The following was a response on a closed facebook page to the question of what Labour can offer if we do not go down the Jeremy Corbyn so-called ‘anti-austerity’ route. (In fact the question was: “so what would you do – give up?”) It is a summary of where I stand.
Nearby, I suggested to another comrade that although I am not going to vote for Jeremy Corbyn (for a number of reasons, but mainly his policies and his friends) I am waiting for one of the other three candidates to inspire me. And that I have now been waiting for that for quite a while. She confessed to being in the same boat.
The debate is whether the politics of today allow us to do what we all want: expand the economy and redistribute the benefits of growth. There are a number of difficulties with doing so.
The first is that we did that for a decade, and failed to capitalise politically on having done so. The result is that the voters remember the downside of our economic record, and not the upside in investment in public services and the growth of individual incomes. Indeed, many Labour *members* – and some on this page – refuse to recognise the achievements of the Blair and Brown years.
Another problem is that the Tories have achieved better growth than most comparable economies – mainly by not being in the Eurozone, but they do have credibility where as we do not. Another is that the world economy is currently pretty rocky and is only going to get worse (esp see China). Do we think that makes voters more or less likely to take risks with the national finances? A Fabian pamphlet a couple of years ago pointed out that in past depressions, voters turn to the Tories.
Which is not to be defeatist, rather to say that our aims (if they are to endorsed by the voters) should be specific and justifiable within the framework of debt and deficit reduction. This poses three challenges.
- The first is that we must set our immediate steps within an inspirational framework of values and ambitions.
- The second is to look to ways in which better public services can be brought about without massive extra spending commitments. It is here that the new economy of co-operatives, mutuals, community businesses can be expanded.
- The third – and most difficult – challenge is to say that if we cannot expand the cake as quickly or as much as we want, then we must redistribute it more fairly.
In this way, what I am setting out is more radical than tax/spend or borrow/spend. It is using politics for the redistribution of wealth and power: and not giving up at all.