With The 2015 Budget, It’s Finally Time For Labour To Put Up Or Shut Up

George Osborne Ed Balls Budget 2015


David Cameron’s Conservative Party may only be pretending to care about small government, strutting around in the borrowed robes of fiscal responsibility. But in their feeble reaction to George Osborne’s 2015 budget, the Labour Party – much like the proverbial emperor – have been caught wearing no ideological clothes, and possessing no real principles at all.

We have now experienced nearly five years of coalition government, a Conservative and Liberal Democrat joint venture, and throughout that time the Labour Party has squealed and bitterly protested every single action taken by the government to restore Britain to any kind of good fiscal balance.

One might therefore reasonably expect the Labour Party to be ready with a compelling, explainable and measurable alternative raft of policies to fix Britain as the 2015 general election rapidly approaches. But not only does it seem that Ed Miliband’s Labour Party have no alternative vision for Britain beyond carping about Tory meanness, neither are they willing to commit to reversing any of the coalition government’s spending plans, including those announced in yesterday’s Budget.

The Telegraph reports that Ed Balls will not commit to undoing a single Tory spending measure should Ed Miliband win the keys to 10 Downing Street on 7 May:

Ed Balls, the shadow chancellor, admitted that Labour would not reverse George Osborne’s Budget measures, including the flagship measures on savings and Help to Buy.

Speaking in response to yesterday’s Budget, he said “nothing had changed” because the Chancellor had produced an “quite empty” Budget, meaning Labour “wouldn’t need to reverse any of it” if the party was successful at the general election.

“There’s nothing … I need to reverse. What I will reverse are deeper spending cuts in the next three years than the last five.”

Pushed as to whether he would retain Mr Osborne’s widely welcomed plans to spare millions of savers tax and to provide new “Help to Buy Isas” – savings accounts for first time buyers which would be topped up with government cash – Mr Balls told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme he would, adding: “I think the Help to Buy Isa is an interesting idea. We’re not going to abolish it.”

This leaves two rather burning questions: why would anyone in their right mind vote for Labour now that Ed Balls has admitted that he would copy all of George Osborne’s ideas? And isn’t it about time the Labour Party apologised to Conservative and right-wing voters for having said such horrible things about the Evil Tories when they secretly agreed with David Cameron and George Osborne the whole time?

Those of us who voted Conservative in 2010 or who believe generally in small government have spent the past five years being insulted, heckled and abused virtually non-stop by the Labour Party and its supporters. We were told that we are cruel and callous, unfeeling and scornful of the poor and vulnerable. Sometimes, when the socialist blood was really pumping, it was even suggested that we take some form of perverse enjoyment from witnessing the suffering of our fellow citizens led down the path of government dependency by the previous Labour government and then left high and dry by the Great Recession.

Well, now it’s time for Labour, and all those on the British left, to put up or shut up. What would they do differently? Which of the “Evil Tory” cuts would they reverse while simultaneously attempting to move toward a balanced budget and keep the confidence of international investors and money markets?

We have already had our answer from Labour’s Shadow Chancellor: Ed Balls has admitted that he would not reverse any of the decision or spending plans made in George Osborne’s 2015 Budget. Indeed, under the leadership of Ed Miliband, Labour have not committed to undoing a single one of the coalition government’s spending decisions.

But if the coalition’s spending plans are so awful, if the Evil Tories and those who support them are so wantonly cruel and such cartoon villains, why will the Labour Party – the party of the working man, apparently – not simply disown them and promise to set the country on a radically different course?

So far all we have heard from the Labour Party is a load of hot air: hand-wringing, simpering sympathy with the poor and the dispossessed, but zero commitment to do anything differently when it comes to distributing finite taxpayer money. Is the only difference between this government and the potential Labour alternative the reassuring knowledge that Ed Miliband will pat poor people on the back and say “sorry, old chap!” as he sends them to the workhouse?

Conservative supporters and others on the British right have legitimate cause to feel angry at the way their political beliefs, even their moral codes, have been slandered by the Labour Party and its supporters on the left. Constantly we have been told that we lack compassion and empathy, that we are selfish and narrow-minded. And yet given the opportunity – perhaps the last major set-piece opportunity before the election – to create some clear daylight between Conservative spending plans and the “compassionate” Labour alternative, the man who would be Ed Miliband’s Chancellor of the Exchequer in a future Labour government shamefully ducked the challenge.

Conservatives and small government advocates freely accept that theirs is not the only political view in town, not even the dominant political view much of the time. But what they should not tolerate – and what this blog will never tolerate – are smug lectures in compassion and social justice from supporters of a political party that is only too happy to attack Conservative spending plans, but also too cowardly and too intellectually bankrupt to propose clear alternatives. No.

George Osborne’s 2015 Budget was disappointing in a number of ways, but at least the Chancellor has the cojones to stand behind his spending plans. Where are Ed Miliband’s bright ideas? What are the Labour Party’s spending commitments?

Since Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition are too cowardly to admit that they would not have done anything differently over the course of the past five years, or in this 2015 Budget, will they at least now do the British people the courtesy of shutting up and leaving the political debate to those with real ideas, and genuine convictions?


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