Why Alan Johnson was the right choice for shadow Chancellor


11:00 am - October 10th 2010

by Don Paskini    


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This is what I said when backing David Miliband for leader:

When he is elected leader, Ed Miliband will come under the most terrific pressure from the opposition, media and Blairites over his supposedly radical and left-wing policies. If David were elected leader, the main pressure which he would face would be to win over and enthuse the people who supported his brother or Ed Balls. To unite the Labour Party, Ed Miliband would need to appeal to the Right, David to the Left.

8th October 2010: Leftie supporters of Ed Miliband get v v cross when he appoints Alan Johnson as Shadow Chancellor.

From the Shadow Cabinet appointments, it looks like Labour is planning strong opposition to government policies on the NHS, defence and police cuts – areas where they have put combative ministers who vocally disagree with what the government is planning. They seem more likely to try to find compromises on justice & prisons and welfare reform.

I understand why lefties wanted Ed Balls as Shadow Chancellor and his economic policy adopted 100%. But Balls doesn’t come across particularly well to the public, and opponents of his policy within the Labour Party would have briefed journalists that they thought his policies were not credible. The resulting civil war would only have helped the Tories.

We know the problems when economic policy is seen as being under the sole control of the Chancellor – to win the economic argument and defeat the Tory cuts, we need an economic policy which the whole Cabinet – including Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper – are involved in developing and can sign up to. Johnson can be a persuasive public advocate for Labour’s alternative and the comparisons between his life experience and George Osborne’s help reinforce the message.

And in developing their alternative to George Osborne’s savage cuts, Labour should pay close attention to this brilliant article from our new Chief Secretary to the Treasury, the fantastic Angela Eagle:

The so-called deficit ‘emergency’ was ironically caused not by profligate government spending but by a failure of the market-based international banking system and the triumph of unbridled greed amongst the super rich. David Cameron’s immediate excuse to act was the deficit generated by the previous Labour government to stabilise our banks and successfully mitigate the social effects of the global recession which followed the credit crunch. He did so by launching an assault on the post-war state settlement more extreme than anything Mrs Thatcher’s most swivel-eyed fanatics could have fantasised about. The theatrically named ‘emergency budget’ began this process and the October spending review will continue it.

That there was no electoral mandate to introduce the largest public expenditure cuts in British peacetime history is clear. Those who voted Liberal Democrat had a right to assume that their chosen party would stick with the economic policy clearly set out in their manifesto at the election. Like Labour’s, this emphasised the danger of cutting the deficit too far or too fast while economic recovery was still fragile. In fact it was this economic position which achieved majority endorsement once the votes were counted.

What is there to disagree about?

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About the author
Don Paskini is deputy-editor of LC. He also blogs at donpaskini. He is on twitter as @donpaskini
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Economy ,Labour party ,Westminster

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Reader comments


What is there to disagree about with good ole Big Johnson?

Well –

– Voted for Iraq
– Voted for topup fees
– Voted for ID cards (loved those)
– Voted for foundation hospitals
– Voted for anti-terrorism laws.

There are times when I feel that Labour is actively trying to insult my intelligence and even though that ain’t hard to do, I still wish you’d cut it out.

This guy is tainted goods. I thought Ed was moving on.

Alas, I think that remark about needing to read ‘economics for beginners’ may prove impossible to get past. Thankfully George Osborne is no economist either, but even so it’s going to be very hard now for Johnson to sound authoritative when he tries to persuade people that the Government have got their sums and/or strategy wrong. Balls, Cooper and Ed M himself are in a strong position to charge Osborne with ‘economic illiteracy’; not so Johnson.

On the bright side, when he’s quietly reshuffled out of the cabinet in six months to make way for someone who actually fits the definition of “talent” – for example, Yvette Cooper, or even Angela Eagle herself – New Labour will have been brought completely on side and Ed Miliband will have a rather freer hand, without having to worry about patching up recent wounds. Hopefully.

I’m just bothered about the symbolism, quite aside from questions of whether it’s wise to have both the Chancellor and his Shadow doing their sums in purple crayon, of rewarding Alan Johnson for what was frankly rather shocking disloyalty to Ed Miliband virtually as soon as he was elected. I can only assume that Ed is disposing of Alan Johnson quickly by putting him somewhere he can fail with a dull thud…

The real threat to Ed Miliband comes from Balls-Cooper. They expect him to fail and are poised to succeed him. Insofar as Alan Johnson can protect the leader against Balls-Cooper, he will be doing a good job. Ed really needs to set time aside to read Jonathan Powell on Machiavelli.

