Huhne goes on the attack: “Labour’s next leaders in denial about deficit”

Lib Dem climate change and energy secretary Chris Huhne joined with Conservative party chair Baroness Sayeedi Warsi today to launch a blistering attack on Labour’s financial legacy.

You can read Chris’s speech in full, below, in which he issues a stark challenge to Labour to “face up to the challenge of fixing our nation’s finances”, warning that if they don’t “they won’t deserve power for another generation.”

However, it is Baroness Warsi’s demand to David and Ed Miliband, Ed Balls and Andy Burnham to forfeit their £20,000 severance pay as cabinet ministers – branded their “reward for failure” – which is likely to grab the headlines.

Political gimmick it may be, but it’s a pointed and populist one. And right, too: why should ministers receive severance pay? I can understand why defeated MPs may need some compensation to help them adjust to a loss of employment and salary. But surely government ministers’ pay should be seen, by themselves and by others, as a potentially temporary uplift, not as a rock to to build their finances around.

There have been some welcome signs today that Labour’s failure as an opposition – and the failure of its leadership contest – seriously to address the big financial issues facing the country is starting to be noticed.

Simon Jenkins in today’s Guardian is excoriating: “The British left is a disgrace. … The left is nowhere.” Lib Dem blogger Jonathan Calder last week posed the question, Why has political radicalism become synonymous with wanting to see a permanent and massive public debt?, which Chris Dillow today offers some answers to here.

Meanwhile James Forsyth in the Spectator picks up on one intriguing aspect of today’s united Coalition front:

when asked, Waarsi, who is the chairman of the Conservative party, refused to commit the Tories to trying to win Huhne’s marginal seat at the next election. Huhne won last time thanks to Labour supporters lending him their votes something that won’t happen next time. If Huhne, who has also been damaged by stories about his personal life, is to hold on in 2015, he’ll almost certainly need some help from his coalition partners.

We might question the presumption that Chris needs help in the way suggested … but I don’t suppose many Lib Dems in Eastleigh will be complaining if ‘Ashcroft money’ (or its successor) isn’t ploughed into targeting Chris at the next general election.

