“This is going to hurt”, he said. “lots”.
The assistant braced himself. I felt a wrench, and another, but I was numb to it all, while it took place at least. And when the anaesthetic wore off (that seemed to take an age), I fumbled two fingers into my mouth. Lots of mess. Dribbled.
He had taken out all of my teeth.
The poor old Labour Party is getting blamed for everything everyone else does. Pretty much any bad choice that anyone makes is Gordon Brown’s fault, you see. It’s Gordon Brown’s fault that the Lib Dems just *had* to do a deal to put the Tories in power, it’s Gordon Brown’s fault that the Conservatives *have* to subject us to a massive binge of cuts. Even though he proposed an alternative path to the sort of cutting Cameron proposes as an election manifesto, and campaigned on that basis. Obviously.
So it doesn’t really seem fair to blame Gordon Brown for something he campaigned on a promise not to do. Maybe fashionable. But not at all fair. I predict that the hacks will absorb the narrative wholesale, and repeat ad nauseam, without ever publicly considering this point.
Cameron has a sneaky dig at Brown’s wider legacy as part of constructing the whole thing, which is very clever. Apparently the economy should have done much better. Brown had kept growth continuous for the longest period in history, with historically low interest rates. The Tories accuse him of not ‘fixing the roof’, i.e. building a big public sector balance, but the whole way through New Labour, they were calling for massive cuts in government revenue. They would have been worse. As well as seeming to believe that not enough cash was held in reserve by the state, they also believe that the state being too large is the primary cause of current ills. They complain about the size of the structural deficit against GDP, but the truth is that it had to undergo huge growth to pay for the idiocy of their earlier binge of ideologically motivated cuts in the 1980s and the recession of the 1990s. Our whole deficit is not too large compared to our GDP when seen against other countries.
The real problem with spending more is our international credit rating, and it’s about the only argument about this I’m willing to accept as any kind of sensible basis. Why the sudden prospect of a credit rating downgrade? Well, that would be Labour not letting the financial system collapse. Denis MacShane, a man who rarely makes a good point, identifies the real cause. The alternative to bailing out people’s mortgages and bank accounts was an outright catastrophe.
Brown couldn’t really choose to do anything other than bail out the banks, the cost of which was vast. The global recession hit our capacity to grow, but Brown did not cause it. In fact, he cut VAT, which worked. The Tories now plan to do the opposite, which won’t. Brown also brought in the ‘Time to Pay’ scheme, which stopped many perfectly good, often slower-growing and smaller businesses from defaulting.
So in one case his hand was forced, and in another, he did the right thing as a matter of choice.
Rather than choosing a slower, more steady and perfectly viable route to cutting the deficit, as offered by Gordon Brown… just as the Lib Dems chose to enter this Government, that same Government is now choosing to cut faster than it has to, if indeed we agree that it must at all, and in a way that will be manifestly damaging to individuals and communities.
And there may be alternatives to cuts anyway. Ah, and we need, of course, to remember that “we’re all in this together“.
“This is going to hurt.”, he tells us…
And it might hurt more than he thinks.
UPDATE: This is worth a read. Perhaps Labour needs to start talking about how state and society move together and overlap.