The Government is now further from the “New” Labour in the 1997 Manifesto, than “New” Labour was from the traditional Labour party.
These extracts from that 1997 Manifesto demonstrate the point.
Spending and tax: new Labour’s approach
“The myth that the solution to every problem is increased spending has been comprehensively dispelled under the Conservatives.”
That is as true for investment as for current spending. It is certainly true for increased current spending, even if you attempt to re-define as investment. It is also true for spending your way out of recession, or a fiscal stimulus during a boom. As the manifesto goes on to state:-
“The level of public spending is no longer the best measure of the effectiveness of government action in the public interest. It is what money is actually spent on that counts more than how much money is spent.”
“The national debt has doubled under John Major. The public finances remain weak. A new Labour government will give immediate high priority to seeing how public money can be better used.
The national debt had indeed risen, and was coming down during a boom. It came down even further during Labour’s first term, due to their adhering to the Conservative’s policy. This high priority has been dusted off again, as a way to reduce spending, having failed for over twelve years to implement it.
New Labour will be wise spenders, not big spenders.”
Not for the last nine years they have not. By any measure, they have been big spenders, not wise spenders. Increased expenditure on the NHS has mostly been wasted on exhorbitant pay rises, and much expenditure of very expensive hospitals. However, the sharp end of survival rates from strokes to cancers is still amoungst the lowest of the OECD countries. That is lower productivity, or less value for money.That is less value for money. In Education, there has been a lot of new schools built, lower staff to pupil ratios, but little evidence of improving standards. That is lower productivity, or less value for money.
To be wise spenders you must first acknowledge your limits and seek counsel from those who have a track record in these matters. The Taxpayer’s Alliance has some good ideas, supported by Wat Tyler at Burning Our Money. John Redwood draws on his experience in government, along with his time in business. The Adam Smith Institute also provides some thoughtful pieces at times. Further, you should ignore the master’s of spin. That is the Mandelson’s, or the Campbell’s of this world. And treat as lepers the Mcbrides and the Drapers, who will only serve to destroy good government.
“No risks with inflation
We will match the current target for low and stable inflation of 2.5 per cent or less. We will reform the Bank of England to ensure that decision-making on monetary policy is more effective, open, accountable and free from short-term political manipulation.”
In the last year the Bank of England has pumped £200bn of money into the economy. They have reduced interest rates to 0.5%, a record low in over three centuries. Although nominally independent, are very much in line with Government policy, and would have been leaned on heavily if they had disagreed. Sound money has gone. In so far as it existed since 2001, it was despite of deficit-funded spending boom. The risks taken with future inflation are huge, and prices are already rising.
“Strict rules for government borrowing
We will enforce the ‘golden rule’ of public spending – over the economic cycle, we will only borrow to invest and not to fund current expenditure.
We will ensure that – over the economic cycle – public debt as a proportion of national income is at a stable and prudent level.”
Another policy that was shelved in the second term by pretending current expenditure is investment. Also by believing that the government had “ended boom and bust”. At the peak of the cycle in 2007, the deficit was about 4% of GDP, despite a long period of historically-low interest rates. At such a long-term peak, there should have been a surplus of around 2% of GDP. The differential – the structural deficit is around £80bn. With the collapse in the financial sector, that structural deficit now exceeds £100bn.
“We will clean up politics”
After twelve years of government, the expenses scandal erupted. The headlines were grabbed by rich Tories (for cleaning the moat, a duck house, and manure), but the biggest monetary claims were mostly Labour MPs, including government ministers. It was kicked off by Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith claiming her main home as her sister’s house in London, not her family home in her constituency. The Labour party have not just failed on this policy. Many members of that party have helped bring it lower than at any time since the 1832 Great Reform Act abolished pocket boroughs.
NB – My thoughts were prompted by John Redwood’s short piece today on Labour’s Pledges. He says
“Keep this card and see that we keep our promises” says my copy of Labour’s pledge card from the start of the government. I did:
“Get 250,000 under 25 year olds off benefit and into work
Set tough rules for government spending and borrowing; ensure low inflation; strengthen the economy”
We all look forward to those. Any chance any time soon?