Chris’s full speech is below …

Labour were once a serious party.
Whatever our disagreements, Labour wanted to tackle the real problems in our society. They brought independence for the Bank of England, devolution to Scotland and Wales, and a minimum wage.
They once wanted to prove they could run the economy successfully. They said ‘no more boom and bust’.
But over the 13 years of Labour’s government something changed.
The need for a balanced economy gave way to the needs of the City of London. And when the global economic crisis struck, Labour seemed paralysed.
A decade of spend, spend, spend meant Labour hid their heads. And they are still hiding them.
Labour’s leadership candidates say that spending was not the problem – it was taxes. Nonsense.
In just two financial years up to the election, public spending rose by 10 per cent in real terms. That’s a rise after inflation of £59 billion.
Spending went from 44 pence in every pound generated by our economy in 2007 to 51 per cent in 2009. Taxes went down by 1p in the pound.
The truth is that Gordon Brown tried to buy the election. Labour’s big spender went on a hell of a bender. It was goodbye prudence and hello hangover.
The man who built his reputation on the strength of the economy saw his legacy in tatters.
It is no wonder Brown could not face the problems he created. But it is inexcusable that Labour’s next leaders fail to face the problems.
They are in denial about their role in creating this mess. They should take responsibility.
But more important still, they should tell us how they would fix it.
In 1979 the winter of discontent saw Labour lose power for a generation because Labour would not face up to the need for change.
Unless Labour now face up to the challenge of fixing our nation’s finances, they won’t deserve power for another generation.
Today, we face the biggest budget deficit in peacetime history.
Bigger than any other country in the G7. Bigger than any other nation in the G20. Bigger than every other EU country except Ireland. Half as big again as France. Nearly four times as big as Germany.
We face the consequences of a housing bubble Labour failed to control and an economic boom built on unsustainable personal debt.
It gives me no satisfaction that Labour are not willing even to talk about tackling the deficit. But they know what we know: the unavoidable cuts that are coming are Labour cuts.
As Labour’s Liam Byrne said when he left the Treasury, there is no money left.
Now I did not come into politics to make cuts.
As a Liberal Democrat my top priority is a strong and fair economy – caring for the vulnerable, protecting the environment.
Yet we cannot deny the facts on the ground. There is nothing progressive about a bankrupt economy.
We inherited a record budget deficit. Add in the debt coming due that had to be refinanced, and we needed to borrow £185 billion from the financial markets this year.
And in May Europe faced a sovereign debt crisis.
The Greek government now faces a cost of borrowing twice its pre-crisis level. At the beginning of April – and our election campaign – the Greeks paid 7 per cent.
By the Friday after our election they paid 12 per cent. And in just those few days in which we were negotiating our coalition, Europe’s finance ministers had an emergency meeting to staunch a crisis spreading beyond Greece to Spain and Portugal. They announced a 500 billion euro rescue package.
But Britain was different, say the Labour leadership hopefuls. No we were not.
Spain had a lower budget deficit and lower public debt, yet it was swept up in the crisis.
If we had not acted, the risk would have been to our financial markets, our interest rates, and our recovery.
We cannot hide from these facts, however unpalatable they are. Labour has become so disconnected from reality that it thinks that if it simply refuses to face up to them, they will go away. They won’t.
The fact is that we were borrowing one pound for every four pounds the British government spent.
We really could not afford to sit back and see our cost of borrowing double.
Our choice was simple. Take swift action to stabilise the economy, or lose control and hand the job over to others to do it for us.
That was Labour’s way when they had to call in the International Monetary Fund in 1976, imposing the biggest post-war spending cuts by far.
Labour ducked the tough choices and lost the right to choose. That is not our way.
It only took one party to create this mess.
Now two parties – the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives – have come together in the national interest to clear it up.
Labour’s candidates cannot go on pretending that the budget deficit doesn’t exist. It does and it is the single greatest challenge facing Britain. They must take responsibility.
You cannot keep spending when the money dries up, write cheques you know will bounce and put party advantage before the national interest.
Labour’s last budget planned cuts of £50 billion, so why are they unable or unwilling to admit where they would fall?
It is too easy to stand on the sidelines and criticise.
The Labour candidates owe it to themselves and to the country to offer constructive solutions. I hope they will.
I hope that Labour will come to terms with the truth of their legacy.
I hope they will come up with ideas to help lift Britain out of their economic slump.
Where they do, we will listen.
But until they come up with a credible economic plan, they are irrelevant to the biggest debate in our country – the future of our shattered economy.
To be a credible leader of the Labour party, let alone leader of the country, they must show how they would plug the enormous hole in the nation’s finances.
We must start with the world we are in, not the world we wish we had. In this world tough choices have to be made.
This Government is willing to make them, with care and with a heavy heart.
Labour must take responsibility for the legacy they have left and the damage it has inflicted on so many.

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65 Comments

  • Labour had a credible deficit reduction plan. One that was recognized by the OBR. Just because you have the vocal support of rightwing journalists, doesn’t make you right. The reason for this concerted attack on a leaderless Labour party is because the results of the coalition policy are begining to become apparent. Now that the double dip recession, as warned of by Labour before the GE, is becoming a reality, the yellow Tories have to fight along the same lines as the blue Tories. You’ve made your beds……

  • Anthony Aloysius St 11th Aug '10 - 2:11pm

    “I don’t suppose many Lib Dems in Eastleigh will be complaining if ‘Ashcroft money’ (or its successor) isn’t ploughed into targeting Chris at the next general election.”

    More likely the suggestion is that the Tories may not put up a candidate, rather than just fighting a half-hearted campaign. Lib Dems should think very carefully before accepting that kind of Tory “help.”

  • These shouted accusations of “deficit denial” (presumably being taken up because it has negative connotations, and sounds a bit like “Holocaust denial” or “climate change denial”) are fundamentally dishonest.

    It’s a shame to see Lib Dems stooping to the Tories’ level. Huhne neglects to mention the global recession when he cites the change in borrowing between 2007 and 2009.

    Now that’s what I call denial.

  • That is a fantastic specch. Well-written, well-argued and pointed without being laboured (no pun intended). I am a Conservative, but I have to say, that is one of the best demolitions of Labour’s economic record and inability to face up to it that I have heard. Bravo.

  • @ jayu ..Expect a general election in twelve months,the press conference was pure electioneering,why call a press conference just to attack the opposition and as for warasi she is just a vorderman clone who spits vile half truths and who has already had to correct what she said,the thing is the good cop bad cop routine will only work for another few months but by christmas the public will start to see that the cuts were indeed ideological and we know how fickle the public can be.
    p.s thanks to mark pack for removing my first post,you seem to have taken to the whole politboro,stasi ideology very well indeed,you should be ashamed of what your masters are doing but somehow i doubt it.

