Thursday, May 27, 2010

For this MP, history began on 6th May

Different members of the Labour party seem to be responding in different ways to their general election defeat. The majority I have met seem to be treating their move to opposition as an excuse to celebrate. "We won't have to make the cuts now," is a common claim by them. Others seem to think they have an automatic right to rule and they regard the Coalition as a bunch of thieves who have done a smash and grab on the levers of power which Labour believe rightly belong to them. And there are other Labour members who seem to think that time, events and history did not happen before 6th May and the general election.

Blaydon MP David Anderson looks like he falls into the latter category. His column in our regional newspaper, The Journal, today ignores much of what happened under his own Labour government up to 6th May. It's almost as if the claims he, the Labour party and Labour ministers made before polling day never happened. Now, to be fair to Mr Anderson, and indeed all politicians, events can often dictate a need to change direction or policy. As part of the Coalition agreement, we have had to make some compromises, just as the Conservatives have. We have had to accept that the cuts we all knew have to be made (remember Alistair Darling was claiming before polling day that cuts will have to be "more severe than under Mrs Thatcher") have had to be brought forward. Frankly the likelihood of early cuts was always high regardless of who won the election. However, we have won the major concession that the tax system needs to be radically rebalanced so that the burden of tax should be shifted away from the income of low and middle earners.

Having fought the election on a Labour platform which stated that cuts would eventually have to be made, Mr Anderson (in common with so many in Labour) now appears to be arguing against the whole concept of cuts. Having spent much of his article attacking what he saw as the consequences of cuts, he then goes on to confuse everyone by accepting that cuts are needed. He can't bring himself to use the C-word however. Instead, he says, "I accept the longer-term health of our economy requires reducing our deficit..." (ie we need cuts).

Mr Anderson then goes on to attack the whole concept of raising the tax threshhold to £10,000. Mr Anderson was one of the Labour MPs who warned that Gordon Brown's decision to scrap the 10p income tax rate, announced in the 2007 budget, would hit people on low incomes hard. It's a pity that Mr Anderson himself, having attacked the tax increase on low earners, then went on to vote for it in 2008. It's even more of a pity now that Mr Anderson is arguing against lifting more low earners out of tax. So much for all his posturing about helping "the working class".

Mr Anderson then went on to attack the Coalition over increasing VAT. It will be a month yet before we know whether or not VAT will be increased but it was never ruled out by any party (including Labour) before polling day. Mr Anderson's attack is remarkable however because he himself called for a rise in VAT last year.

So, for Mr Anderson, and I suspect many on Labour's benches who are now in opposition and loving the freedom to posture without responsibility, his own call for VAT to go up, his own concerns about the increased tax burden on low earners and his own party's admission that cuts will have to be made are now buried in the land that time (or at least Labour) forgot. For an awful lot of people in the Labour party, History started on 6th May. Anything before that has been obliterated from their collective "socialist" memory.

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