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Labour needs a New Economic Narrative…

by Darrell Goodliffe.

Greg Lovell, writing on his blog, argues that Labour must find itself a clear economic message. I couldn’t agree more and think, bluntly, the lack of a clearly defined economic narrative was one of the pivotal factors in Labour’s electoral defeat. No popular enthusiasm existed for Cameron’s ‘slash and dash’ shock therapy prescription for the British economy – hence his lack of a commanding majority, he’s dependent on a Party in the Liberal Democrats that used to argue the exact opposite to keep him in government. However, in the absence of a Labour Party capable of providing a clear and comprehensible counter-narrative enough people plumped for the blues to knock Labour out of government.

Labour’s first mistake was to accept the basic terms of the ‘Debt Crisis’ moral panic and fail to recognise it for what it actually was – an ideologically motivated clarion call for an assault on the citadels of the state by the right-wing media and its Conservative allies. Rather than explain the extraordinary circumstances which gave rise to the debt clearly and concisely Labour actually engaged in a bidding war with the Conservatives as to who could cut the deficit the quickest.  Alistair Darling began to look less like a Chancellor with a clear sense of direction and more and more somebody who was zig-zagging hither and tither across a very hazy Labour Party line.

All the other mistakes really flowed from this principle one – for example, the argument about ‘what to do about the deficit’ should have been about how we return to growth; yet this discussion rarely featured except when the Conservatives demonstrated their lack of grasp of economics by assuming it will magically transpire as a result of their maniacal spending cuts. For once, sound capitalist sense actually in many ways converges with socialist dreams and this is something that you would assume would have benefitted Labour. Except it didn’t because Labour (or at least its leadership) had long since left such shores assuming them to be barren and bereft when it comes to the Holy Grail of electoral success.

Fast-forward to now and you would be hard pushed to find this picture being fully appreciated by any of the leadership candidates. It comes in flashes especially from the likes of Ed Miliband but they are still bound in the logic of the same pattern established by Tony Blair. Miliband [Ed] talks about wages and incomes policy in all seriousness and then when it comes to the undemocratic laws restricting the trade unions (a major factor depressing wages is a weak trade union movement) he dare not sail fully-forward on the course his words should take him. Instead of empowering people to do it themselves (which reviewing these laws and lifting the greater part would do) he wants the state in the form of a Labour government to do it for them.

It’s right to insist that there are only certain things the state can do; there are things only the state can do because of its unique organising capacity and things only it should do because of its position as representing society as a whole. However, when it comes to things like an effective wages and income policy the same state needs a union movement able to breathe on its side. Labour needs a new economic narrative and it needs it fast; if one of the leadership candidates can provide a coherent one then they may just be the right person to take it forward.

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Filed under: Economy, Labour, , , , ,

One Response

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by DarrellGoodliffe. DarrellGoodliffe said: RT @Broadleftblog: Labour needs a New Economic Narrative…: http://wp.me/pXkBd-1H […]

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