Just when I felt sure that nothing politicians could say would possibly surprise me, Ed Balls proved me wrong. The Shadow Chancellor has proposed a sweeping programme of tax cuts — and criticised the Tories for not having seen the light first.
‘Some people,’ he wrote in the Sunday Times, ‘may be surprised to see Labour prioritising tax cuts.’ Not surprised, Ed. Disgusted, is more like it. What we are indeed surprised to see is that there truly are no limits to the bold-faced effrontery of which politicians are capable.
Ed’s proposals are a bit like Adolph Hitler rising from the dead to point out our deficiencies in interracial relations. Or Rosemary West accusing the government of not doing enough to protect children from abuse. Or Attila the Hun rebuking us for excessive bellicosity.
For it is the Labour government of 1997-2010, which Ed served in various economy-related capacities, such as economic adviser to Brown and Economics Secretary to the Treasury, that pulled off the seemingly impossible feat. Having inherited one of the most competitive economies in the world, it turned it into a basket case.
Actually, this seems to be Labour’s role in life: getting into power only to smash the economy, then stepping aside for a few years to let the Tories paper over some of the cracks, then coming back to swing the sledgehammer again.
I’m not an unequivocal admirer of Lady Thatcher, but her ‘supply-side revolution’ of the 1980s did succeed in reviving Britain’s moribund economy driven to the brink by Labour’s harebrained subversiveness. Using such expedients as deregulation, pinning back the greedy unions’ ears, tax-cutting and privatisation, Mrs Thatcher’s government put ‘the sick man of Europe’, Britain’s economy, back on its feet. It may have been tottering, but it was standing up.
Thirteen years of Labour’s incompetence, tinged with the bright red of ideological commitment to greed and envy, brought the economy to its knees. Their regulations, quite apart from their direct cost of about £178 billion, suffocated enterprise; their extorting more tax from corporations made matters worse; their massive raids on pension funds beggared thousands of pensioners and reduced the competitiveness of our finance industry; their meddling in tax regulations added new layers of bureaucracy; their shifting of resources from the private to the public sector put an unbearable strain on honest people in productive employment.
Above all, Labour’s criminally irresponsible borrowing made it well-nigh impossible for the Tories to restore sanity upon their return to power. Thanks to Margaret Thatcher’s policies, early in the government of John ‘Maastricht’ Major the public debt stood at 24.6 percent of GDP, the lowest proportion in the 20th century. It took Major only a few years to prove that his economic acumen was only equalled by his taste in girlfriends: towards the end of his mercifully brief tenure the debt had risen to 43.8 percent of GDP. At the time that looked like a disaster. Now it loooks like the good old times.
During the 13 disastrous years of Ed’s beloved Labour the public debt was tropistically reaching for 100 percent of GDP and a trillion pounds in absolute terms, which threshold has now been stepped over by the coalition. A debt of this magnitude would bind hand and foot even a government made up of George Cannings and William Pitts advised by Adam Smiths and David Ricardos. For one composed of our own Daves, Georges and Vinces the debt isn’t just a tether but also a millstone around its neck. What they need is something they have not: the courage to tell the nation that the cancerous economy needs not a gentle massage but a drastic surgery combined with chemotherapy. The economy will emerge shaken, weak and possibly nauseated. But it just may live.
What they emphatically don’t need is lessons in economic probity from the likes of Balls. Anyway, what specifically does this newly hatched champion of low taxation propose? A three-percent income-tax cut. Not for ever, he hastens to reassure his socialist rank-and-file craving to punish the ‘rich’. Just for a year, until the economy gets going again. And then we can tax it back into submission, making sure industry and talent don’t pay and continuing to tax the marginal pound at 50 percent or more (which was one of the last thank-you gifts from the outgoing Labour government).
What else, Ed? Oh well, if you insist. Bringing forward the personal allowance rise to £10,000. Higher tax credits. That’s about it. Well, even assuming you mean what you say, Ed, that’s chicken feed. Considering the shambles into which you and your mates turned the economy, that’s like using aspirin as the pain killer during an amputation.
And anyway, how are we going to finance this generosity? Surely not by cutting public spending? Getting rid of the hundreds of thousands of government-paid freeloaders you chaps created during your baker’s dozen years in power? Oh no, God forbid. Ed is suggesting Labour’s proven method: printing more money. Never mind that since 2008 Britain has already printed more cash than in the previous few centuries combined. Ed thinks we should print even more, not just putting the economy into its coffin, but nailing the lid shut.
The nerve of some people. And you know what the most horrible thing about it all is? Labour’s rating may well rise, vindicating Ed’s real — and only — aim. Balls is trying to activate Tony Blair’s New Labour strategy of pretending to be more Tory than the Tories. All he needs is a good name for it, what with New Labour stinking to high heaven. I’m sure he’ll manage — coming up with code words to conceal their innate destructiveness is all our politicians are good at.
And once the vote-winning shibboleth is there and bedded down (‘Labour of Love’? ‘Labouring for Your Success’? ‘Small Labour, Big Economy?’ Possibilities are endless.), the trick may well work again. After all, it did before.