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Amendment of the Law

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:32 pm on 23rd March 2011.

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Photo of Stewart Jackson Stewart Jackson Conservative, Peterborough 5:32 pm, 23rd March 2011

No, not at this moment.

To put that in context, £95 million could have been spent on schools each day, but we are servicing Labour’s debt, and we could be spending £35 million on police, £25 million on social care, and £90 million on defence. The entire budget deficit that the Labour party ran up in government is £42.7 billion. That is 40 Type 45 destroyers, 33 Astute class submarines, 42,700 MRI scans, or 1.3 million nurses. That is the reality of the appalling profligacy and mismanagement of the Labour Government. We do not hear alternatives. We hear a policy that is dishonest, incoherent and irresponsible. Ed Balls shares very few values, I imagine, with the former US President Ronald Reagan, who once said, “I am not worried about the deficit. It is big enough to take care of itself.” That sums up the Labour party’s attitude in government, and the deficit denial on the Opposition Benches now.

Even some sensible and pragmatic Labour supporters are troubled by the incoherence and the substitution of political opportunism for a realistic alternative policy. The erstwhile Cabinet member, Hazel Blears, said at the weekend:

“The public expects us to at least give a broad direction—but I think they are worried that we haven’t been as clear as we ought to be.”

She is absolutely right.

The former general secretary of the Labour party, Peter Watt, went further. In a rebuke to the institutionalised deficit denial of the shadow Chancellor, Mr Watt said on the labour-uncut website that Labour

“is . . . a highly toxic brand. . . we are still opposing every cut . . .It might make us feel better and win some short term popularity. But it isn’t an answer to the charge that we had become economically illiterate and had allowed massive overspending.”

If there is one lesson that I can offer the Labour party from our long period in opposition, it is this: rarely is it enough to be populist to win the respect of the electorate. That rarely forms the basis of a credible election strategy.