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    David Burbage MBE was Leader of the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead Council from 2007-2016. This blog : Promoted by Geoff Hill on behalf of David Burbage and all other Windsor and Maidenhead Conservative candidates, all of 2 Castle End Farm, Ruscombe, Berkshire RG10 9XQ
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The Wisdom of the Left

Posted by davidburbage on June 4, 2011

Here is an extract from a budget speech, given by a UK Group Leader in a 2011 council budget speech.

I’m pleased that we’ve got people in the gallery to listen to the debate. But the people I would like to see up there aren’t there.

I would like to see up there Mr Mayor some of London’s casino bankers here today to witness the havoc they are causing in our communities.

We may even have been able to persuade them to part with some of their million pound bonus to fill some of the potholes that are gonna be left unfilled, to help some of the vulnerable older people that are going to have more services than they will currently have, because of the bankers.

Let’s make no mistake about this, it was because of the bankers unregulated behaviour of playing the equivalent of roulette and losing, that has resulted in the significant cuts in public spending.

Clearly a Labour politician, ducking responsibility for the huge “structural” deficit, using both the politics of envy and the suggestion that it wasn’t at all the fault of the state spending but of activity in the private sector, making excuses for the cuts they are about to make.

This politician can be found here

http://www.kirklees.public-i.tv/site/player/pl_compact.php?a=53800&t=&m=wm&l=en_GB#the_data_area

As regular readers may have guessed, this is not a Labour politician I am highlighting, but a Liberal Democrat (Cllr Pinnock at 0:35:15) .

It is sad that none of the three main party speakers spotted that it was the overspending of central government that left the black hole – more money out than in – that resulted in the cuts. Sure, the financial sector squeeze and the credit crunch has resulted in recessionary pressures and tax revenues falling even further short of expenditure budgets, but the plain fact of the matter is that Gordon Brown and his maxing out of the public credit card caused the public spending situation we find ourselves in today.

The Liberal Democrat councillors in Kirklees need to get the basics right before indulging in standard left wing monotony in regretting that the size of the state – ie the amount of money forcibly taken from ordinary working peoples’ pockets – cannot be simply increased on a year by year basis.

On a related note, the curious thing from this budget debate was that the “opposition” appeared to be the 4th party Greens – as Kirklees is a hung Council, the necessity of gaining wider party agreement prior to the actual meeting was clear!

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8 Responses to “The Wisdom of the Left”

  1. DanWhit said

    Sorry David, but this is nothing short of the worst kind of historical revisionism being used to justify ferocious cuts which will make the lives of many people around the country considerably more difficult than they already are. It wasn’t ‘Gordon Brown’s maxing out of the credit card’ that put us in this position. Instead, the main causes for the present cuts are at least twofold. Firstly, the collapse of the global financial system. For this, we can indeed lampoon the last government, who were asleep at the wheel whilst the worst extremes of capitalism took root in Britain. But secondly, and most importantly in this context, one other cause of the cuts has been the political decisions taken by the present government, Tories and Liberals alike. There is so much evidence out there now that there were alternatives which could have been pursued by this government that it is no longer acceptable for people like yourself to trot out the tired old ‘we had no choice’ line. Your party made its political choices, it decided how it wanted to deal with the deficit and now it has to deal with the consequences, which include a ratchetting up of unrest amongst working people, the unemployed, pensioners etc. I can understand why you might not be content with this situation, but at least try taking some responsibility for your political choices, instead of pretending you’re casually drifting along on the tides of inevitability.

  2. davidburbage said

    Dan, don’t be naive.

    If you don’t believe me, believe Howard Flight – http://conservativehome.blogs.com/platform/2011/06/lord-flight-the-spending-crisis-is-not-the-faul-of-the-banks-both-the-labour-government-and-consumer.html

    He knows about these things – more than me!

    Put simply, it WAS Gordon’s maxing out of our state credit card that has caused this problem. Why should Gordon spend my children’s money without permission?

    Simply denying the deficit is a problem is not an acceptable response. Saying “there are other solutions, you guys have it all wrong” is the worst response to a very serious problem Labour have landed us all with. Don’t forget, Labour were even overspending when the budget was in technical surplus (whilst accumulating off-balance-sheet debts like the public sector pensions and PFI deficits).

    It’s the current Government that are dealing with it, when apologists for the absurd public spending largesse Labour indulged in like you have nothing to add but criticism without credible alternatives. Not a very robust response.

  3. DanWhit said

    Oh dear David, I’d have thought the leader of a prominent Conservative council would be better versed in the skills of political argumentation than this. Naivety cuts both ways, it seems….

