Who he? He Peter Mandelson. Perhaps the description of this ex Labour grandee is a little harsh, but I despair at the twaddle that the political class of both main political parties, both past and present, are spouting about the economy and about austerity in particular.
Mandelson has been imploring the Labour shadow cabinet to come clean about the Labour version of austerity, to be honest and ‘speak with a single voice’ about their version of this ludicrous and wholly unnecessary policy. Does he think we will love Labour more for dressing up austerity in a new suit of clothes? If he does then someone must have cut the connection to his ivory tower.
Labour politicians seem to be totally hung up about being seen to be ‘responsible’ about the economy. They are fixated about convincing us that they will maintain an iron discipline over spending and exercise financial probity. That this will grab our imagination and persuade us to vote for them. But if this means that Labour are intending to try and sell us a sexier version of Tory austerity then they are heading for a fall. Who are they trying to sell this half-baked policy to exactly, themselves or the Murdoch press? If it’s the electorate they’ve got it seriously wrong.
The electorate are not blind to the fact that Osborne deliberately trashed growth in 2010 in order to install his austerity Trojan horse. A policy disguised as a means to ‘deal with the deficit’ (which it has failed to do), but with a deeper, nastier purpose, to shrink the state, trash the welfare system and consolidate the corporate dictatorship that now rules Britain. If Labour honestly think the electorate are going to buy into more of this nonsense, they are mightily mistaken.
What the electorate want from Labour is an alternative to cruel austerity. They want new, fresh ideas, not re-hashed, dressed up Tory policies. How about addressing the £100 billion given away each year in tax reliefs? (£20 billion is given away in pension contribution tax relief for the already well off). How about insisting companies pay their taxes first and dispute them later…at least the delaying tactics would be reversed. And then there’s the annual £35 billion in uncollected taxes, why not recruit more tax inspectors to sort the problem rather than cutting the numbers at HMRC? And for a really innovative idea, what about a ‘solidarity tax’ similar to the one the Germans introduced to pay for reunification? It’s a specific tax for a specific problem. Our specific problem is the deficit and it would be paid for by those who can afford to pay not by those who cannot. (It is a tax levied on taxed income – between 5 and 7%. Since the Germans introduced it, it has raised over £130 billion)
Governments have to get out of the habit of penalising the poor for the errors of the few, of introducing taxes that cripple consumption. They need to address tax distortions caused by a ridiculously complicated and divisive tax system and institute reform.
Unless Labour do something new, come up with exciting, innovative ideas that capture our imagination, the electorate is going to speak with a single voice and give them a good kicking.