This is a sometimes 'cheesey' blog about British and American politics and anything else which tickles my fancy!
Tuesday, 25 November 2008
Exceptional times call for exceptional measures
So the battle lines are drawn.
It is a return to the usual politics.
On the one hand, are the Conservatives sticking rigidly to a policy of monetarism and on the other hand sits the Labour Government - social democratic to its core.
The choices couldn’t be clearer. The consensus politics of the last few years has disappeared in a flash.
Yesterday’s pre-budget report was Labour at its best. Exceptional times call for exceptional measures.
The Chancellor introduced a fiscal stimulus which will help families and businesses through the tough times ahead. Some of the announcements were eye-watering:
• £775 million for investment in social housing
• An extra £100 million for energy efficiency measures, as part of a £535 million “Green stimulus” package – help for people suffering from fuel poverty now
• Extra money to help pensioners in the New Year - £120 extra for a couple on top of the Winter Fuel Allowance
• Child Benefit increases brought forward
• A £3 billion capital spending programme brought forward to be spent on motorways, housing, GP refurbishments and a school building programme
The Government has chosen a simple, clear approach to help families and business now.
More to the economy.
More to the public finances.
And more to society.
It is a stimulus which is supported by the CBI, the Institute of Directors and the IMF to name but a few.
At the same time, the Chancellor announced that VAT would be cut from 17.5% to 15% - helping business now and putting £12.4 billion back into the economy.
Alastair Darling’s best line of the speech was when he tackled head on the Conservative line of attack. “We did fix the roof when the sun was shining,” the Chancellor said. “And we fixed the roofs of the hospitals and schools up and down this country”. It quite rightly got a big cheer.
Some newspapers this morning have talked about the end of New Labour but news of its death is premature.
One of New Labour’s strengths was its essential pragmatism and the wielding together of middle class and working class voters into a grand coalition.
I thought yesterday’s budget fitted into the New Labour narrative. It was a pragmatic response to the economic problems we face, with something for everyone: business, the City, middle England, low and medium income voters and even the green lobby.
This pre-budget will revitalise New Labour – give the Party a sense of purpose and direction which it has sometimes lacked over the last year.
On the other side, George Osborne gave a shrill performance which at times made him sound slightly unhinged. The Conservative backbenchers didn’t take the occasion seriously enough either – there were far too many interruptions.
But at least, after weeks of dither and delay, the Conservatives have settled on a position.
And that seems to be “do nothing”.
Osborne and Cameron don’t look like leaders. They look out of their depth.
The electorate now faces a simple and stark choice. In nine months time, we will know which side was right.
After yesterday’s announcement, I wouldn’t bet against Mr Brown.