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Memo to Tories: don’t tell Labour’s lies for them

“It may take a lot of defeats for conservatives to work out that providing a pale imitation of the other guy’s manifesto is not a route to electoral success.”

Fredrik Erixon, Swedish economist

There is a worse error still: pretending you did what you promised in your own manifesto when you didn’t. Gordon Brown’s Big Blowout was a fitting end to 13 years when Labour spent like there was no tomorrow. Today is the tomorrow Labour spent like there wasn’t. The coalition won 60% of Britain’s votes in 2010 by promising to remedy that – and the Tories still say they did, they are and they will. Can anyone count on their fingers how many pounds of debt have been paid off? (What do you mean, you don’t have a negative number of fingers !) They paid off nothing. They even increased the debt. The increase was nothing compared to Gordon Brown, of course – and nothing is something when compared to Gordon Brown, who in turn compares well to Jeremy Corbyn – but not one pound was paid off.

The UK is like a couch potato, so ashamed of a spectacular blow-out that he tweets all his friends he’s switching over to the DASH diet and gym workouts. He doesn’t actually do it – he keeps lazing on the couch, eating at the rate to which he has now become accustomed, and each month the old bill for that huge takeaway binge has only its interest paid on his credit card statement – but he’s been tweeting so much that his even fatter friends now reply, “Hey, you deserve a break after all this! Come and join us for another big blow-out.” Now he is trapped by his own lies.

For seven years, austerity has been talked about. It suited Labour, it suited the media – and it suited the Tories to pretend they were doing some. Now the Tory party is caught in its own lies.  Surely, after all this austerity, Britain could afford another night out with Labour.

Back in the ’80s, under the austere Margaret Thatcher, interns and electives loved working in A&E – and patients did not wait so long to be seen. The reasons they don’t love it today have nothing to do with austerity – quite the opposite – but how would you know if you listened to the public debate on it? Likewise, many a green is justly called a watermelon: green on the outside, red on the inside. Grenfell tower was made green on the outside and was red that night: red is the colour of fire and of blood. How many would be alive today if the £9 million it cost to clad it had been austerely withheld?

I very sincerely hope it will not take the next Tory leader an actual electoral defeat to work all this out.

17 comments to Memo to Tories: don’t tell Labour’s lies for them

  • Bemused

    Labours deficit spending as a % of GDP 1997 to 2008 compares favourably to Conservative deficit spending 1987 to 1997. 2009 saw a huge jump, one that we have not fully recovered from. Now who was it that inflated GDP thus reducing deficit % by including criminal economies?


    I am no Labour fan and agree with you about claiming austerity but we should all deal in facts not hype.

  • Paul Marks

    Very well “Bemused” – where are your facts about cuts in government health, education and welfare spending?

    I wait for you to present your case that the Conservatives have cut Welfare State spending – when everyone says have (indeed government ministers talk about “ending Austerity” as if spending had actually been cut).

    Do not give a “link” to some other place (which also does not give the actual spending on the Welfare State) – just present your case.

    Indeed your own post (correctly read) simply shows that the Conservatives under John Major (Prime Minister from 1990 to 1997) were also big spenders. It shows there were no “cuts” under Mr Major either.

    Niall was claiming that the Conservatives are not fiscally responsible people they claim to be – this you call “hype”, but your own post actually shows that Niall is CORRECT. He just left out that Mr Major was also a wild spender.

    P.S. Mrs Thatcher did not actually cut government spending either.

  • Paul Marks

    Is Niall correct in claiming that a policy of being a pale pink version of Labour will doom the Conservatives?

    Of course he is correct – but far from “hyping” his case – Niall understates it.

    A “me to” “Social Justice” “Red Tory” policy would not just doom the Conservatives – it would also doom the country.

  • Sam Duncan

    As you say, Bemused, GDP is an unreliable measure. Let’s use inflation-adjusted per-capita spending instead. And here it is with the “austerity” years added in.

    The horror! This government, and the coalition before it, has been spending literally twice as much on every man, woman, and child as the Thatcher administration, and has never fallen back to the levels of the Blair/Brown years. Perhaps, with there being (theoretically, according to those notoriously unreliable GDP figures) more wealth swilling around in general, they could spend even more, but it’s hardly “austerity”.

  • Darin

    Off topic, but congratulations to Paul Marks to 100k Quora views!


    Keep up the good fight against the Maoists, someone have to do it. The popularity of Stalin on Quora is not surprising, Stalin’s star is lately rising everywhere on the net, partly as “Soviet chic” among gamers, partly as reaction to the rise of “alt-right”.
    After all, Uncle Joe had big sexy moustache and won the greatest war in history, what’s not to like? But Mao’s fanclub is something hard to comprehend 😯 😯 😯

  • Bemused (July 5, 2017 at 2:39 pm), when asked by a supportive Labour member what the greatest achievement was of the Labour government 1997 – 2010, the very first thing that Gordon Brown said was “a doubling of NHS spending”. As to what Labour achieved by that, here’s the link from my main post above about how NHS output changed. There are many other areas where the same occurred.

