In Furious Denial Over The Failure Of Leftist Economic Policy, Owen Jones Misrepresents Conservatism

Owen Jones continues to use his Guardian column to peddle lies and misrepresentations about conservative economic policy, in a Herculean effort to save British leftists from having to come to terms with their failed economic policy dogma.

In praise of John McDonnell’s unabashedly left-wing conference speech, Jones whines:

It was a speech not lacking in concrete proposals: a tax transparency and enforcement programme; a £250bn investment programme in infrastructure and clean energy; a national investment bank, backed up by regional investment banks, to support small businesses; legislation to stop the emergence of Philip Greens by reforming companies – preventing them from “taking on excessive debt to pay out dividends” and ensuring company takeovers protect workers and pensions; the promotion of cooperative and worker ownership; protection for self-employed people; plans for a universal basic income and the reintroduction of collective bargaining to stop the levelling down of wages.

The critique writes itself: Labour lost the last election because it was not trusted with the nation’s finances. How on earth do these speeches address those concerns? There are two points to make. Firstly, Labour’s failure to defend Blair and Brown’s spending record – with the Tories revising history to claim that the investment they backed was at the root of Britain’s economic woes – is critical to understanding the party’s election loss. That’s why the Tories’ line – “why hand the keys back to the driver who crashed the car?” – was so devastatingly effectively.

My emphasis in bold.

Sorry, but this is complete balderdash from Owen Jones. The conservative / small government criticism of New Labour economic policy is not that runaway government spending *caused* the economic crisis – that is clearly false, when we know that the crisis was precipitated by a bad credit-fuelled housing bubble which undermined a grasping and improperly regulated banking sector. The conservative position is that by spending money like it was going out of fashion and running budget deficits even in the good years, there was absolutely no “rainy day” fund or financial buffer available when the bottom fell out of the economy and tax revenues dried up.

That is the real reason for today’s so-called “austerity” (meaning slightly reduced increases in government spending compared to earlier baselines). Jones later goes on to charge the Tories with “the failure to eliminate the deficit as promised, a rising national debt” – well, what would his preferred spendthrift policies have done? If Owen Jones is seriously suggesting that the forsaken economic recovery resulting from continued or increased government spending from 2010-15 was so great that it would have paid for itself, eliminated the deficit and taken a chunk out of the national debt then he is treating his readers like they are stupid. And he is holding the Tories to a standard of economic miracle-working which he would never expect of his own beloved Labour Party.

The reason that nobody trust the Labour Party on the economy – the reason that Labour MPs are laughed out of town whenever they even make a claim to economic competence – is that New Labour’s remorseless cranking up of the size of the state, together with their endless expansion of government spending and determination to hook more and more people on government welfare, meant that Britain was uniquely badly positioned among advanced nations to weather the global financial crisis.

The charge is not that idiotic PPI contract-delivered hospitals and shiny new school buildings in Britain actively caused a global credit crunch and recession. The charge is that this ignorant spendthriftery weakened Britain’s financial position, meant that the slightest cuts in government spending would immediately impact public sector workers or those encouraged to be dependent on various benefits, and made our subsequent economic pain that much more brutal – the cost of which can be counted today in lost and stunted lives. This is what Labour “compassion” hath wrought.

So no, the Tories do not suggest that electing a Labour government would be akin to “handing the keys back to the driver who crashed the car.” For all their faults, Labour did not deliberately crash the vehicle. But they did set out on treacherously icy roads having previously cut the brake cables, and that is just as bad, however desperately Owen Jones tries to spin it.



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Another Reason To Dislike Gordon Brown

I am only allowed by my wife to rant about Gordon Brown and his toxic impact on British life and politics a maximum of three times per week. Yes, she keeps track, and yes, even I will acknowledge that this has sometimes been necessary. No such restriction applies to this blog, however, which is just as well given recent revelations made by former Labour spin-doctor Damian McBride.

Apparently, Brown’s first instinct upon realising the gravity of the situation brought about by the global economic crisis and Britain’s unique unpreparedness to deal with it (thanks to eleven years of big spending Labour government) was not to issue a heartfelt mea culpa and apology to the British people for the upcoming lost decade that he was unleashing, but instead to start plotting the implementation of martial law on the streets of Britain.

Help to engineer a global financial calamity and then propose banning people from protesting about it - that's the Gordon Brown way.
Help to engineer a global financial calamity and then propose banning people from protesting about it – that’s the Gordon Brown way.

The BBC reports:

Gordon Brown discussed deploying troops on Britain’s streets as news of the 2008 financial crisis became clear, an ex-Labour spin doctor has claimed. In extracts of a book published in the Daily Mail, Damian McBride said the former prime minister feared “anarchy” once the scale of the crisis was known. According to the book, Mr Brown said: “We’d have to think: do we have curfews, do we put the Army on the streets, how do we get order back?”

I am continually accused of being too hard on Gordon Brown. He was a good person, interlocutors on his behalf insist. His heart was in the right place, they plead. He was a simple humble methodist man who just wanted to do good for his country, they tell me. Blah, blah, blah.

This man, uniquely responsible for ensuring that Britain entered the great recession as the least well prepared of all of the major world economies, thought that the best way to deal with the potential fallout would be to deploy troops on the streets to stop us from looting and pillaging our country back to the stone age.

The article continues:

Mr Brown is quoted as saying: “If the banks are shutting their doors, and the cash points aren’t working, and people go to Tesco and their cards aren’t being accepted, the whole thing will just explode.

“If you can’t buy food or petrol or medicine for your kids, people will just start breaking the windows and helping themselves.

“And as soon as people see that on TV, that’s the end, because everyone will think that’s OK now, that’s just what we all have to do. It’ll be anarchy. That’s what could happen tomorrow.”

According to Mr McBride’s book, Power Trip, Mr Brown feared panic from other countries could spread to the UK.

I am genuinely unsure which is worse – the fact that the man brought our nation to a place where such draconian, apocalyptic scenarios even had to be considered, the fact that he thought they might be the best way of tackling the problem, or the fact that his current proteges are this very day standing giving speeches at the Labour party conference in Brighton where they are denying any responsibility for or complicity in Britain’s continuing economic malaise. There are no words or phrases critical enough of the premiership of Gordon Brown.

The book’s author, Damian McBride, does not do himself any great favours as he relates the tale. Grateful as we must be to him for shedding this additional light on the Brown terror, of course McBride was personally supportive of everything that Brown did:

“It was extraordinary to see Gordon so totally gripped by the danger of what he was about to do, but equally convinced that decisive action had to be taken immediately,” Mr McBride wrote.

He claimed the then prime minister understood the situation better than other world leaders, his UK opponents and senior bankers.

And the former spin doctor rated Mr Brown’s actions as “up with those of President Kennedy and his advisers during the Cuban Missile Crisis”.

John F. Kennedy and Gordon Brown – historical equals and political peers. Aside from the fact that they both ghost-wrote books about the meaning of courage, I’m not really feeling the similarity right now.