  • No Republika we’re just bored of it. Still no sign of where the 44bn cuts would have been? Any clues, republika?

    If by August next year there isn’t an election – will we see humble pie communicated on this site?

  • Will Hutton described Labour’s plan as the “march to sanity”.

    Looks like the Lib Dems and the Tories know that their policies are going to push Britain further into the mire that neoliberal economics has driven the country into, and are trying to divert attention from their own coming- and completely avoidable- disaster.

  • Daniel Farr 11th Aug '10 - 2:37pm

    I don’t see how its fair to have a press conference by members of the coalition government attacking Labour without them having a chance to respond? Does the government have that much time on their hands, and are they that worried about their falling popularity that they feel the need to do this to try and pass the buck?

    The Lib Dem’s should grow some backbone and stand up the the Tories ideological based cuts and stop selling out!

  • Labour should call Warsi’s bluff by agreeing to the ABOLITION of severance pay altogether. Let’s see if she’s so keen when she realises she won’t get it herself.

  • If the coalition government has such a big job on its hands, shouldn’t its ministers be getting on with it, rather than holding press conferences whose sole purpose seems to be to attack the Opposition? This is the sort of event you hold during an election campaign, not when you’re in government!

  • I think that a record deficit was necessary to finance the banks, and take up the slack to ameliorate the recession. It should be paid back gradually as the economy, and tax receipts, recover, not as quickly possible to prevent the risk of downgrading of our credit status which was a long way off. The trouble with the trumpteting of cuts on the scale that has been envisaged is that it risks real harm to vital public services like education and healthcare, and it looks and smells like an ideologically driven attempt to cut the state. Liberals should be aiming at Reinventing the State (as the answer to the Orange Book was called), not cut it.

  • It should be paid back gradually as the economy, and tax receipts, recover, not as quickly possible to prevent the risk of downgrading of our credit status which was a long way off. The trouble with the trumpteting of cuts on the scale that has been envisaged is that it risks real harm to vital public services like education and healthcare, and it looks and smells like an ideologically driven attempt to cut the state. Liberals should be aiming at Reinventing the State (as the answer to the Orange Book was called), not cut it.

    That wasn’t really Labour policy was it? Unless you call 44bn cuts and 20% state reduction as `gradually paying it back`. The main problem though with this analysis is that there wouldn’t be any key look at the whole benefits system nor the cutting of waste – In short, Labour didn’t want to question the questions – you can be sure that if the same cuts were being made by Labour there’d be equally painful squeals – or would there?

  • If the coalition government has such a big job on its hands, shouldn’t its ministers be getting on with it, rather than holding press conferences whose sole purpose seems to be to attack the Opposition? This is the sort of event you hold during an election campaign, not when you’re in government!

    Of course Labour never ever postured politically when it was in government – I don’t think it took much out of the two peoples day and a lot of the stuff has been written about endlessly

  • Any government in power when the financial crisis hit would have had a tough time. Labour took steps to bail out the banks and to manage the impact of the crisis. These steps were, by and large, successful.

    So when Huhne says that the cuts to come are Labour’s cuts, he ignore the facts and the context of those facts.

    And many economists would say that the cuts to come are at least £40 billion more than required to address the problem and restore the economy. The extra £40 billion is the ideological choice of the LibDems and their new “friends” and is designed to reduce the size of the state, not address the economic crisis.

    If Huhne really believe that the cuts are exclusively Labour’s cuts, he’s a fool, and if he doesn’t believe it, but still says it, he’s a liar.

  • Warsi’s comments “I’m a lawyer – Labour were frankly criminal” – then having to retract and say there is no actual criminality are farcical.

    This is a govt acting like an opposition.

  • Peter Venables 11th Aug '10 - 3:01pm

    Labour know there have to be cuts, we all know there has to be cuts.
    The argument is how much and over what timescale, we all know the LibDem leadership are dancing to the tories tune. You can keep attacking Labour til the cows come home, but that’s not going to help the LibDems, in fact quite the opposite.

    Start fighting your own corner more, against the people who are making the decisions now, not yesterdays men.

  • @Peter Venables..Start fighting your own corner more, against the people who are making the decisions now, not yesterdays men.
    Very succinctly put Peter.