@3 hope yr right, but I can’t help feeling EM has lost the moment. Either you strike out afresh or you don’t. It’ll be hard to declare a new beginning a year after the new beginning has begun.

” The so-called deficit ‘emergency’ was ironically caused not by profligate government spending but by a failure of the market-based international banking system and the triumph of unbridled greed amongst the super rich. ”

No it was definitely Labour’s overspending.

” That there was no electoral mandate to introduce the largest public expenditure cuts in British peacetime history is clear. ”

That’s a more eloquent version of the rubbish drunken black bloc protestors were dribbling outside Tory conference.

@ 6

Yes, you’re right about the deficit being caused by Labour profligacy. I don’t see how the Left can square their claim that the banking crisis is the cause of the problem with the fact that Brown began running a deficit in 2002 – well before the banks went wobbly.

No one minds the government spending more in a recession. What was criminally irresponsible was to overspend in the boom years 2002-7.

” The so-called deficit ‘emergency’ was ironically caused not by profligate government spending but by a failure of the market-based international banking system and the triumph of unbridled greed amongst the super rich. ”

No it was definitely Labour’s overspending.

Prove it.

“If David were elected leader, the main pressure which he would face would be to win over and enthuse the people who supported his brother or Ed Balls.”

This is a complete fallacy. We’re David elected the pressure would continue to come from the right because we have a newspaper press that is only slightly to the left of Mussolini.

You seem to completely forget about Blair? What pressure he was under from the media to enthuse the left! Yeh, right.

@1 I think that’s fair, and certainly why I won’t be touching Labour with a bargepole. But the same could be said of almost all the current shadow cabinet. All but two who were MPs at the time voted for Iraq. All voted for ID cards, and 90 days detention without trial, and 42 days detention without trial. Had Ed been an MP, he would’ve voted for Iraq, no question. Kate, Labour are just like any self-deluded criminal: “it wasn’t me, guv; no, it was some other guy.”

Is this not a new dawn? No it ain’t.

“Chief Secretary to the Treasury” SHADOW Chief Secretary. Know your role. Have some humility and stop pretending like it’s not been you in government for 13 years whilst all these terrible things happened that you now condemn.

“a failure of the market-based international banking system and the triumph of unbridled greed amongst the super rich.”

Remind me who Labour were “intensely relaxed” about?

“That there was no electoral mandate to introduce the largest public expenditure cuts in British peacetime history is clear.”

Hmm, 36% voted Conservative, who wanted cuts. 23% voted Lib Dem, who promised “savage” cuts. Even Labour said their cuts would be worse than Thatcher, and they got 29%. So actually, yes, there is a mandate for massive cuts – from at least 88% of the electorate.

Plenty to disagree with in that article, then.

” The so-called deficit ‘emergency’ was ironically caused not by profligate government spending but by a failure of the market-based international banking system and the triumph of unbridled greed amongst the super rich. ”

No it was definitely Labour’s overspending.

Arghhh!

Yes, you’re right about the deficit being caused by Labour profligacy. I don’t see how the Left can square their claim that the banking crisis is the cause of the problem with the fact that Brown began running a deficit in 2002 – well before the banks went wobbly.

No one minds the government spending more in a recession. What was criminally irresponsible was to overspend in the boom years 2002-7.

More arghhh!

Two things here, a deficit of 2% in the good years was probably not a good idea. That has been largely agreed.

However, a you can see from this graph , our deficit would have reached about 11% in stead of about 13% at its peak.

So a deficit of 11% is okay, by your logic? Just not 13%.

Second thing is that there is not a deficit emergency.

There may be a deficit emergency if finacial markets jitter on the UK’s finances but there were no signs of that happening while Labour were in office.

Moreover, an IMF report said the UK’s maximum debt capacity is not 70% (which we will hit under the Tories) but 160%. There are all sorts of reasons it is not preferable to hit this provisional ceiling, but it illustrates that the UK’s public finances are not as bad as the Tories are making out.

12. Flowerpower

@ 11

Two things here, a deficit of 2% in the good years was probably not a good idea. That has been largely agreed.

You may remember the OECD issued an explicit warning to Brown in January 2004 about his reckless spending, pointing out that he was heading towards a breach of the Eurozone 3% limit.

As it turned out, the deficit in 2005 was 3.23%.

