Friday, October 08, 2010

AJ was the right choice for Shadow Chancellor

From the archives, 2nd September 2010:

"When he is elected leader, Ed Miliband will come under the most terrific pressure from the opposition, media and Blairites over his supposedly radical and left-wing policies. If David were elected leader, the main pressure which he would face would be to win over and enthuse the people who supported his brother or Ed Balls. To unite the Labour Party, Ed Miliband would need to appeal to the Right, David to the Left. "

8th October 2010: Leftie supporters of Ed Miliband get v v cross when he appoints Alan Johnson as Shadow Chancellor.

From the Shadow Cabinet appointments, it looks like Labour is planning strong opposition to government policies on the NHS, defence and police cuts - areas where they have put combative ministers who vocally disagree with what the government is planning. They seem more likely to try to find compromises on justice & prisons and welfare reform.

I understand why lefties wanted Ed Balls as Shadow Chancellor and his economic policy adopted 100% . But Balls doesn't come across particularly well to the public, and opponents of his policy within the Labour Party would have briefed journalists that they thought his policies were not credible. The resulting civil war would only have helped the Tories.

We know the problems when economic policy is seen as being under the sole control of the Chancellor - to win the economic argument and defeat the Tory cuts, we need an economic policy which the whole Cabinet - including Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper - are involved in developing and can sign up to. Johnson can be a persuasive public advocate for Labour's alternative and the comparisons between his life experience and George Osborne's help reinforce the message.

And in developing their alternative to George Osborne's savage cuts, Labour should pay close attention to this brilliant article from our new Chief Secretary to the Treasury, the fantastic Angela Eagle:

"The so-called deficit ‘emergency' was ironically caused not by profligate government spending but by a failure of the market-based international banking system and the triumph of unbridled greed amongst the super rich. David Cameron's immediate excuse to act was the deficit generated by the previous Labour government to stabilise our banks and successfully mitigate the social effects of the global recession which followed the credit crunch. He did so by launching an assault on the post-war state settlement more extreme than anything Mrs Thatcher's most swivel-eyed fanatics could have fantasised about. The theatrically named ‘emergency budget' began this process and the October spending review will continue it.

That there was no electoral mandate to introduce the largest public expenditure cuts in British peacetime history is clear. Those who voted Liberal Democrat had a right to assume that their chosen party would stick with the economic policy clearly set out in their manifesto at the election. Like Labour's, this emphasised the danger of cutting the deficit too far or too fast while economic recovery was still fragile. In fact it was this economic position which achieved majority endorsement once the votes were counted."


At 4:24 pm , Anonymous Stuart said...

My initial reactions were, well not of the v v angry kind, but pretty disappointed, largely because I find Darling's deficit reduction plan a bit crap. But I'm coming round to the choice, largely because other appointments in the shadow cabinet were quite pleasing - Khan at Justice, Denham at Business, Healy at Health, Burnham at Education could all work very well. Will have to wait and see what Balls is like at Home as didn't think he was of Ed's mind on crime and such like. Will also be interested to see hoe Alexander does at DWP; he's grown on me over the last month. Would liked to have seen Benn in a more prominent role (not too sure what his role involves) but I'm kind of glad Byrne isn't anywhere near the frontline (he seems a bit smug to me). Also think it's time that Communities and Local Gov became more important as a portfolio, and I'm not sure the choice of Caroline Flint reflects this.

Anyway, you raise some good points (about internal politics) and I'm reserving judgment on AJ; it'll be interesting to see how he does at least.

At 4:27 pm , Blogger Will said...

I totally agree about the politics of putting AJ up against GO, and I think that's something Mr Johnson can do without skipping a beat.

The problem, however, is that whilst Osbourne is hardly the heaviest of weights economically, he still substantially outguns Alan Johnson. Which is fine if the idea is for the Labour Party to avoid making policy commitments for the next few years, but there are 2 particular problems with AJ doing this:

(i) You think it's the wrong strategy, and that Labour should be taking positions on what ought to be cut and ought not, which in turns requires a broader policy platform of how and when the deficit should be cut, which in turn requires the ability to argue economics with the Chancellor at the dispatch box.
(ii) I'm informed that AJ has views on the deficit and will want to expound them. Which again leaves Labour vulnerable to his lack of knowledge of economics.

At 4:59 pm , Blogger Will said...

Actually, a brief follow-up: the Tories are currently vulnerable on jobs - i.e. where are the new jobs coming from. There is no easy answer for a laissez faire party to give. Labour could appeal to a lot of voters by having an economic policy focussed around job creation through government intervention, and one that the Tories would find difficult to argue against (most arguments being quite theoretical or using examples from over 20 years ago, etc). With Alan Johnson as Chancellor, however, it's difficult to see who convincingly can make those arguments either in the House or in the media.

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