Socialist Worker

What will Labour really do about the Tories’ austerity?

Labour has attacked the Tories’ ‘smear analysis’ which claims they would reverse cuts if elected in May. Simon Basketter argues we need better

Issue No. 2436

Ed Miliband says big reforms are needed

Ed Miliband says "big reforms" are needed (Pic: EdMiliband)

The Tories claim Labour would increase public spending and reverse cuts.

According to Tory chancellor George Osborne, “In the first year of office alone, a Labour government would increase borrowing by £20.7 billion.”

Shamefully instead of saying yes they would, Labour politicians rushed to promise they wouldn’t reverse cuts. 

The Tories took every statement by a Labour frontbencher that sounds like a commitment to spend more money, and attached an estimated cost for the year 2015/16.

So Ed Miliband said in December that the Tory decision to block a measly 1 percent pay rise for health workers was “wrong”. It treated criticism of coalition cuts as a commitment to reverse those cuts. Yet what the Labour Party actually promised is to stick to coalition spending plans in 2015/16.

Labour produced a rebuttal dossier, “The Tories’ Smear Analysis of Labour Party Policy”. 

Importantly it argues that, when Labour shadow ministers criticise some public sector cuts, this does not mean they will be reversed.

Labour’s public spending promises are better than the Tories’ in one respect—sort of. 

Labour will fund higher pay increases for NHS workers, members of the armed forces and other non specified public sector workers after 2016. But that’s only if individual secretaries of state can find a way to pay for the increased wages through making cuts elsewhere.

Shadow chancellor Ed Balls said, “I am not providing any more money for 2015-16 over and above. 


“At the time this was announced, I said it was a mistake of Jeremy Hunt to reject the pay review bodies but I also said I can make no commitment now to find additional money to pay for that.

“We’ve talked about the £2.5 billion Time to Care fund [to fund new NHS staff] but I think the priority next year for us is going to be putting money into more doctors and nurses rather than pay.”

The implication is that it’s unrealistic to fund better pay and jobs. It’s not only the Tories who declare that Labour will increase spending—Labour’s own supporters do as well. 

Commentator Polly Toynbee said “Labour has given itself at least a £30 billion leeway in spending”.

Labour’s rebuttal of these claims is a shot in the back for such people who are encouraging votes for the party.

Many workers hope and expect the Labour Party to be better than the Tories. There is a strong sense that Miliband may be weak but Labour will be a bit different. 

Historically Labour has promised little and delivered less. But now when Miliband says he offers “hope, not falsehood” the problem is that the truth is Labour would impose brutal cuts and austerity. 

We need better.

Forced to make promises

Working class people are right to expect Labour should have policies that are in their interest.

But it seems each week the gap narrows between Labour and the Tories. However, Labour has been forced to pledge some meagre promises if elected in May.

In September 2013 Ed Miliband finally came out and said a Labour government would scrap the bedroom tax. 

But this was only after determined resistance from tenants and their supporters. 

Similarly, Miliband has said he would freeze energy prices. 

Although these are relatively small pledges overall, if implemented they would undoubtedly alleviate some of the hardship that working class 

people face. He has also attacked the “cost of living crisis”—though without supporting strikes over pay or opposing the Tories’ cuts to benefits.

But crucially he has also said that his priority is to deal with the “long term productivity and competitiveness challenges facing our country”.

He says this won’t be achieved with “big spending by government, but with big reforms”.

The claims and the rebuttals

The Tories claim to have identified 55 Labour spending commitments—and 15 cuts that Labour won’t make.

These include:

Equal resources for mental and physical health

The Tories said Labour would spend £2.7 billion to meet this pledge. 

But Labour said that “equal treatment and resources” was “not a point about arithmetic equivalence in programme budgets”. 

Rather they mean parity of esteem so it wouldn’t increase costs.

Access to GPs

Miliband’s pledge for a guaranteed appointment within 

48 hours would cost £1.4 billion, the Tories claimed. 

Labour said the policy would be cheaper since not all same-day consultations would be face-to-face and not all patients would need to see a GP the same day.

And one real promise 

Labour has pledged to extend childcare provision to 25 hours 

free childcare for three and four year olds.

The Tories said this will cost £800 million. Labour said it is funded by the bank levy.

Three Tory promises—three lies 

The Tories have promised more brutal restructuring in favour of the rich through doubling the cuts. 

In their first campaign poster of the new year, they came up with three claims, examined belo

Lie no.1

‘1.75 million more in work’

Total employment has increased since 2010 from about 29 million people to around 30.8 million people. 

Around half a million of these jobs were part time. There are also around 1.3 million more people of working age than there were in 2010. 

Lie no.2

‘Tories halved the deficit’

The deficit has been cut but not halved. The Tories changed the definition of the deficit for the poster.

The actual deficit has been cut by about a third.

Lie no.3

‘760,000 more businesses’ 

Private sector businesses did increase by 760,000. 

But 707,000 of these businesses are workers who are classed as self-employed.

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Background Check
Tue 13 Jan 2015, 17:47 GMT
Issue No. 2436
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