A quiet but important change to Britain’s political landscape took place in
Brussels on Wednesday. The European Parliament passed a motion to increase the EU Budget by 5.9 percent, dashing, for the moment, government hopes that the EU might share in its citizens’
austerity. Labour’s MEPs were central to the motion’s success – 10 (one of whom glories in the name Michael Cashman) out of 13 voted against the Conservative-backed amendment to
freeze the EU Budget.
As Alan Johnson took his feet and, like a gamey slim-line Falstaff, began to condemn public sector cuts, Labour MEPs saddled the over-stretched taxpayer with £900m in extra contributions
– more than the odd nurse could have been saved with that tidy little sum.
It was an important moment. For 10 years, Gordon Brown had a monopoly on economic competence; it was so strong the Tories had to match his spending to become even vaguely electable. Now things are
different. Labour’s supporters can debate meaningless abstractions like ‘progressive cuts’ at any and every opportunity. But away from Westminster’s wonkish environs, you
find a dissipated philosophy incapable of understanding our straitened reality.