Gordon was too arrogant to listen.

I had a graph, it is gone. But I hope no one needs it to agree with my point

@12

Yes, but that in no way supports the point you were originally making. You haven’t addressed my rebuttal, you have merely changed the subject.

Your second point I have addressed in an old blog post. If we had had even more fiscal room and the tories were in power and acted as they argued then they wouldn’t have run a deficit at all, totally cratering the economy and gutting public services (and perversely, probably prompted an actual debt crisis in the process).

@ 6. Praguetory & 7. Flowerpower

I am not defending Brown because in my opinion he was not a good Chancellor. Moreover, a good Chancellor should seek to create the right incentives and simplify things. Brown seemed to thrive on Byzantine complexity. He did overspend 2002/2007. However, this nonsense that it is Labour’s deficit is just pure political rhetoric.

The economy has three sectors: the government sector, the private sector which consists of corporates and households and the foreign sector. The fiscal deficit of the government is the flip side of the financial surplus of the private sector. The financial surplus of the private sector is the flip side of the government deficit. The government have very little to do with the deficit which is visited on them by saving in the private sector. The only way the government deficit would not rise with saving in the private sector would be if the foreign sector captured in the current account was in surplus. Sure they can increase the deficit by spending more in a recession which will lead to an even higher private sector financial surplus. However, it is wrong to assume that the government have much discretion regards the deficit. The fiscal deficit is primarily the consequence of decisions made in the private sector. I suppose it is good politics to blame everything on your political opponents but it is just not true.

Kate – not so simple I’m afraid. You also need the big beasts and the talent of the past to steady the ship. Alan Johnson is probably the least worst of that lot… and they also needed to patch things up with the David Miliband supporters.

I think there’s no doubt AJ was going to be near the top. I’m sorry but thinking EM was going to just appoint the 2010 intake to his shadow cabinet is naive. I spoke to Chuka Umunna about this, and he said he hadn’t even considered putting himself forward for the shadow cabinet. It was faaaar too early. Like wise Luciana Berger, Rachel Reeves, Lisa Nandy and the rest.

Ed Miliband’s hands were also tied on who was putting themselves forward and who would be elected. So what’s the point of criticising him for that?

Lastly – Don P is absolutely right, Ed had to move right-wards while David would have to move left-wards. We saw this coming and it’s happening now. That’s the nature of these things.

As for people using voting records as indication of the future… I can barely hold back my rage so I won’t bother commenting on that.

Sunny. My friend. I preferred Balls. Story of my life, of course, but there you go. He’s been around long enough to bring experience to the table. He’s certainly been round as long as EM. Johnson brings experience, granted, but he brings a pile of corpses as well. Stinky.

Also – breathe through yr nose for a bit and tell me what this problem with examining someone’s voting record is…? Johnson’s would suggest he was right at the heart of New Labour – one might even describe him as a Yes man. He could have corrected the Iraq mistake by voting in favour of an inquiry later on in the piece… but no. None of the rest of us get to airbrush our pasts – why those who presume to lead us?

…and I would quite like to have seen Nandy put herself forward.

…so just to finish it off here, I’m with Chaminda & Dave Wearing. Johnson’s a poor choice. He’s likeable as a labrador is with his bright eyes and personable manner, but that’s it. Give me Balls.

Sunny. My friend. I preferred Balls. Story of my life, of course, but there you go.

Hey, so did I. Actually I preferred Cooper, but you can’t have everything you want in politics. I’m sure Ed had his own reasons, and I think there is some truth in that appointing either of them would have turned the whole thing into a drama.

But really, it makes little difference at this stage. There will be more reshuffles, there will be re-elections in 2 years time. This says little about where Labour is heading. Ed decided that unity was important right now and he made the decision.

Also – breathe through yr nose for a bit and tell me what this problem with examining someone’s voting record is…?

Because it tells you nothing about where the minister is going to do or advocate for. Policy is decided by the leader – they have ultimate responsibility. You think Ed Balls is now going to turn around and start advocating for ID cards? I’ll eat my hat if he does. The official policy of the Labour party, as Eric Joyce pointed out recently, is that Iraq was a mistake. That is what LAbour MPs will say from now on. Blair is buried.

Lastly – I don’t know how many times I have to enlighten people about the inquiry vote. It might deserve a proper post over at my place. The army and others warned that having an inquiry during ongoing conflict in Iraq would lower morale. It might even distract people from doing their work and place added burden while they needed to focus on what was going on. So the decision was made to have an inquiry AFTER operations in Iraq were wound down. Which is what happened.