  • @John..Of course Labour never ever postured politically when it was in government – I don’t think it took much out of the two peoples day and a lot of the stuff has been written about endlessly.
    Yes labour did do the same,but,it was usually when elections were going to take place and they usually had other policy announcemnts to make unlike this pair who are just doing the work of the condem politboro.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 11th Aug '10 - 3:36pm

    “… why call a press conference just to attack the opposition …”

    I wouldn’t have guessed from Stephen Tall’s article that that’s what happened. It does seem a peculiar thing to do – particularly only three months into a parliament. It suggests the part leadership is anything but laid-back about the opinion polls.

  • Paul McKeown 11th Aug '10 - 3:39pm

    Some home truths that needed saying and repeated until the mess is cleared up. The Liberal Democrats do have a window of opportunity provided by Labour’s incompetence and, in particular, by its abysmal and wasted third of “government”. However, the opportunity will be wasted unless the Liberal Democrats are able to indicate where it is they differ from the Conservatives. This is, naturally, a difficult task, as Liberal Democrat ministers are bound by collective responsibility. Nevertheless a way must be found – and it would be probably be a relief to Conservative ministers, too, if they could from time to time say, “Well, it’s not our policy, but we had to accommodate the Libs.” Undoubtedly, the redtrollbots will be crawling over the post and this comment, saying, no the “Yellow/Orange Tories” are just the same as their partners in crime, but this should only more clearly illustrate the need for differentiation.

  • Chester Jones 11th Aug '10 - 4:19pm

    Oh dear oh dear what sham this is, their policies are falling apart at the seams, it is cringing to watch some of these Liberal Democrats spouting this tosh and even worse that they insult the intelligence of the British people with lies and spin from Cameroons book of P.R stunts
    It’s embarrassing to see a so called coalition towing the party line, when it should openly discuss the huge potential damage of these outrageous cuts.

    Two party politics it is then………………………the sooner we have a general election the better.

  • @John..If by August next year there isn’t an election – will we see humble pie communicated on this site?
    I will john if you agree to do the same if i’m right.

  • Barry George 11th Aug '10 - 4:44pm

    @ Paul McKeown

    Some home truths that needed saying and repeated until the mess is cleared up.

    It may surprise you but I agree with you. The ‘need for differentiation’ is urgent and the lack of a publicly perceptible difference between us and the Tories is at the very centre of our current and real political problems.

  • Labour’s deficit reduction plan was signed off by the IMF. IN fact, they thought it was possibly a bit harsh!

    And I should remind Mr. Huhne that his own party basically matched Labours spending and cuts plans until they were offered a few ministerial cars.

    All this is, is a “we haven’t sold out” press conference, I’m afraid. And they’re getting very boring.

    Chris Huhne won’t even be an MP by 2015. There isn’t a chance in hell he’ll hold onto his seat

  • Greece’s debt is 130% of it’s GDP. The UK’s is 60%

    Greece’s credit rating is “junk”. The UK’s is AAA

    In short, not only are Greece’s debts twice as much as the UKs, but they get charged about 5x as much interest as we do, on it.

    Very dishonest Huhne. New politics is just acting like a tory, it seems……….

  • The problem the Lib Dems have is that even there own press conferences now sound like Conservative Party affairs.

    All this scaremongering about “Greece”, and need for urgent cuts. It could be William Hague up there?

    What do the Lib Dems stand for. The sad answer, at the minute, is whatever they tories tell them

  • “But Britain was different, say the Labour leadership hopefuls. No we were not. Spain had a lower budget deficit and lower public debt, yet it was swept up in the crisis.”

    Britain is different to Spain and Greece. Spain and Greece have lower budget deficits, and public debt, but they also have much smaller economies. The debt of those countries, as a % of GDP is nearly double the UKs.

    Secondly, the UK has a AAA credit rating. Spain has A credit rating. Greece has “junk” credit rating.

    Meaning the UK borrow money at 6.5% interest. Spain at 11% and Greece at closer to 25%

    Sorry, new politics, appears to be trying to mislead people

  • Cleggie and his pals are making the most of their 15 minutes of fame. They know once the Coalition fails they will be booted out of their own party.

  • Paul McKeown 11th Aug '10 - 5:10pm

    @Jake

    The problem is not the debt, but the deficit. The UK has a 10% plus deficit, putting it on a par with Greece, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Ireland, and way out of line of other European countries, such as the Netherlands, for instance, which are also dramatically reducing government expenditure.

