Marcus Evans Group | Worldwide Headquarters | American Offices | Latin America | European Offices | African / Asian Offices

Letters: Labour’s lack of alternative vision

In his interview with your paper on Saturday, Ed Balls effectively holds up a white flag and admits that Labour has given up any attempt to set out an alternative economic agenda (Beyond the hair shirt: Labour party can give Britain the tough love it needs, insists Balls, 14 January).

His capitulation before the Tory-led coalition’s definition of economic credibility as meaning ever more fiscal austerity, and his jaw-dropping statement that “we are going to have to keep all these cuts” calls into question the very purpose of the Labour party.

Moreover, the choice he poses between higher public sector pay or growing unemployment conveniently ignores the fact that many public sector workers are on very low incomes, and falsely suggests that we can’t afford to fund both. It is investment in decently paid jobs that generates income, and thus the tax revenues to pay for credit or borrowed money, not the other way round. Instead of trying to outcompete the government in some kind of masochistic virility test to see who can threaten the greatest austerity, an opposition party worthy of the name would be making a far stronger case that austerity isn’t working, and offering a genuine alternative.

A combination of more progressive taxation, a crack down on tax evasion and avoidance and, crucially, Green quantitative easing to deliver investment directly in the new jobs and infrastructure the UK urgently needs to make the transition to a more sustainable economy, would do far more to challenge the government than the Tory-lite policies set out by the shadow chancellor.
Caroline Lucas MP
Leader, Green party

• No wonder Labour is failing to convince not only the country but its own members that it has an alternative vision when the shadow chancellor’s strategy is to endorse Osborne’s attacks on pay and conditions of public sector workers. I am a Labour party member and work for Doncaster council where the workforce face a 4% pay cut this year.

This is Ed Miliband’s constituency, yet the message we get from his shadow chancellor is to expect more of the same. Gordon Brown conceded that it was a mistake to tie himself to Tory spending plans when Labour came to power in 1997. The instigator of that error, Ed Balls, appears to have refined that mistake to include supporting the most savage attack on the public sector ever experienced. It is certainly not a message to convince the nation that Labour has an alternative vision of the future.
Donal Mullally
Horbury, West Yorkshire

• I would like to agree with Peter Woodcock (Letters, 10 January). The use of the oxymoron, “responsible capitalism”, shows how far Labour has drifted from its roots. In fact, what we have proposed now is a return to the 80s SDP policy, criticised by Neil Kinnock at the time, as wanting “a kindly capitalism, a gentle market, an air-conditioned jungle”.

After the greatest financial disaster in history and the consequent hardships for the poorest, surely we need to go in an entirely different direction? Let’s do something for the “squashed bottom”, as well as the “squeezed middle”. Perhaps Labour will then recover its soul and depart from the orthodoxies which have done so much harm.
Derek Score
Broadstairs, Kent

• It is regrettable that Ed Miliband (Face up to new reality on the deficit, 10 January) and even the admirable Polly Toynbee (Miliband has been proven right, 10 January) both accept the hegemonic, neoliberal ideology that there is no money and we must accept austerity. Compared to the Attlee years the country today is infinitely richer in material terms than in those days of real austerity. The cyclical part of the deficit is the correct Keynesian response to an economic downturn and the structural part is due to New Labour increasing public expenditure but refusing to increase taxes to pay for it.

Miliband should be arguing for decent pensions for all, a public infrastructure we can celebrate, adequately resourced health and education provision, and a solidaristic social security system, paid for by a steeply progressive taxation system and an end to wasteful expenditure on Trident and other imperial hangovers. Oh, and on the financial markets, we could always adopt Aditya Chakrabortty’s suggestion of a debt jubilee (Let’s make 2012 a default jubilee for have-nots, G2, 10 January).
Pat Devine
Didsbury, Manchester

• I trust Ed Miliband is taking to heart the advice he is receiving from the Blairite creepy-crawlies whom his lack of leadership, political ideas or strategic intelligence have brought scurrying to the surface. The aim is not to bury but to complete the New Labour project. The realignment of Labour with centre-right neoliberalism is the future. Anyway, it is impossible to distinguish “productive” from “predatory” capitalism. Since shadow ministers do not understand its underlying principles, Labour must embrace, not only the hollowing-out but the winding-up of the welfare state.

And since speedy action is required, he should instruct his MPs and party activists to take to the streets to explain to every social constituency which has suffered from the cuts that they can expect nothing from a Labour government. To support their cause would be “dishonest populism” since the only winners will be “the squeezed middle”. He should also try to persuade professors of politics who teach that democracy is some sort of brake on the total rule of society by capital to revise their lecture notes. The death wish is unstoppable.
Stuart Hall

• Ed Balls says Labour accepts every spending cut imposed by the coalition, does this mean we live in a one-party state? Apologies to the Greens!
Steve Warby
Worthing, West Sussex

• Ed Balls’s comment that “Labour has lost the argument” on responsibility for the financial crisis in respect of the party’s leadership is not wholly accurate. It has been neither lost nor won but simply and unfortunately uncontested.

The reticence of the party leadership on the issue has been in stark contrast to the Tories’ rehearsed and relentless repetition of the big lie that the crisis is all down to Labour. The implied denial of the bankers’ responsibility is manifestly absurd.

The same could be said of David Hindsight-Cameron’s condemnation of Labour’s spending record given that he was promising to match it as late as November 2008 when the crisis was well upon us. And why is no one in the Labour leadership reminding the nation that the heart of the problem lies in the unregulated international financial markets introduced by the Thatcher and Reagan governments in the big bang of 1986.

Ed Miliband’s thoughtful approach to the longer term policy issues is very commendable but it does not obviate the need for constant condemnation of the big lie. Fortunately for the leadership thousands of Labour party activists believe the argument is not lost and so continue to go out campaigning like never before.
Nigel de Gruchy
Orpington, Kent

• Ever since the introduction of universal suffrage the ultra-rich and their corporations have spent billions on propaganda seeking to impose their interests on public policy. The endgame of this strategy has always been to undermine democracy by ensuring all mainstream political parties surrender to corporate interests. Ed Balls’s capitulation over public sector pay and his advocacy of Tory spending cuts – despite these being central causes of the economic crisis and moreover, increasing pay and spending power being the solution – seems to finalise the corporate takeover of our political process. Now that voting has been rendered pointless, it seems to me our focus must be on changing the economic and political system that is destroying everything we hold dear.
Enrico Tortolano
Kingston upon Thames, Surrey

• In one speech by Ed Balls, the Labour party ditched its historical support for the poor, the disabled and the dispossesed. With one mighty leap they crossed the floor of the Commons to become the third party in the coalition.Now having pledged support for most of the cuts, Her Majesty’s oppostion has thrown in the towel for the life of this parliament and left those facing massive cuts with no representation in the House of Commons. It would seem that the old adage, “No matter who you vote for, the Tories win” is true. RIP the Labour party.
Roy Hollister
Dartford, Kent © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds