David Blackburn

Labour’s new dividing line is a gamble

Labour's new dividing line is a gamble
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Alistair Darling has long suggested that the original dividing line between the Tories and Labour concerned Labour spending, which will stimulate growth, versus Tory inaction. And last week, Darling was quoted in the Mail on Sunday setting out a new dividing line between the parties by framing the “debate in terms of our cuts being better than their cuts”. It is a stance that presupposes Britain is returning to growth thanks to the government’s strategy. And that is the message of an opinion piece, titled ‘The cure is working’, penned by Darling in this morning’s Guardian. Here’s the key section:

‘The Tories have opposed our measures every inch of the way, but I make no apology. For me the cost of doing nothing, far from being "a price worth paying", would have been morally indefensible. Governments can and should make a difference. That's the clear division between our approach and that of the Conservative party. The international response, led by Gordon Brown, has been critical. By the end of 2010, the extra $5tn spent by the G20 countries to boost their economies is expected to increase global economic output by 4%. That is why international co-operation is imperative.

I am determined the recovery will be sustainable and lasting, that no one should be consigned to the scrap-heap, like so many were in the 1980s and 1990s. The Tories were wrong then, just as they are wrong now – David Cameron and George Osborne appear to wallow in the prospect of swingeing cuts, unwilling to spell out their economic and social consequences.’

As I argued last week, Labour’s cuts strategy is risky, because if the government’s response to the recession is to be vindicated Britain has to return to growth much faster than expected. Even if that happens, Labour is probably beyond salvation. Put simply, their unpopularity extends far beyond economy mismanagement.