  • I suggest the Lib Dem’s differentiate themselves from the Tories by opposing the government policy of contracting private credit agencies to trawl through everyone’s private financial data looking for evidence of benefit fraud. A wholly disproportionate, intrusive and ineffective measure I would have thought and one which raises very serious civil
    liberty and privacy concerns. So far the Lib Dems seem strangely silent on this issue. Perhaps Chris Huhne might like to make it the subject of his next press conference.

  • Paul McKeown 11th Aug '10 - 5:19pm

    @Barry George

    That you agree doesn’t surprise me in the least.

    The problem of differentiation is not an easy one, as, inevitably with a hostile media, differentiation may be interpreted as “splits”. Much of what this government is doing is, without doubt, tea-partyism. However, equally, much of it simply overdue correction. The Lib Dem MPs, both within and without government, should make clear, in as far as the coalition permits, which is which. I suspect the solution will have to be that the coalition will last four years, during which the Lib Dem ministers will implement as much of the LD manifesto as possible, but after which the Lib Dems will provide a Conservative minority government with supply for a year, whilst they prepare for the 2015 general election. Differentiation will be easier in that year of opposition in parliament; I think it would be difficult to fight the 2015 general election having gone full term in government, whatever the LD ministers achieved.

  • Paul McKeown 11th Aug '10 - 5:20pm

    @AndrewR

    Yes, I dislike that idea, too. Seems more like New Labour snooping than anything else.

  • Paul McKeown 11th Aug '10 - 5:31pm

    @Barry George

    One issue that annoys me is the BBC inviting only one representative at a time from the Liberal Democrats or the Conservatives onto Question Time. If both parties were represented, the programme would enable a much more honest debate, which would illustrate clearly enough that the two parties have different philosophies.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 11th Aug '10 - 6:31pm

    “However, the opportunity will be wasted unless the Liberal Democrats are able to indicate where it is they differ from the Conservatives.”

    Well, where do they differ? It would be interesting to know what the party loyalists here consider the most important definite differences are.

  • David Allen 11th Aug '10 - 6:47pm

    “I don’t suppose many Lib Dems in Eastleigh will be complaining if ‘Ashcroft money’ (or its successor) isn’t ploughed into targeting Chris at the next general election.”

    So there we have it. In financial thrall to our coalition “partners” – and taking pride in the fact!

  • Ray Cobbett 11th Aug '10 - 7:07pm

    Could somebody tell Chris Huhne that the election was in May and that nobody won. I can appreciate that given the state of the polls he would want to continue kicking Labour as there’s simply is nobody else. A lot of people did rather well out of the property boom and I didn’t hear much noise at the time from the Lib Dems. I’m baffled why he should team up with the Baroness. The reference to Greece is complete hysteria. The two economies are fundamentally different as Chris, a once respected financial journalist, might quietly agree. The Tories holy grail is to roll back the publc services sector and replace it with US style corporates-it always has been. I’d much rather be hearing how Huhne is going to create new jobs for the thousands on the verge of losing theirs. Blaming Labour will get him through the conference but what happens after?

  • Good points, made well. We can’t keep living off of the credit card forever, and it’s irresponsible to suggest we try. Labour’s goal seems to have been to buy votes by promising to hold back cuts that were inevitable, and if we hadn’t just gone through 5 years of those Orwellian buggers I would almost wish they were still in power trying to clean up the mess.

  • Coalition plans are going belly up as the economy teeters on the edge of a slump so what do they do? Hold a press conference attacking Labour. Truly astonishing stuff.

  • Did I hear “hostile media” somewhere?

    Major papers that supported coalition parties- The Times, The Daily Mail, The Telegraph, The Independent (split), The Guardian, The Sun, News of the World, The Financial Times

    Major papers that supported Labour- The Mirror, The Independent (split)

    With even the Guardian cheerleading the death of the Left (and the Independent went to shit long ago), Labour is down to one paper. You have a media that buys into your narrative slavishly.

  • I have to say that I found the Huhne/Warsi press conference quite nauseating and very naive. Why was it needed? New politics? No more like the worst of the old. I hoped a Lib Dem influenced Govt would stop this sort of over partisan nonsense not slip even more deeply into it.

