Last week I had occasion to send the following letter to our Prospective Parliamentary Candidate (PPC) in a nearby constituency
20th October, 2014
Dear Liberal Democrat PPC,
A friend of mine, a confirmed Labour Party supporter, attended one of your meetings recently – I believe it was a meeting of your MP and all the PPCs - and has told me he was very impressed by you, but that you pushed the usual line of the Coalition’s “clearing up the economic mess left by Labour.”
I know this is the line currently adopted by our leaders and particularly Danny Alexander, but it is a gross misrepresentation of the facts. Briefly:
- Gordon Brown was quite “prudent” for most of his time as Chancellor, running a budget surplus for several years and, before the crash, bringing the Debt/GDP ratio down to some 40% (well below the “respectable “ level of 60%). Indeed the Debt/GDP ratio in 2007, before the crash, was lower than that inherited from the Conservatives when Labour took office in 1997 after umpteen years of Tory rule. *
- The economic “mess” was caused by irresponsible behaviour by the financial sector made possible by the policy of deregulation introduced by the Tories, who would have undoubtedly ridiculed any attempts to tighten regulation in the period up to 2008. In fact, they (and we) haven’t done much since;
- Gordon Brown may not have saved the world, but his prompt action through the G8 in 2017/8 most certainly helped avoid an even more serious crisis and is much praised in the rest of the developed world, and especially in the US;
- As a result of Alistair Darling’s mildly expansionary budgets the British economy was actually growing and the current deficit falling when Labour lost office and the Coalition took over;
- George Osborne’s first and subsequent budgets halted this growth, and produced several years of stagnation from which the economy is only now showing hesitant signs of recovery. Neither of Osborne’s declared aims, of retaining our AAA rating and eliminating the current deficit within the parliament, have been achieved.
A friend and fellow Liberal/Liberal Democrat over half a century has spelt out the true nature of the economic situation and the effects of the policy of “austerity” in the enclosed booklet,** which I hope you will read. You may also like to look at my blog keynesianliberal.blogspot.com and my article in Liberator 365.
For more authoritative confirmation of these views you could read the articles of Bill Keegan in the Observer, Larry Elliott in the Guardian and Simon Wren-Lewis’s blog, mainly macro.
The Conservatives excellent PR machine has successfully sold the fallacy of Labour’s responsibility for the economic situation and even the pretence that the Coalition’s economic policy is a success. You may feel that there are short term advantages in jumping on this dishonest bandwagon, but I believe that we shall not restore respect for our democratic system unless and until we are prepared to treat the electorate as adults and tell the truth.
Before the last election Nick Clegg campaigned on the promise of greater honesty in politics. We should hold him to it and campaign accordingly.
With best wishes for a successful, and honest, campaign,
*Not in the original letter but added at the suggestion of John Cole
** You can receive an E-copy of this pamphlet by Emailing firstname.lastname@example.org