Sir Keir Starmer’s decision to abandon Labour’s policy of spending £28bn a year on a Green New Deal is shameful. However the shame applies not to Sir Keir or the Labour party – for them it is almost certainly prudent.
The shame applies to the quality of Britain’s public debate, in which the Conservative-leaning print media can be relied upon to sully decent policy emanating from an opposition party and the public broadcasters are cowed into soft-pedalling any enthusiasm for non-Conservative proposals for fear of further attacks on their funding.
Given such dominance and subservience the Tories have succeed in demonising “sensitivity to racial and social discrimination”* as “woke”, protection of consumers, including children, as “the nanny state,” defenders of vulnerable people as “lefty lawyers” and enforcers of international law as “enemies of the people.”
Over a very long period our media have somehow managed to convince most of our electorate that Conservative governments are pillars of financial rectitude, whereas Labour governments are recklessly profligate.
The reverse is nearer the truth.
It was the Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher which squandered the revenues from North Sea Oil on current expenditure rather than set up a Sovereign Wealth Fund. That same government introduced the financial deregulation which eventually led to the crash in 2008. It was under John Major’s government that we were ignominiously ejected from the ERM, the Johnson Conservatives presided over the VIP line for the procurement racket during the COVID pandemic, and Liz Truss’s shortest government on record sent interest rates rocketing and shook what remained of Britain’s reputation for financial stability.
By contrast Attlee’s post-war Labour government built up our welfare state, including the NHS “free at the point of use,” introduced family allowances, and brought the public utilities under public ownership despite that fact that the debt/GDP ratio when they took office in 1945 was well over 200% - more than double what it is today. Under Tony Blair’s government that ratio was brought down to 40%, substantially below the accepted norm of 60%. And it was Gordon Brown’s leadership that saved the world’s financial system after the 2008 crash.
So the historical record shows that the Labour party is perfectly capable of introducing its highly necessary, ambitious and relevant Green New Deal, the like of which we need both to restore our economic prosperity and avoid further trashing our planet, and financing it prudently
Rather than debate this and other issues in a reasoned, informed and constructive way, it is clear that our election will be fought on sound-bites and slogans.
Labour will be accused of being split, with the Leader not in harmony with the Shadow Chancellor. True they are, but at least on two “rights”: financial stability v sustainable green growth.
By contrast the Tories squabble over wrongs: whether to bribe the electorate by unaffordable tax cuts, further neglect of the public realm, and further opportunities to feather their own nest.
Among the questions we should be asking the parties are:
· What proposals have you to make the UK fairer;
· How will you improve our public services;
· Will you repair our democracy;
· Will you play a constructive and law-abiding role in international affairs;
· What proposals have you to stimulate the economy for sustainable economic growth?
A responsible media would help us understand the answers.
That is the definition given in a clue in this-morning’s Guardian Quick Crossword 16 773