Friday, November 19, 2010

Against the bailout

So after claiming there is no alternative to slashing public spending, our government plans to contribute £7 billion towards the bailout of the Irish government/banks.

Since May, we've heard the Tories say that we have to slash public services, make hundreds of thousands of people lose their jobs, and cut benefits for everyone from ex-servicemen to pensioners and carers. They wouldn't even loan money to British businesses to invest in new exports.

But as soon as a corrupt, incompetent right wing government and their partners in crime in the banks need our cash, Cameron and Osborne manage to find £7 billion for them.

I understand the economic case for the bailout, and feel every sympathy for the people in Ireland who didn't gain from the boom and now get to suffer the bust. But if the UK is broke, as the Tories claim, then we can't afford to be part of this bailout. And if the UK can find £7 billion for this, then they've got enough money to stop the most devastating cuts over here.

There might be circumstances in which Labour should support a bailout - things might be different if elections were called and a new government formed (possibly led by the Irish Labour Party) with a mandate to clean up the mess, or if an extra £7 billion was raised from extra bank levies or taxes on bonuses.

But this bailout, given to the exact same people who got Ireland into such a dreadful mess, at the same time as our government makes the same savage cuts which caused catastrophe in Ireland - definitely not.


I see that Very Serious Commentator David Aaronovitch, writing in the Times, advises Labour to avoid the temptation to become a "Tea Party of the Left", to support the government in areas such as mutualism, electoral reform and student fees, while opposing them on the immigration cap.

Similarly, I'm sure that the "centrist" line on the crisis in Ireland is that Labour must support the bailout, while at the same time supporting cuts in welfare spending and public services, because otherwise we will lose "credibility". I think this advice is more or less exactly wrong - only someone as out of touch as a newspaper columnist could believe that it is a sensible political strategy to support the government when it does irrelevant or unpopular things, and oppose it only when it does popular things.

Politically, the bailout is a golden opportunity to take away one of the most potent lines of attack which the Tories have against us. One thing which Labour should learn from the Tea Party is that opposing bank bailouts is fantastically good politics. In the future when the Tories claim they are forced to cut services and demand what our alternative would be, we could start by pointing out that unlike them, we wouldn't have handed over billions to bailout right-wing governments which destroyed their economy with savage cuts in public spending.


At 1:48 pm , Blogger Andreas Paterson said...

You're right, naturally. The situation in Ireland is an absolute gift to Labour. There are so many opportunities.

As well as the neutralising the "cuts are essential" line we can also really lay into the Tories over their pre-crisis desire to emulate Ireland's economic model. The only line of defence they really have left is the "it's the banks not the cuts" one and even on that we can point out that Irealnd's issues go well beyond it's solvency.

I also agree with you on the other point. I'm a bit puzzled as to why some of the Labour right and the Axis of Serious are unwilling to endorse policies that are both popular and left wing.

At 2:33 pm , Anonymous gastro george said...

Because they're not interested in popularity and right wing?

Being "serious", if it means anything, is the right to tell the left that they are wrong.

At 7:49 am , Anonymous Keith said...

When thay want to help the "dependent" bankers, and their political dupes money appears from thin air.

Funny that.

But no money for the poor, or sick, or disabled.

The magic box is suddenly empty when they come around.


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