    Firstly, citing Howard Flight as an authority on the causes and consequences of the financial crisis seems misplaced, to say the least. This is, after all, the very same Tory peer who, in late 2010, described changes to child benefits as encouraging the poorest people in Britain to ‘breed like rabbits.’ Mr Flight is clearly no friend of those who are suffering most because of the financial crisis.

    Secondly, if we’re going to play the game of ‘pick a prominent person who supports my argument,’ I’ll play Mervyn King against Howard Flight any day. Don’t forget that the Governor of the Bank of England said that the costs of the crisis were being borne by those who ‘absolutely did not cause it’. See this article: http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2011/mar/01/mervyn-king-blames-banks-cuts?intcmp=239

    Next, I challenge you to reproduce the part of my earlier post in which I deny that the deficit is a problem. What I actually said was that the way in which the deficit is being dealt with is a problem. It’s clear that there are alternate strategies for dealing with the deficit, and that this government has chosen those which will hit the poorest hardest. Like many other Tories and Liberals, you do your best to hide the politics behind the current restructuring being attempted by the government, insisting that it was inevitable, and yet you display the slimmest possible interest in anything which disagrees with your perspective. Like I said, if you’re going to hammer the most vulnerable people in society as a political response to a crisis caused in large part by the wealthiest, at least acknowledge that your response to the crisis is political, and not a mere inevitability. Even I don’t believe you’re so naive as to be unaware of the political game that’s being played here, David.

  4. davidburbage said

    Will

    I note you criticise Flight personally rather than his argument. Playing the man rather than the ball shows more about your lack of argument than any weakness in his. Even Mervyn King’s remarks don’t back up your case – merely stating that those who did not cause it will bear the costs. And I agree with that – although it was Gordon Brown caused the problem. We. the squeezed middle, and our children, are/will be bearing the burden of paying back Labour’s excessive expenditure.

    Secondly, you say “It’s clear that there are alternate strategies” but fail again to state any. That’s the essence of being a deficit denier – carp on at those who are reluctantly dealing with the problem (and the necessary steps) rather than offer any credible alternative. Thus, conclude you are Ed Balls and I claim my €5 . . . . .

    I don’t agree with this either : “hammer the most vulnerable people ” which is emotive nonsense.

    I guess you will be in favour of continuing final salary pensions for the public sector too !

  5. DanWhit said

    David,

    I don’t criticise Mr Flight personally – I directly criticise his arguments. As far as I’m concerned, somebody who argues that people on child benefits are encouraged to breed like rabbits is not a valid authority on the causes and consequences of the financial crisis. The fact that in the article you cite he argues that ‘the position of the UK is not far off that of Greece’ seems to back up my belief in his flawed arguments. Even the Daily Telegraph doesn’t believe this guff! (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/economics/7191035/Britain-need-not-fear-a-Greek-tragedy-yet.html) Not that I agree with the Telegraph’s own analysis here either – just a convenient example of folk on the right who’d agree that Mr Flight is misplaced in his comments.

    Of course, its very easy for you to make out that there was some kind of spending splurge during the New Labour era. But this runs contrary to the received facts. As Richard Seymour has argued,

    ‘In New Labour’s first term, a priority was to establish credibility with financial markets by reducing the public debt. The debt was reduced by a total of £34bn in the last year of the first time – a larger total reduction than all the cumulative debt reduction of previous governments for fifty years. Capital expenditure in most departments of government fell precipitously for the first years of the New Labour administration, and overall public spending fell from over 40% of GDP in 1997 to 38.1% in 2001. Even with successive fiscal problems in the ensuing years and a subsequent need to borrow to plug black holes, by 2004 Gordon Brown had reduced the debt from 44% of national income to 34%. By 2005, the combined spending on debt interest and unemployment benefits had fallen by a half. In the latter half of the 2000s, public spending rose to above 40% again, reaching 41.1% in 2007-08. Only with the credit crunch and following recession did it return to levels last seen in Thatcher’s first two terms, rising to 47.5% of GDP for 2009-10. This has been the result of a combination of two factors: stimulus spending, and the sudden contraction in the private sector.’

    So you see, it is a popular misconception that New Labour somehow increased public spending dramatically, since they used their first term to slash it so dramatically. Before the crisis, public spending was at around the same levels it had been when New Labour came to power.

    If you’d like, I could reel off a long list of alternative strategies for dealing with the deficit. Cutting Trident – which Liam Fox recently announced will now double in price; a Green New Deal, whereby public money is invested in a widespread programme designed to provide work – perhaps up to one million jobs in total – in sectors of the economy which will reduce our impact on human-induced climate change; some attempt to claw back the grotesque amount of money in tax which is either avoided or evaded each year, often by some of the wealthiest individuals and corporations; raising the national insurance rate for higher earnings from 1% to something more proportional (lets say, 15%); a properly enforced financial transactions tax. There’s just a small number of the many alternative strategies available. Still like to pretend that you have no other choice, David, or would you rather acknowledge that your own parties deficit reduction programme is the result of certain political choices?