  • @Thomas: Labour’s approach is the approach the Lib Dems pretended to share until hours after people went to vote: That you should start to cut only once the economy had recovered enough to take those cuts. Your leadership changed their mind and suddenly you don’t understand the line you all adhered to and voted for. Ridiculous.

  • Astonished that people are denying that the Greek economy is relevant to the cuts. The reason the Greeks are paying so much more for their debt than we are is that we have a credible deficit reduction plan and they don’t.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 12th Aug '10 - 8:27am

    “The reason the Greeks are paying so much more for their debt than we are is that we have a credible deficit reduction plan and they don’t.”

    If that’s the case, what was the reason for it before the election?

  • charliechops1 12th Aug '10 - 9:24am

    In this debate Labour has left a void. In October we must expect Labour to draw a sharper distinction between cuts Labour would make and those proposed by the Coalition: smaller, more on tax and less on expenditure, fairer, and above all, not at the expense of employment and economic growth. Hold your fire or risk being made to look very small indeed when it comes to the crunch.

  • If the Tories don’t fight us in some seats that’s fine by me – as long as we aren’t expected to do the same… *whistles*

  • Paul McKeown 12th Aug '10 - 10:37am

    @Andrea Gill

    There will be no “coupon election”, there will be no pact in the run up to the 2015 general election. That would signal the end of the Liberal Democrats, or at least a dreadful schism. The Liberal Democrats will need an exit strategy: I have suggested above, for instance, four years of coalition government, one year of supply to a minority government. What the Conservatives do is their affair.

  • Andrea Gill wrote:

    “If the Tories don’t fight us in some seats that’s fine by me – as long as we aren’t expected to do the same… *whistles*”

    So you are perfectly happy to play along with Cameron’s strategy of splitting and ultimately destroying and eliminating the Liberal Democrats?

    Or have you got wise to the fact that after Cameron fiddles the boundaries, Tories standing aside is the only way Liberal Democrats will be able to win any seats?

  • It only takes 20 years for a liberal to become a conservative without changing a single idea.
    Robert Anton Wilson

  • The Party’s policy paper on health which is to be discussed at Conference, asks members how they think Equity & Excellence should be implemented (quite a lot of questions, considering the woolliness and lack of detail in the proposals). The one question it does not ask, and is the most fundamental issue of all is: “Do you think Nick Clegg was right to go along with these nebulous proposals which are clearly a forerunner to the privatisation of the NHS, even though it was not part of the Coalition Agreement, and you were not consulted, and we are not going to consult you now?”

  • Matthew Huntbach 12th Aug '10 - 12:22pm

    Ray Cobbett

    Could somebody tell Chris Huhne that the election was in May and that nobody won.

    The Tories won. They got the most seats, so by the “first past the post” principle which Labour supports, they won. They did not get a majority, but they won enough seats so that there no government not involving them which would have a big enough majority to be stable.

    If Labour is really serious, they need to put together a fully worked out and costed alternative government plan, make absolutely sure it has the support needed from enough MPs outside the big three parties, and put it to the Liberal Democrats “Here you are, sorry we didn’t give this to you in May 2010, but we’re offering it now – join us in a different coalition”. So far all we hear from them is “yah booh sucks”, which does nothing to counter the argument that what the coalition is doing is painful but necessary.

  • Crikey all I was saying is if the Tories don’t stand against us why not – AS LONG AS THEY DON’T EXPECT US TO DO THE SAME. Sorry if that is too complex to grasp?

    We can’t exactly dictate to other parties that they MUST put up candidates everywhere, nor would THEY be able to tell US where to put up candidates.

  • And no Sesenco, I don’t buy into the stupid Labour suggestion that EQUAL SIZED CONSTITUENCIES constitutes gerrymandering*.

    * #labourbingo

  • Paul McKeown 12th Aug '10 - 1:14pm

    @Andrea Gill

    Fine – so long as that is clear. However, I find there is far to much loose talk about such possibilities. Many Conservatives of the TRG/centrist/One Nation perspective like to talk it up, as they themselves don’t like their swivel-eyed Cornerstone pals, many Labourites like to talk it up, just so they can rail against the “Yellow Tory” strawman. Lib Dems shouldn’t touch the idea with a bargepole.

