Thursday, 20 June 2013

Cuts & Privatisation are accepted as the only solution by Labour & Conservatives has the time come for People before Profit to go national?

The BBC Economics editor, Stephanie Flanders, has concluded that Ed Balls' speech on the economy at Thomson Reuters marks a new phase in the debate about British economic policy. The "growth versus austerity" dispute over is now over.

As far as the three parliamentary parties are concerned there is no alternative: Austerity has won.

This was reflected in a major item about the deficit on Newsnight last night. There was nothing about growth or raising revenue through collecting unpaid taxes, it was all about cuts, both current and future.

Using computer graphics, Flanders showed the divide between spending on government departments that is being cut and areas that have been ‘ring fenced’ i.e. the NHS and pensions. She made the point that choosing to protect some areas means that a greater burden falls on the remainder. Cue an ‘expert’ explaining how harmful and illogical it is to ring fence NHS spending.

Even with ‘ring fencing’ budgets are tight and this causes bitter battles within the NHS for the use of scarce resources. We need more spending on the NHS not a freeze. The speech by Balls (together with that of Ed Miliband) has taken increased spending off the political agenda: it’s all about cuts now. Flanders’ Newsnight speech shows that this is what we can expect from now on.

What has this to do with the Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign?

Saving Lewisham Hospital will cost. There are plenty of managers who will be prepared to argue that money spent on keeping Lewisham Hospital would be better spent somewhere else. Professional politicians from all the main parties and the media, will back them up. The “there’s just not enough money” propaganda bombardment will convince some ordinary people and weaken our campaign.

If the Government manage to close the Hospital then persuading a future government to re-open it will be very, very difficult.

The Role of the Labour Party

The Labour Party have been extraordinary feeble in their opposition to the Conservative/Liberal Democratic Government. Of course, it is difficult for them to do so because fundamentally they have similar policies.
As Stephanie Flanders pointed out herself the great "growth versus austerity" battle between Ed Balls and George Osborne was a pseudo debate because Balls never really offered an alternative policy.
“Former Labour Chancellor Alistair Darling was going to slash capital investment too from 2010 onwards. Ed Balls distanced himself from Darling's plan and came up with his "five point plan." But in the scale of things, that was not so very different from what we already had.
“A determined Keynesian effort to double public investment, cut taxes and go all out for growth - along the lines suggested by the likes of Paul Krugman - was simply never on the table.
“Maybe America shows us that there was a better alternative out there. Maybe it doesn't. The problem for Ed Balls is that people never really believed he was offering one.”

The Labour Party bowed the knee to the Baal of Neoliberalism a long time ago. Between 1997 and 2010 Labour ministers deregulated, privatised and signed PFI deals with reckless abandon.

Only last month Lord Warner was on the wireless calling for end to the ‘ring fencing’ of the NHS budget.
“A Labour former Health minister has warned that the NHS “is living on borrowed time” and called for an end to its protected budget.
“Norman Warner said the health service’s business model “is bust” and it should no longer be exempt from the austerity measures that have hit most government departments.”
People Before Profit

Not long ago, a local Liberal Democrat acknowledged that, despite not having any councillors, ‘People Before Profit’ were the real opposition party in Lewisham.
It seems as though, despite not having any MPs, we might well have to fulfil that role at a national level as well.
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