Monday, January 16, 2012

Across the weekend, we've been inundated with Tories crowing that Labour now back the government's cuts. 

This is based on a Guardian story which starts
Balls said he accepted every spending cut being imposed by the coalition
Except, that's not a direct quote and isn't what the speech says either. You can read that here. If you actually read it, he isn't accepting the cuts at all. 
As we make the argument that cutting spending and raising taxes too far and too fast risks making the economy and the deficit worse not better, it is right that we set out where we do support cuts and where we would be making the tough but necessary decisions. 
In education, as I have said, £1 billion of cuts – but not the biggest cuts to schools since the 1950s. In policing, 12 per cent cuts to budgets – but not 20 per cent cuts which will hit the frontline hard and see 16,000 officers lost. In defence, £5 billion of cuts – but not a strategic defence review that raises more questions than answers. 
And because as progressives we believe in the role of the state and public services to do good, it is vital that we are even tougher on waste than our political opponents – whether that is the £2 billion being wasted on a reckless reorganisation of the NHS, billions being lost in tax avoidance or the waste of mass unemployment.
All of that seems entirely consistent with our post-election policy. What he does say that is new is also realistic. 
we cannot make any commitments now that the next Labour government will reverse tax rises or spending cuts. And we will not. Because we don’t know how bad things will be on jobs, growth and the deficit. But we do know that the next Labour government will have to sort out the deficit where this government failed and deliver social justice in tougher times.
The brutal reality is that while we should continue to oppose a government policy that fetishises deficit reduction and sidelines growth, while we should fight against ill-thought out cuts, we also have to accept that we are on a magical mystery tour with an incompetent driver at the wheel. Labour is unlikely to have a chance to take over until 2015 and we simply don't know where we will end up by then. Starting to plot a route back from the wreckage now simply creates hostages to fortune. 

Before 1997, Labour promised to work within the Tory spending plans at the time and this is reminiscent of that statement. We can promise to do things differently, to spend more wisely and tax more fairly, but we need the discipline on the front bench not to make any spending or tax promises that we cannot be sure of keeping. 

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