Let’s recapture the spirit, values and national purpose of 1945 – my Tribune column

With Britain in the longest double-dip recession since the second world war and with borrowing rising by 22 per cent so far this year as a result, we urgently need a plan for jobs and growth to get our economy moving. Our task is to show that we can rebuild Britain now and for the future. We did it after 1945 and we must do it again.

As I said in my speech to the Labour Party conference on Monday, we need action right now to kick-start the economy, alongside tough decisions to get the deficit down and a long term plan to reform and rebuild our economy for the future.

With our economy in recession, we must build on the five point plan for jobs and growth Labour set out last year. So with the windfall of up to £4bn from the sale of the 4G mobile phone spectrum we should cut through this government’s dither and rhetoric and actually do something.

Let’s use that money from the 4G sale to give a stamp duty holiday for first time buyers buying homes up to £250,000 and build 100,000 more new homes – affordable homes to rent and to buy – to create hundreds of thousands of jobs and get our construction industry moving again.

But the longer this government staggers on with a failing economic plan, the harder the job of rebuilding our economy and getting the deficit down will be. That is why, however difficult this may be, when we don’t know what we will inherit, we cannot make any commitments now that the next Labour government will be able to reverse particular tax rises or spending cuts.

We must be upfront with the British people that under Labour there would have been cuts and that – on spending, pay and pensions – there will be difficult decisions in the future from which we will not flinch. Of course we’ll make different choices – we’ll do things in a fairer and more balanced way and put jobs and growth first. But, unlike Nick Clegg, we will not make promises we cannot keep.

And because we all know there can be no post-election spending spree, in our first year in government we will hold a zero-based spending review that will look at every pound spent by government: carefully looking at what the government can and cannot afford, rooting out waste and boosting productivity.

But we will do things differently to this government. Not slashing budgets without a care in the world – damaging the economy, hitting women harder than men – but assessing every pound of taxpayer’s money including for its impact on growth and fairness.

Not opting for short-term cuts that look ‘easy’ but which end up costing more in the long-term – like deep cuts to youth services, to adult mental health services and to public health.

Not ducking the hard long-term issues we know we haven’t properly faced up to and which transcend parties and parliaments and where we badly need a cross-party consensus – like support for looked-after children and adults needing social care.

And we also need to break out of political short-termism when it comes to the long-term decisions we need to make on our national infrastructure, like our future energy and transport needs.

So, as I said in my speech, the chair of the Olympic Delivery Authority Sir John Armitt has agreed to consider how long-term infrastructure decision-making, planning, delivery and finance can be radically improved.

In 1945, at the end of six hard years of war, our predecessors – who were elected to rebuild a country ravaged by conflict – faced even greater challenges than we face today: an economy enfeebled by war and a national debt double the size of ours today.

They made tough and unpopular decisions including continuing with rationing, cutting defence spending and introducing prescription charges.

But that Labour Cabinet also remained focussed on the long-term task ahead. They learned from history and rejected the failed austerity of the 1930s.

And that meant they could put in place long-term reforms and enduring achievements, vital to our country’s future: new homes for heroes, the school leaving age raised, and a National Health Service.

They were very different times. But it is our task to recapture the spirit and values and national purpose of that time. We owe it to our predecessors, to our children and their children to come to learn from that example – to make the tough decisions but not to sacrifice their futures.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Add to favorites
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Technorati
  • email
  • Facebook
  • MySpace
  • Reddit
  • RSS
  • Twitter
Posted October 5th, 2012 by Ed