Brown explained all this in the letter in reply to Sunder Katwala. We had a frikking inquiry remember? Blair had to testify? So now trying to beat Labour MPs over the head for not voting for an inquiry is ludicrous to say the least. This is why I hate those damn voting record sites.

21. Flowerpower

Left Outside @ 14 & Richard W @ 15

So a deficit of 11% is okay, by your logic? Just not 13%.

Not actually having your graph here it is hard to know quite what you’re on about. Besides, there are problems associated with always talking about deficits as percentages of GDP. Sometimes it’s useful to think of them as concrete sums of overspend. A deficit doesn’t look so bad with GDP rising; it quickly looks horrible as GDP plummets.

The actual narrative, as you seem to accept, is that in the early to mid noughties, the Labour government saw healthy growth and the sums pouring into its coffers in the form of tax receipts rising nicely. But not content with the proceeds of growth, they set about ever more lavish spending and expanding the size and scope of the state. To do this required spending more than they were earning (as it were) and year after year between 2002 and 2007 they OVERSPENT, borrowing more and more money and adding to the accumulated debt.

If memory serves me right, they overspent by around 19 or 20 billion in each of 2003 and 2004 and around 17.5 billion in 2005.

They could and should have chosen not to spend this extra money and spent only what they were getting in.

As a result of this reckless overspending, they built up a pile of debt that proved expensive to service so that today we find that paying the debt interest costs us around the same as we spend on schools or the police.

When bad times finally arrived, the government had to spend even more (rightly and reasonably so) but because the costs of the public sector had already been so grossly increased, and because there was so much interest to pay, and because with the recession the tax receipts were not so healthy – we ended up with a whopping deficit.

Now you may argue that such a deficit is sustainable and that we can go on borrowing and spending more. Others will say that we cannot burden subsequent generations with having to pick up the tab.

In 2009, because of the recession, the government overspend was around 96 billion. This was necessary.

The total of the overspends from 2002-2007 were around 77 billion. These were unnecessary.

You’ve got to admit that the 96 billion in 2009 would have been a lot more manageable if we hadn’t already borrowed the 77 billion needlessly?

it is wrong to assume that the government have much discretion regards the deficit. The fiscal deficit is primarily the consequence of decisions made in the private sector.

In good times, a government – like a household or an individual – can choose to live within its means and balance its budget.

Left Outside

Thank you for talking a bit of sense on the extent of Labour’s responsibility for the current deficit.

The way the Coalition ping-pong between blaming Labour (when it suits them) and blaming the bankers (when it suits them), without ever trying to take any kind of measured view, is just infuriating.

Nobody seems to be very interested in hearing that it’s partly the fault of Labour for running a small deficit in good years, and partly the fault of successive Tory and Labour governments (and compliant oppositions) for allowing the economy to become too reliant on an under-regulated financial sector, but overwhelmingly the fault of the bankers for causing a once-in-a-century economic catastrophe.

And funnily enough, you rarely hear a Tory suggest that the opening up of a gap between tax revenues and spending under Labour partly reflects a failure to collect enough taxes…

As for people using voting records as indication of the future… I can barely hold back my rage so I won’t bother commenting on that.

You’re so angry you can’t make a rational argument?

@ 21. Flowerpower

‘ Besides, there are problems associated with always talking about deficits as percentages of GDP. Sometimes it’s useful to think of them as concrete sums of overspend. A deficit doesn’t look so bad with GDP rising; it quickly looks horrible as GDP plummets. ‘

A deficit is an accounting identity so if you do not express it in terms of GDP how do you know how large it is? A £10 billion deficit would be crippling for Burkina Faso but trivial for the UK.

‘ As a result of this reckless overspending, they built up a pile of debt that proved expensive to service so that today we find that paying the debt interest costs us around the same as we spend on schools or the police….and because there was so much interest to pay ‘

This is what is known as arrant nonsense and it is why I hate political parties. It makes it look like I am defending the last government when I am not. I tend to take the view that the government should live with near balanced budgets. Not for any particular moral reasons but because it stops the tax burden from rising. To spend is to tax either now or in the future. What puzzles me is this obsession with the interest payments budget and comparing the nominal budget to other budgets. Would it surprise you to know the government interest payments budget as a proportion of GDP is lower now than in any year since the last war? The 1980s was when the burden was highest.
http://www.ukpublicspending.co.uk/debt_brief.php

