Labour leader Ed Miliband has been warned from within his party he must avoid being pigeonholed as a defender of ‘tax and spend’ policies if he hopes to win the next election.
Shadow pensions minister and ex Oxford history don Gregg McClymont (pictured) says the Government’s “politically strategic” approach to deficit reduction is intended to convince tax payers of Labour’s profligacy in power, rather than genuinely working in the national interest. Backing down on Plan A would undermine that argument and make the situation look less serious, he says.
McClymont says if the economy recovers and tax take rises again, taxes will be cut rather than spending reinstated. He says this lays a trap for Labour forcing them to raise taxes if they want to increase public spending.
McClymont says Labour policy should focus on growth and job creation instead of opposing spending cuts, pushing the Government out of the Conservative comfort-zone of pushing for reductions in public spending into the more uncomfortable ground of state intervention.
In a pamphlet co-written by McClymont for the Policy Network, he writes: “Labour can sidestep the electoral trap being sprung by the Conservatives by refusing to be driven back to its core support. A patriotic appeal to the nation to improve growth and living standards, not a simple defence of the public sector and public spending, is crucial to foiling Conservative attempts to render Labour the party of a sectional minority.”
He says: “Labour is more comfortable than the Conservatives with the idea of an activist state: the Conservatives have reason to fear a political contest organised around which party can best promote growth rather than which party can best reduce spending.”
Seeking to overturn the idea that Conservative success at the next election depends on economic recovery, McClymont says Labour must provide a credible alternative to stop Cameron’s party claiming things would be worse under Ed Miliband.
He says: “The Conservative claim that ’There is No Alternative’ has, historically, in times of economic distress, proven itself to be an election winner.”
McClymont says Conservatives “crave confrontation” with unions to reinforce perceptions Labour are a minority interest party but that with today’s smaller, less powerful and less militant unions, battle lines are instead being drawn along the wider front of public versus private sector workers.
He says: “The ancestral Conservative rallying-cry against the vested interest of organised labour will need to be subsumed in a broader effort to divide public from private-sector workers. The Conservatives hope that Labour can be associated exclusively with the former, and seek to provoke a defensive response from Labour to their austerity programme and public sector reforms.”