Thursday 1 October 2015

Labour Conference ........... back to the future

I know that back to the future may seem to be a headline that is asking for trouble when newspapers such as the Mail and the Sun cast the Corbyn Labour team as throwbacks to the seventies but for those of us who have first hand memories of the Wilson and Callaghan governments what we witnessed at this conference would have been judged as middle of the road in the sixties. Sitting in the conference hall I tried to imagine the media response if John McDonnell had borrowed Dennis Healey's famous comment that he was going to, "tax the rich until the pips squeak" .......... and he was considered to be right wing. Or what of Harold Wilson saying, "I believe the greatest asset a head of state can have is the ability to get a good night's sleep" ............. I shudder to think what the Telegraph would have made of that if Jeremy had included it in his speech to conference. The point is that we live in different times where perfectly sensible economic policies are deemed to be left-wing fantasy. There is nothing shocking about what Labour is now proposing; it follows the mainstream Keynesian economic philosophy that has underpinned our economy since being adopted in the thirties to rescue us from a deep depression, subsequently the cornerstone of our resilience in WW2, the post war recovery and through much of the gains in our standard of living in the past 70 years. It is only when we have deviated from Keynesian principles, during the Thatcher, Major and Cameron years, that inequality and increased social division have crippled our economy ............ but always making the lower economic groupings pay the cost. I discount Heath because his government broadly accepted the Keynesian model but chose (stupidly) to enter into a class war with the miners at a time of uncertain and restricted oil supply. Probably as dumb as Osborne delivering tight fiscal control between 2010 and 2012, thus stalling the successful Brown/Darling strategy of growth that was lifting the UK out of recession. I believe that we would have avoided the double dip if Labour had won in 2010, a view shared by many in the city of London ............ not just us Labour supporters.

I searched for a Healey pip squeaking video but only came up with this Flanders and Swann clip ......... somewhat off message but why not.

Unfortunately there are many in the media, and even some of the right leaning element in the Labour Party who were seduced into abandoning the tried and trusted view that it is the duty of the state to invest in the economy in a downturn thus preparing the country to benefit at the earliest possible moment from the inevitable and state encouraged upturn. They were seduced by the spurious argument that our main concern should be a fight to reduce annual deficits and the overall burden of state debt. How foolish. 

Those to the right of the party have just lost out in the leadership election because they forgot this basic economic formula that created the welfare state and the ascendancy of social democracy and justice ......... oh and of course is the root cause of the increased prosperity in this land. It was not Thatcherism, nor is it Osbornomics .......... it was Keynesian economic theory that has been the engine for good in our society. I call it "good" because the philosophy of the shrinking state that is the Tory model has done nothing to improve economic performance, instead,doing great harm to so many. They claim success for their doctrines but are never able to link any upturn in the economy as being a result of their policies. I expect Corbyn and McDonnell to bellow across the dispatch box ............. PROVE IT .........  when Osborne makes such boasts (where would he be if the price of crude had not slumped). They shout out loud that the Labour Party now opposes austerity, skewering it as a Tory imposter, a foolish doctrine invented by those who put Tory dreams of privatising the state before the health and wealth of our country.

Calm down ....... calm down. I think that attending the conference has done me much good. Despite exhaustion with a punishing schedule and getting rather upset at the obviously weak support for Corbyn from those to the right; even getting annoyed at the inaccuracies and deliberate distortions of the megaphone left (sorry Tosh .... get your facts straight); despite all that I come away from the conference invigorated. It's not that I think Jeremy is going to become the next Prime Minister ............ I'm sorry, sadly I just cannot see him reaching out to enough voters who occupy the centre ground ............ and it's not that I think our increased membership guarantees success, by itself it does not .............. what energises me is the fact that the Labour Party is once again debating, discussing, talking, listening ............. our front bench are making much of our party being democratic ....... not top down but bottom up. Well I am taking that at face value, expecting Tom Watson to make good on this promise ......... now. How this is to be achieved I do not know but I feel sure that one of the first questions asked when I deliver my conference report to the Belper branch will be ......... how can my voice be heard?

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