‘ Now you may argue that such a deficit is sustainable and that we can go on borrowing and spending more. Others will say that we cannot burden subsequent generations with having to pick up the tab. ‘

I can’t speak for Left Outside, but I am not saying such a deficit was sustainable. My point was even if the last government had run a balanced budget they would still have had a large deficit visited on them from the private sector saving. Therefore, they are accountable for part of the deficit but most of it is through decisions made in the private sector. The ‘ burden subsequent generations ‘ is a nonsense argument much favoured by populist politicians. It is in the interest of subsequent generations that we pass on a functioning economy. It will have no perceptible effect on subsequent generations when the government deficit spend when the economy is depressed.

‘ In good times, a government – like a household or an individual – can choose to live within its means and balance its budget. ‘

Although I don’t want to seem like I view national finances like a household or individual. I agree in good times the government should balance its budget. If they want to increase spending they should have the courage and risk unpopularity by raising taxes for the spending.

Sunny,

That justification for a no-inquiry vote was and remains a red herring. How many times has that one been trotted out? Like New Labour gave a damn about morale in that context. One might argue with equal passion that a lack of equipment and/or bad equipment lowered morale for troops for the length of New Labour’s tenure. That just tended to be slightly less expedient politically. It erupted from time to time, but an inquiry would have been worse. It would have dragged on.

Let’s get one thing straight while we’re handing out the tutorials in politics. New Labour made a terrible mistake when it went to Iraq and thousands of innocent people died as a result. We’ve had various justifications for that invasion over the years – first, we were toppling Saddam and saving Kurds and others by way of happy by-product. Latterly, it turned out that one of the main reasons we were in Iraq and Afghanistan was to save women from their evil Taliban/Islamic overlords, etc. Turns out the whole thing was actually an armed exercise in feminism. And as for capturing Bin Laden – well, who needed him when the rest of it was such a success?

The truth is that nobody associated with that war can continue in high office. You’re trying to argue that the particulars of it matter. You’re also trying to argue that a dimwit like myself can’t read a voting-records site in context – a point I find a little insulting. The simple facts are – and this simple fact is all that matters – is that some 500,000 or so people died in that war and nobody really knows why. That’s 500,000 everyday punters like you and me, just sitting round their TVs and laptops at night, hoping not to stop a grenade. My taxes paid for those assaults on everyday people.

Labour did the right thing when it discarded David Miliband – his association with the Iraq was just too damaging. Ed Miliband has made very, very sure to let us all know that he came to office after the war vote (he said it several times in his acceptance speech) and that he advised against the war in his earlier policy roles. Labour’s future is less about a break with New Labour than a break with those who supported the war.

As for people using voting records as indication of the future…

What they show is that some people will vote to protect their PM / party over something they know to be wrong.

I don’t think we need such people in government, but YMMV.

27. Chaise Guevara

“What they show is that some people will vote to protect their PM / party over something they know to be wrong.

I don’t think we need such people in government, but YMMV.”

Depends. I’m not sure I’d want my MP going against the party line on issue he ‘felt’ to be right, not unless he’d actively campaigned on it.

Say the Lib Dem MP you voted for announced after the election his support for tax breaks for the super-rich, on the basis that he felt “it was only right that they got to keep the money they’d worked so hard to earn”. I’d be furious.

@ukliberty Precisely. Yes-men.

Sunny: this post that has just published on the pointlessness of the war on terror sums things up pretty well:

http://liberalconspiracy.org/2010/10/10/after-a-decade-of-war-on-terror-america-gives-up-trying-to-win/#more-18325

Those who voted for those hostilities with nary a backward glance have a lot to answer and they ought to be answering for it. They certainly shouldn’t be enjoying shadow chancellorships.

29. alienfromzog

@flowerpower

Your argument is complete wrong. Though, sadly continuously being peddled by the government and the media alike. However it’s still completely wrong.

1. Deficits between 2002-2007 were well within the Maastrict criteria with one exception. You argue that there should have been a balanced budget in these, the ‘good years.’ There are lots of reasons why governments run deficits, firstly, investment. GB’s golden rule was that the government should only borrow to invest over the course of the economic cycle. Most unbiased commentators note that he stretched this but essentially, building up infrastructure is a good use of money and it is much cheaper if you will, to borrow and build things than not to do so as it means we are wealthier in the long term. Schools, hospitals, roads, railways etc. So the idea of wasted £77 billion is just a little bit silly.

