[un-allotted half day] — Unemployment

Part of Opposition Day – in the House of Commons at 4:28 pm on 14th December 2011.

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Photo of Denis MacShane Denis MacShane Labour, Rotherham 4:28 pm, 14th December 2011

I am disappointed by the previous speech, because it repeated the yah-boo exchanges on what is, frankly, a generalised crisis that has touched us all. The notion that it is all the fault of either the previous Government, or of everything that has happened since May 2010, is simply not valid. In 2008, I wrote in The Daily Telegraph a letter to my right hon. Friend Mr Brown stating that we should cut spending and taxes, and he ignored me, but the year before Mr Osborne, then the shadow Chancellor, wrote in The Times that the model Britain should emulate was that of Ireland. I think that I was right, and I hope that Government Members think that the Chancellor was completely and utterly wrong.

In Rotherham we received news today that 597 more people are unemployed than there were this time last year, which is an increase of about 15%. This is profoundly serious, with families now facing a miserable Christmas.

I do not blame all those problems on this Government—it is absurd to do so. Around the world, we are facing a generalised crisis of the market economics—or, if one prefers, capitalist—model. There is Government debt but, as the remarkable graph put up on last night’s “Newsnight” by Miss Vicky Pryce, the distinguished economist, showed, there is far greater private debt. Everybody is going through the detoxification problem of getting out of debt, and we do not know how to handle it. Niall Ferguson—a distinguished conservative, right-wing historian—writes in Newsweek:

“In normal times it would be legitimate to worry about the consequences of money printing and outsize debts. But history”— he is writing about how people handled the 1929 Wall street crash and the 1931 Credit-Anstalt crash; there was not one general crash but two—

“tells us these are anything but normal times.”

When Monsieur Hollande, the French Socialist candidate whom I wish to see elected President of France, says that we should be looking at spending more money and at job creation measures, he is shouted down, but I think he is right. Frankly, the Conservatives ought to be in their own little Euro-heaven. We have conservative Governments and conservative presidents of the Commission, the Council and the Parliament proposing fiscal austerity, balanced budgets, making the poor pay, and protecting bankers and the rich. I thought that that was classic liberal—in the Manchester sense of the word—Conservative policy. I do not know why the Conservatives are at odds with Europe, because Europe is doing exactly what they are trying to do with the policy that is having such disastrous consequences in this country.

We look to the BRICs—Brazil, Russia, India and China—but growth in them is slowing down. Today’s figures from the IMF show that Russia, South Africa and Brazil have 3% or 4% growth and China and India have below 10% growth. There is a generalised crisis of world market economics. The United States is in disarray. The United Kingdom is part of the problem as well. We are not the solution to the European crisis—we are intimately part of it. There is no growth, no demand, increasing unemployment and increasing debt.

I am not going to say that this is all the fault of decisions taken since May 2010. I wish we had a Chancellor of the Exchequer of the maturity of Nigel Lawson, Geoffrey Howe or Denis Healey; it is rather disappointing that we have a PPE graduate from Oxford who has just done a little bit of political research in his life. We are going to have to work these problems through internationally.

“No man is an island, entire of itself”,

as John Donne said; every man is a piece of the continent. We will have to find global and European solutions to this crisis or, believe me, we will all be sunk.