given he slammed them just a few months ago. Same thing goes for Trident.

I’n getting bored of people predicting future behaviour with previous voting records.

Good Lord, that boredom’s set in quickly. Two hours ago you wrote “Alan Johnson isn’t too hot on civil liberties…so I suppose it’s a relief he didn’t get the Shadow Home Secretary portfolio“.

And, no, I wasn’t trying to “predict future behaviour“. I was pointing out their dismal record and hoping they’ll reject them. By the way, I’m none too thrilled about their following orders from on high. That’s what happened under Blair and why they found themselves in muck.

“Balls can have a right go at May”

Over what? Criticising the fact that ID cards are being dropped? No asylum for gay people? Ending child immigrant detension?

“I’n getting bored of people predicting future behaviour with previous voting records.”

I think you need to write a post about why it doesn’t matter at all that when certain politicians had power they voted to do terrible things, and how we can just forget their records when they say they don’t believe what they said they believed at the time.

“Like all guilty men, you try to re-write your own history…. you try to forget that you come from a family of thieves and butchers…”

12. Stuart White

Voting records aside, and acknowledging that he may have hidden depths (I mean, you never know!), Balls does not strike me as someone we can rely on to develop a more robust commitment to civil liberties and related issues about the state. He comes across as a technocrat who can see all the upside of something like the database state for helping to manage various social problems but who just doesn’t get the downside.

But we’ll see…I’d love to be proved wrong.

13. Stuart White

My own comment @ 12: Guy Aitchison at OurKingdom detects some ‘surprising glimmers of liberalism’ in Balls:

http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/guy-aitchison/new-shadow-cabinet

“Labour definitely needs a strategy to end the deficit”

No, it doesn’t. The U.K. is a sovereign currency issuer. Unlike the Euro coutries, there are financial limits to how much it can spend or borrow, and a lot of downsides to the cutbacks or tax increases needed to reduce the deficit. The problem with all sides here is they don’t understand the monetary system, and as such are doomed to talk nonsense.

if you want to learn how the modern monetary system actually works, go to http://moslereconomics.com. It’s U.S. centric, but it applies equally to any currency issuer in a floating exchange rate regime – like the U.K., Japan, etc.

But record of voting does count, Labour now in opposition and for me it is the right place, whether the Tories get this country up and out of the deficit I do not know.

I do know that Iraq which we are now told was wrong it was a mistake. Iraq did not have WMD the problem is of course why did you go to war not knowing.

Because without those weapons without the threat of an attack in 45 minutes, a lot of very Young very highly trained soldiers are now dead or injured.

Voting records do matter and they do count.

and if people cannot see that then sadly the best place for this party is in opposition.

Ben – I said that going by what they say in interviews. If AJ says civil liberties aren’t a big concern in an interview – that’s something we should worry about. If you’re only going via voting record, then it doesn’t indicate anything.

Can we stop this nonsense of “proving” what new ministers believe by the sole method of demonstrating that they obeyed collective responsibility?

Jack Straw recently said that he believed 42 days detention without charge was wrong but he couldn’t say so at the time.

It struck me that if everyone who says now that they thought such policies were wrong did say so at the time, Blair / Brown might have struggled to fill their Cabinets.

I wonder what the point is of having yes-men in Cabinet. There are about 20 Cabinet Ministers, each paid £68k for the privilege. That’s £1,376,540 a year or, in Daily Mail units, 45 extra police officers. We could just take it as read that the PM is right and everyone else is wrong.


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