2a. Historically no chancellor (Labour or Conservative) has run consistent surpluses. The last conservative government also ran deficits in the good years.
2b. Most countries in the G8 had deficits prior to 2008. Britain’s total debt prior to the crisis was one of the smallests in the developed world (as a proportion of GDP). It is now in the middle.

So what you are expecting is for the then government to do something that is not done internationally and has not been done historically and isn’t economically necessary. That’s a bit silly.

3. The strength of the economy is far more important that the size of the debt. Obviously excessive debt is bad to the economy but there are nobel prize winners lining up to explain why Britain’s debt is easily managable. Larger than it needs to be in the long term but easily managable. As long as a country can reasonably service it’s debt it is not particularly burdensome and the question is this; if we had zero debt now and hence no payments would we be better off? The answer isn’t an obvious “yes.” Because if the route of getting to no debt is no investment and a decimated public sector then you kill off the economy and end up far worse off. This is the danger of austerity drives.

4. The myth of leaving the debt for our children is nearly as annoying as the myth comparing national budgets to household budgets. Have a look at the size of the national debt in 1980 (i.e. 30 years ago!) As a proportion of GDP it was higher then, than in 2008. Then look at the absolute value and then see who you can convince that we (as a generation now) are paying that debt. Seriously it’s ludicrous.

5. Debt repayments larger than the education budget. This is indeed true. However, it is worth noting that it was also true in 1997.

All of the above comes from figures easily available in the public domain. The deficit sky-rocketed due to the biggest economic crisis since the 1930s. Thus far, Britain has come through it rather well. The greatest risk to the UK economy as the moment is George Osborne.

30. Chaise Guevara

@28 Kate

“Precisely. Yes-men”

Yes-men indeed, but is that a de facto bad thing? I imagine most people vote for a prospective MP based on the party they belong to rather than the fact that they’ve met them personally and judged them to be a sensible soul and an all-round jolly good egg. As such, isn’t it more democratic for an MP to follow party line in some cases rather than pursue their own private moral agenda?

31. alienfromzog

@28 ‘yes-men’

It’s not a simple as that. Each MP stands on the party manifesto. So part of what they are promising when they stand for election is that they will vote with the party on various issues.

That’s not to say that MPs should vote with their party regardless but it is not as simple as saying that because MPs follow the party line, they’re not capable of thinking…

AFZ

Yes-men indeed, but is that a de facto bad thing?

Depends what they say Yes to, doesn’t it?

As such, isn’t it more democratic for an MP to follow party line in some cases rather than pursue their own private moral agenda?

If his ‘moral agenda’ coincides with the party line, great. If it doesn’t, are you really suggesting he should betray his morals?

“Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.” – Edmund Burke

“This is why I hate those damn voting record sites.”

Jeez. If someone has acted a certain way their whole career, what chance is there they’ll act any different in the future? Voting records are statements of principle.

Kate: Balls has as bad a record as Johnson. I don’t see why one comes with a pile of corpses whilst the other smells of roses.

@6-21

*Sigh*

As this makes pretty clear.

http://www.ifs.org.uk/bns/bn93.pdf

The public finances were by historical standards in relatively good shape until 2007, when the financial crisis hit, requiring deficit spending to prop up the economy (which has been well established practice since the 1930s per Keynes)

Of course perhaps the economically illiterate (which includes most of the Tories) need a lesson in what happens when you withdraw public spending stimulus in the middle of a recession. Which sadly we are probably about to find out.

This is why I hate those damn voting record sites.

What, like Hansard?

Flowerpower, I hear you got the memo from Fraser Nelson http://www.spectator.co.uk/coffeehouse/5853623/why-cameron-must-never-say-deficit.thtml ! Good to see you staying on message.

Other commenters appear to have dealt with your other points, such as they are.

In good times, a government – like a household or an individual – can choose to live within its means and balance its budget.

Arghh!

A government is not a household or an individual. Do you reject that notion, out of interest, or do you keep parroting that line because it is useful rhetorically or because you genuinely don’t understand the difference? (Its that classic argument where you force the other person to declare themselves either dishonest or stupid.)

What really rankles me about Johnson are his devolving formulation of the government’s drugs policy to the Daily Mail while HS and his response to Ken Clark’s recent sensible and liberal remarks on sentencing – resorting to accusing the Tories of being “soft on crime”. Truly pathetic.