    And I’m afraid it seems you have misread the article reporting on Mervyn King’s speech. It says there that Mr King was ‘saying that government spending cuts are the fault of the City’. I didn’t think I’d need to extract the precise sentence in which Mr King directly contradicted you, but there you go. He’s said time and again since the crisis that the City must take responsibility for the crisis, and the cuts which are following, though of course I’d add that its about time the Tories and Liberals took some responsibility too, rather than making out you’ve got no choices here.

    As for public sector pensions – I fail to grasp your logic if you can, on the one hand, say you’re supporting the ‘squeezed middle’ in hard times and, on the other hand, also advocate reducing pensions for many people within that same social bracket.

  6. David Burbage said

    Dan, firstly, good of you to finally offer up some alternatives !

    But the fastest way to erase jobs is to increase taxes; even Gordon Brown started to understand that by the end. There are some unreconstructed Marxists who believe Tax and Spend is the answer to everything despite 100+ years of evidence to the contrary. Faster growth is achieved by reducing tax, not increasing it. Enlarging the public sector (as you suggest is the answer) merely increases the bill for the private sector to pay.

    re: King, I am aware he has particular angst regarding the City; he is, after all, a banker himself . . . . The point is that even before the banking crisis, we had an enormous and growing structural deficit which couldn’t be compensated for by reasonable growth assumptions.

    The greatest irony of the left, arguing for more public spending, is that it just increases all of our interest payments – and where do the interest payments go? To the bankers !

    anyway, would love to have fun fisking your lefty words further but I have a capitalist economy to support . . . . .

  7. DanWhit said

    Sorry David, but I feel duty-bound to offer you one final response. If this serves to distract you too much from your efforts to support the capitalist economy, then so be it.

    Firstly, if you think it’s only ‘unreconstructed Marxists’ (whatever they are – should I start labelling you an ‘unreconstructed Hayekian’?) who are critical of the government’s deficit reduction programme, I’d suggest you take a look at the Financial Times every now and again. Writers like Martin Wolf and Samuel Brittan have hardly been crowing with support for George Osborne’s economic programme, and I wouldn’t exactly call them card-carrying lefties. Likewise, if you were to take a peek at the London Review of Books from time to time, you’d find writers like Ross McKibbin and John Lanchester also arguing against the current deficit reduction programme. Again, not exactly Marxists.

    I’d be interested to see your ‘100+ years of evidence’ for the fact that well-targeted increases in taxation in particular areas, especially in taxation bands inhabited by the wealthiest in society, are of no use in battling economic problems. And whilst it may well be the case that dramatic cuts in taxation might unleash a massive wave of economic growth, that’s not really the point is it, if that growth is both unsustainable and unsupported by structures of social support (healthcare etc) which are better run as public concerns than as private companies. Unless of course your an advocate of privatising healthcare in your quest to shrink the state, but I guess that’s an argument for another day. There’s far more than 100+ years of evidence to show that economic growth is often of no benefit to the bulk of the population, serving only to line the pockets of particular sectors of society.

    All of this is to get some distance away from the point, though. To return to where we’d started, these cuts are in part the result of a set of direct political choices having been made by the current government. You’ve wriggled and squirmed away from this issue throughout this debate to avoid having to take any political responsibility whatsoever for the current round of cuts. I’m surprised, really. Since you seem so wholly supportive of them, I’d have thought you might take the opportunity to talk about the political masterclass being displayed by George Osborne and David Cameron, with Clegg and co as their willing accomplices. They are attempting the most radical resturcturing of British capitalism in some time, opening up new sectors such as healthcare and education to even more private investment than New Labour allowed. In future, rather than pretending that your party ‘had no choice’ for its actions, try having the courage of your convictions, backing the governments stance and the political choices they have made. Unless you’re worried it might all go wrong, and you’ll need inevitability as a get-out clause?

  8. davidburbage said

    >>to avoid having to take any political responsibility whatsoever for the current round of cuts.
    We’re still spending more than we’re receiving as a country! The “cuts” don’t fix the overspend, they merely will prevent it getting too much worse until 2015 when the books might just balance – but the £3trillion debt will remain.

    The coalition absolutely are taking responsibility for fixing the problem of the deficit, and for the choices therein – but there’s no ducking the reason why we have to fix it, which is because Labour borrowed more from the public purse than in the rest of our history put together.

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