    If you know something as big – OK almost nothing is as big as the NHS, so if you know something big – that Margaret Thatcher spent twice as much on but made work less well, by all means comment. Bonus points if she then boasted of the achievement.

    I agree with Paul Marks (July 5, 2017 at 3:38 pm) and Sam Duncan (July 5, 2017 at 3:55 pm).

    – Thatcher was trying to balance the budget. In her final year, a sizeable chunk of it went to paying off a third of the national debt (only possible because of decades of inflation, of course).

    – Major was “let’s be more caring.” (Thatcher on Major: “I would have loved to have given money like that, but I was trying to balance the budget!” – quoted from memory.)

    – Labour was spend, spend, spend. They threw money at the NHS – one of the many reasons why that extra money achieved so little.

  • Runcie Balspune

    What has the comparative percentage of GDP got to do with government spending? They are two completely different unrelated measures.

    The population of 1990s did not rise that much, unemployment remained more or less stable, but GDP per capita rocketed up, so what was the government spending all that loverly extra tax on?

    It certainly was not spent paying back the debt – the cynical would say it was used to increase Labour’s vote base.

    A lost chance, and a strategy that nearly put us next to Greece when the crisis hit. Thanks Gordon!

  • Laird

    Runcie, government spending is not “unrelated” to GDP; it is an official component of it. Increased government spending will, by definition, increase reported GDP. You can plausibly argue that it’s an irrational basis of comparison, that it’s circular logic, even that GDP itself is fairly close to meaningless (and I would agree with all of those), but not that it’s “unrelated”.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    Paul Marks
    July 5, 2017 at 3:38 pm

    P.S. Mrs Thatcher did not actually cut government spending either.

    Across the political and media world, a ‘cut’ is now a decrease in the increase; that word having been ruined, we need a new one for an absolute decrease. I propose “darfglang”, as being a word that can’t be confused with anything else, and that no one will dare expropriate. 😛

  • Thatcher on Major: “I would have loved to have given money like that, but I was trying to balance the budget!” – quoted from memory.)

    Tells you quite a lot, even Thatcher wasn’t working from principle.

  • Mr Ed

    Tells you quite a lot, even Thatcher wasn’t working from principle.

    Indeed Wh00ps, I saw a short news clip where Mrs Thatcher announced a government handout of ‘One and three quarter million pounds‘ to some cause or other, like a disaster, and an aid corrected her quote of the handout, saying ‘One and a quarter million, Prime Minister’ and she retorted something like ‘Well, it’s one and three-quarters now’.

    So presumably she personally loaded £500,000 onto the £1,668,000,000,000 of the National Debt (it’s the “Crown Debt” surely?), a mere (I think) 0.00003% rounded up, but that was a pure example of pig-headedness and a usurpation of Parliament that would have made Charles I proud.

  • Mr Ed

    Another good thing about immigration is that the more people immigrate to the UK, the lower the per capita National Debt…

  • Laird

    Indeed, Mr Ed. Isn’t math fun?

  • Wh00ps (July 6, 2017 at 9:51 am), you may be misinterpreting the Thatcher quote. She tried to balance the budget and was therefore called nasty and mean every time someone wanted government money and didn’t get it (or not as much as they’d have liked). I read the quote to mean she did not deny people for the fun of seeing their faces fall but for the principle of only spending what you can afford. It can be read as saying she very much was working from principle whenever she rejected the easy option of trying to fund every ‘deserving’ cause.

    Mr Ed (July 6, 2017 at 11:23 am), my memory of what sounds like the same incident (in 1989 or 1990) is that it said £250,000 in her minister’s brief but £500,000 in her own brief at a joint press conference she and he held to announce that the sum was being applied to some purpose. She was so furious at the incompetence of the briefs being inconsistent, especially in a press conference (I suspect some civil servant was roasted afterwards) that when the minister (Ridley IIRC), whose department’s civil servants had prepared the briefs, tried to lighten the tone by getting his wallet out and pretending to give her the difference, she found it hard to play along. The fact that it made her look unprepared when she had read her brief carefully was what really infuriated her, I think. She enforced the value _she’d_ been told, not at all because she cared specially about giving the cause an extra £250,000 but to discipline the civil servants – “If your brief tells me something, don’t think you can call it an error later.” I strongly suspect that part of the discipline was the department having to cut £250,000 from something else.

  • John K

    What I find charming about the Mrs Thatcher anecdote is that it is redolent of Dr Evil’s “One million dollars!”

    Can you imagine a Prime Minister these days actually announcing spending of a mere quarter of a million pounds?

  • Julie near Chicago

    Mr Ed, on immigration — it’s always good to find someone who can always find the silver ear in every sow’s purse. :>))

  • Paul Marks

    Mrs Thatcher was O.K. – of course the lady was far from perfect, but compared to what came before her and what came after her, Mrs Thatcher was good.