Why we must fight on the economy – and change the narrative – to win in 2017

Recently something has been in the forefront of my mind. Cutbacks in everything and everywhere are eroding and destroying our Public Services. As a Socialist I obviously believe we need to fight these cutbacks but I think we have got to try and explain the big picture of it all (I’m talking the Labour Party as a whole, here). We have to re-frame the entire debate on the economy if we are going to win the next election. The NHS is in crisis, and it is deliberate, because the Tories want to run it down so they can then they can use it as an excuse to privatise it. However this is only part of the story of what the Tories are doing. Austerity as John McDonnell says is a Political choice not an Economic necessity. But the Tories are doing it with glee because they see it as a great chance to get rid of much of the public sector.

But let’s be honest here since the 2008 financial crash the Tories have played a blinder. The narrative they have relentlessly pursued that it was all Labour’s fault when in government has worked like a charm. Of course most of the right wing media has gone along with them as well, as you would expect. Ed Miliband did do some good things moving the “New” out of Labour, but on the crucial issue of the economy we failed big time and that ultimately I believe is the biggest reason we lost the 2015 election. A big section of the population simply didn’t believe Labour could be trusted with the nation’s finances. Again and again we heard it was all Labour’s fault, we had overspent, spending money we didn’t have. Also central to this was a continuation of what Thatcher had said since the 80’s that the Nation’s economy is like a Household budget. It isn’t but people have bought into this. For some reason when Ed was leader it was decided that we were going to accept the Tory narrative on this, and it was a massive mistake because it gave the Tories a huge advantage that continues to this day. I will never forget the Question Time election debate when a man asked Ed if he thought the last Labour Government had overspent. When Ed said no some of the audience audibly gasped, and I thought to myself then I can see us losing this election. Unfortunately we did.

The only way we can win the next election with so much against us (including of course the Tory Media as always) is tackling this Tory narrative head-on. With Jeremy as leader things have improved a hell of a lot. But we have a long way to go yet, and again let’s be honest – the task is an absolute massive one. First of all we have to keep saying that these cuts aren’t necessary and that the Tories are using the deficit as an excuse to slash public services. Secondly we have to get across that we can have a fairer Tax System without us becoming some poor man of Europe. Also, we have to say that we will have to borrow more. The Tories are doing it massively now, in fact more than Labour ever have, but with no discernible benefit to us. We can do it differently to benefit us all. Of course we can do other things as well, but Tax and Borrowing are always going to get thrown at us. There is no way getting round the fact that the only way to improve things like the NHS and Education is by spending more money. We have got to get off this race to the bottom and you don’t do that by giving Tax breaks to the rich while at the same time making more and more cutbacks to vital every-day services.

The hard and sad truth is that as a society we are going backwards. Technology has advanced but inequality has gotten worse. We have constantly been told in the last 30-40 years there is no alternative and that wealth trickles down to us all. They are both lies, spread by people who want to keep the system rigged for the same few vested interests. Now we told that there’s no money for anything, which again is lie. We are the 5th richest country in the world but all we can do is make endless cutbacks while the rich get ever richer and the poor get ever poorer. Where is it all going to end? Our society cannot carry on like this with more cuts still to come, without something breaking. There are literally Trillions of pounds out there, and if we could just use a fraction of that hoarded wealth we could improve the lives of the vast majority of us. The Thatcherite notion that greed is good is absolute rubbish. Our priorities have become unbalanced, even unhinged, and we have got to change our direction of travel as a nation.

I don’t believe things have to be this way and neither does the Labour Party. With the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader we have at last moved to an anti-austerity pro-investment position. This is the biggest chance for the progressive left for generations and we have got to take advantage of the opportunity that lies before us. There is so much money out there in so few hands that it has become obscene, instead some of this wealth could help to transform the country. But we have to get this message out relentlessly and everything related to cuts I think need to relate to that. All the time, on every issue. We have got to speak outside the Westminster bubble and engage and connect with the real people who matter. There is understandably so much cynicism about politicians nowadays but we have to show that the Labour will do what it was created for, because the Tories will always will look after the rich .You can call it good old class politics if you like, but I genuinely believe most people do believe in society being fairer and more equal.

History will be with us but it won’t happen on its own. We have got to give it our all so we can win this election!

 – Red Labour’s Rick Evans writes

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