    @Sesenco

    I’m afraid I have to disagree with you. Equal sized constituencies is natural justice in a constituency based electoral system, which is what we currently have, or will have if the AV referendum is won, or if the Lib Dems and various other smaller parties have their way and STV is implemented, or indeed if the recommendations of the Jenkins Report are implemented, including AV+. Labour’s talk of a “gerrymander” is garbage, the only current gerrymanders are i) the majoritarian electoral system, itself, which disproportionately rewards the duopolists and ii) the current inequality in constituency sizes which benefits Labour even further. There is no proposal that “Cameron fiddles the boundaries,” as you put it. The Boundary Commissions remain responsible. As for reducing the number of constituencies, you can blame that populist nonsense on the Lib Dems themselves, for that folly was in the LD general election manifesto.

  • Andrea Gill and Paul McKeown:

    Where have I ever said that I am opposed to Parliamentary constituencies being of equal size? Come on, where? I have, on this site, stated that I am in favour of constituencies being of equal size. One straw man down!

    The purpose of Cameron’s “review” is to ensure that the boundaries are drawn in such as way as to ensure that the Conservatives win an outright majority on 36% of the vote. Eliminating Liberal Democrats by this method is relatively easy, because our vote tends to be concentrated in areas where our MPs have built up loyalty (eg, the Lib Dem vote is strong in Portsmouth South, but weak in Portsmouth North). Now, if I am wrong, please explain why (i) the “review” is to be conducted with indecent haste (we had the previous one in the last Parliament) and on an unreliable register, (ii) there is to be no right of apeal, and (iii) the drafting will attempt to oust the jurisdiction of the courts? How can Liberal Democrats support such a proposal?

    Lib Dem support for the “review” was bought with a promise of a referendum on a tweak to the electoral system no-one actually wants, and against which the Conservatives and the North American owned media will campaign vigorously.

    The boundary review / AV referendum is a confidence trick perpetrated by a man described by a former colleague at Carlton TV as a “mendacious creep”. Cameron has double-crossed Nick Clegg on the long-term purpose of the cuts and on the NHS. Is it not too much of a stretch of the imagination to conclude that he has double-crossed Nick on this as well?

    Paul, if reducing the number of MPs is “populist nonsense”, why are the Liberal Democrats supporting it? Is it not something more sinister? Namely, the transfer of power away from Parliament and into the hands of the Executive?

  • A BBC “Newsnight” survey shows that the Liberal Democrats would be the biggest losers if the number of MPs was reduced to 600. Exactly as Cameron intends.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/newsnight/8908786.stm

  • Anthony Aloysius St 13th Aug '10 - 1:10am

    “Some Democrats believe Obama made a very serious political mistake after he was elected. He was too much the gentleman, and didn’t make a big enough issue about how the economic crisis was GW Bush’s fault. “

    This stuff really is confusing, isn’t it? How can the economic crisis be G. W. Bush’s fault, and at the same time be the Labour Party’s fault?

  • “Cameron has double-crossed Nick Clegg on the long-term purpose of the cuts and on the NHS.”

    If that was true, don’t you think Nick Clegg would be ever so gently making some waves about it? Paddy Ashdown has given us all an object lesson in how to do that gently but effectively. What he said was (roughly) “Well done Cameron for deciding to do a few limited local trials of your Big Society before going for a nationwide launch. It would be statesmanlike to do the same with things like free schools and GP commissioning”. Which of course translates as “You had better drastically scale back on your crazy new ideas, or else I’ll make a real fuss.” But it all sounds very civilised and the Press don’t go proclaiming that Ashdown is a rebel.

    Nick, however, has said nothing remotely comparable.

    I think Nick knew all along what the plans were, and he was the joint perpetrator of the double-cross that calls itself the “coalition agreement”.

  • Mr Huhne says
    ‘Today, we face the biggest budget deficit in peacetime history. Bigger than any other country in the G7. Bigger than any other nation in the G20. Bigger than every other EU country except Ireland. Half as big again as France. Nearly four times as big as Germany’.
    On radio 4 news tonight both France and Germany are reported to have much improved growth in their economies – by supporting their manufacturing base and consumer spending. How can the coalition possibly achieve the same success by slashing jobs/investment in industry?

  • Deafening silence from Lib Dems (apart from that of Cable choking on his cornflakes) at the news of Philip Green’s appointment speaks volumes about the way in which the LD party is confused, bewildered and dazzled by power. Where once we would have seen principled opposition to such an astonishing piece of political boy’s club politics (even for god’s sake the Mail wasn’t entirely happy) its just another day for the Lib Dems on the road to obscurity.

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