Okay, so how excited are we feeling about Woolas?

For fuck’s sake. This system is rotten to its rotten core.

Yeah, just read that Woolas is a shadow minister. Guess which department… Home Office!

Labour FTW!

40. Chaise Guevara

@32

“Depends what they say Yes to, doesn’t it?”

Oh, yes. Hence me saying ‘de facto’. Sometimes it’s right for an MP to toe party line, sometimes not. The most obvious example of the latter being when the party tries to break manifesto promises.

“If his ‘moral agenda’ coincides with the party line, great. If it doesn’t, are you really suggesting he should betray his morals?”

Yeah. To pick an issue at random, let’s say I’m a strong believer in the pro-life cause. In this particular hypothetical election, I vote Conservative because they make some noises about the sanctity of unborn life; neither the MP I vote for nor anyone they run against says anything about abortion one way or the other.

Couple of years later, the Commons is debating whether or not to make abortion on demand more easily available (perhaps scrapping the ‘second referral’ rule). The Tories oppose the bill, but my MP supports it because he feels the bill is morally right. As a result, I’ve been democratically shafted.

People don’t vote for an MP because they want them to apply their own moral judgement, they vote for them based on the policies they and their party support.

“Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.” – Edmund Burke”

This is a tricky one if it’s simply a matter of judgement: I think an MP probably should vote against the prevailing opinion of the people who voted for him if he knows that they are severely misinformed. Morality is different, though, more private.

This was brilliant power play by Ed Miliband – if anyone thinks this was for unity’s sake, I think they are mistaken.

You could not have Ed Balls as Shadow Chancellor. Especially after forcing Nick Brown to step down as Whip. You could not have Cooper as Shadow Chancellor either because she is married to Ed Balls and she is a true Brownite. At a labour party conference, in 2004 or 2005, she was galvanising support against Tony Blair – who was the party leader and PM. I was there.

And during the hustings it was clear there was not much love lost between the two Eds. He neutralised the biggest beasts of his generation in the shadow cabinet at least until the local government elections.

All those who are thinking Theresa May would be quaking in her boots (as our dear leader said this afternoon) – Ed Balls has been given the indefensible task of defending Children’s database, ID cards, stop and search blah blah of Labour’s record. This is not like Tony Blair’s Shadow Home Secretary job.

Shadow Foreign Secretary job is one of the worst jobs unless you are also de facto deputy leader like William hague and implicitly trusted by your leader. You literally can’t do much.

So the biggest beasts in the shadow cabinet are, Andy Burnham, Douglas Alexander (in my opinion the next leader of the party if DM is not around), Jim Murphy, Alan Johnson. They are all close to his brother David and DM is not going to support or launch a putsch against his little brother.

But all this stems out of weakness and not strength. And it takes only 33 MPs to start a leadership election. And Balls and Nick Brown can do that if they feel slighted – changing labour leaders in opposition is far easier than in government.

And if there is one – union votes would definitely not go to Balls – His brother just might decide to run against him (remember abdication of responsibility) – so the new leader despite his shadow cabinet remains very very weak.

Child benefit cut opposition is going to come and haunt the party too. Say its unfair and not thought through – but saying you are against it does not make sense. I don’t think Ed Miliband shoud be given child benefits or David Cameron or Nick Clegg or David Miliband. Let alone the millionaire bankers.

*******************************

On voting records, Kate has made some strong arguments about having a clean slate and pointing out voting records. But I agree with Sunny on this one – because if you push voting record, Ed Miliband’s inconsistencies start showing up about the Iraq war. Such as voting against it.

And Alan Johnson and Ed Miliband’s voting record are very similar.

So do we really want to go down that road? I don’t think so.

*************************************

I meant union votes would go to Balls (if there is a leadership election).

Couple of years later, the Commons is debating whether or not to make abortion on demand more easily available (perhaps scrapping the ‘second referral’ rule). The Tories oppose the bill, but my MP supports it because he feels the bill is morally right. As a result, I’ve been democratically shafted.

Well, that’s a risk of our system.

We could have a bunch of drones – in which case what’s the point in having them at all?

Or we can have people who vote with their leadership most of the time and against them when they think it’s wrong to do so. Not much to ask, is it?

Don/Sunny, will there be a post about Why Phil Woolas was the Right Choice for Shadow Home Office Minister?

t. One might argue with equal passion that a lack of equipment and/or bad equipment lowered morale for troops for the length of New Labour’s tenure.

And Tories did in fact.

Sorry Kate, but please argue one thing at a time. No one is saying Iraq was a great idea – least of all me.

But if you want to blame someone for not holding an inquiry – I’m afraid you’re shooting blanks. They delayed on good advice and had the inquiry after troops were withdrawn as promised. Having one slightly earlier would have made little difference. End of story.

Lastly – my views on Woolas are already well known. I’m not happy about it. But Don Paskini is completely right with this post. I’m happy for people to be annoyed over legitimate things, but this is just scraping the barrel.

Not only did Labour overspend themselves, but they allowed personal lending to rise to unsustainable levels. Both of these deliberate government decisions (they were warned as far back as 2003 about the unsustainability of private sector credit expansion and problems of personal overindebtedness) explain why we have been left so high and dry in a fiscal sense by the previous administration.

GB’s golden rule was that the government should only borrow to invest over the course of the economic cycle. Most unbiased commentators note that he stretched this

Heh. Stretched it.

As the last chancellor to report on it, he can tell the Commons that the UK will miss the golden rule by £485bn.

Good lord, Sunny – calling me a Tory now? And you say I’m scraping the bottom of the barrel.

At least I’m not doing the scraping with my tongue.

You are wrong on Iraq and those who are culpable and you know it. Johnson has blood on his hands and that is how he is viewed by the moronic masses – even as they rot out here misguidedly reading Hansard and setting store by political voting records.

Johnson and Woolas. You ought to be ashamed. EM won’t be ashamed, because he’s a politician, but you ought to be.

I like you, dude, but I liked you a lot better when you were a journalist.

@Kate I think blood on their hands is a tad too strong – I lean that way, but if Johnson has blood on his hands, then so does every Labour (and Tory) MP who voted for the war. That’s a lot of MPs with a lot of blood on their hands!

@Kate I think you’ve had your New New Labour watershed moment – the realisation that no matter how much they say they’ve changed or will change just a few months after losing power, it’s clear there is no one with any authority in the party that actually wants to change, or to be consistent, and that they are just saying what their gullible supporters want to hear in order to be forgiven for the terrible things they did in power.

Perhaps you’ve also realised that there is a big gap between how loyalist Labour members view this new leader and Shadow Cabinet/junior ministerial team, and how the rest of us see it. I.e. Labour members will stand up and excuse their party, whilst everyone else can see right through it all.

The parting of the ways.

alienfromzog @ 29 Graham @ 34 LO 2 36

Since you deficit-deniers seem to put a good deal of store by what the IFS says, maybe you should re-visit this report of what the IFS was saying just after Alistair Darling’s March budget:

The scale of the “repayment shock” facing Britain as its national debt climbs to the highest level since the 1960s was laid bare as the Institute for Fiscal Studies calculated, based on Treasury figures in the Budget , that debt interest payments will climb to £73.8bn by 2014/15……– 10.6pc of total tax revenues …….. The news is likely to cause consternation in the markets – as well as among households – since many of the ratings agencies regard a country as being in growing danger of a fiscal crisis, and a likely downgrade, once its debt interest payments exceed 10pc of tax revenues.……. Next year the debt interest bill will hit £42bn: higher than Britain’s annual defence bill. At £73.8bn, it is likely to be equivalent to both the defence and transport bills combined.

It’s just amazing to me the contrast between the howls and screeches of outrage with which many at this blog greeted the government’s tiny £6 billion efficiency savings this year and your complete insouciance about interest payments rising by tens of billions per year.

52. alienfromzog

Flowerpower,

You really have read the entire Conservative memo, haven’t you. “Deficit denier” Impressive argument.

It is not especially surprising that debt levels are at their highest since the 60’s given the financial crisis of 2008.

The more pertinent question is this; will Osborne’s strategy of severe austerity make things better or worse? To which the answer is that in terms of the overall economy and well-being of the country, worse.

But more interestingly in terms of debt-repayments also, things may well get worse. If the economy slumps badly then tax reciepts will get even worse and thus the deficits over the next few years will worsen despite the severe cuts.

On the other hand, Alastair Darling’s interventions in 2009 made the deficit significantly (i.e. ~10%) less bad than was expected. This despite many right wing commentators in 2009 calling Darling’s prediction of £180bn ‘optimistic.’

Have a look at Osborne’s statements and proposals from the crisis point in autumn 2008 to the election in 2010, then tell me he know’s what he’s doing.

AFZ


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