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A letter from Hugo Swire: Labour won’t face up to tough choices

By Exeter Express and Echo  |  Posted: April 10, 2014

Hugo Swire

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“IT STARTED with the budget and a poor response. Then came a poll in the Times: fewer than a fifth of voters see Ed Milliband as a Prime Minister in waiting.

The figures showed the Labour leader lagging significantly behind David Cameron when the Conservative leader was in Opposition, and suggested that Mr Milliband’s attacks on the energy companies and banks have failed to persuade voters he is ready to lead the country.

In my books the fundamental problem with the Labour leader is he simply doesn’t want to face up to the difficult decisions – and that means it’s the same old Labour Party promising more borrowing, more spending and more taxes.

Exactly what got us into a mess in the first place. Ed Milliband does not think things through, he comes up with gimmicks that unravel as soon as they are announced and he does not know what he stands for, which means he flip flops about and jumps on any bandwagon going.

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Even leading figures in the Labour movement have admitted that the Labour leader only offers political fixes. It is a very brutal thing to say, but then this is a brutal game to play; Ed Milliband doesn’t have the character, judgement or leadership to secure our children and grandchildren’s future. He’s too weak to stand up for Britain and he simply isn’t up to the job of Prime Minister.

Getting back to the budget response, George Osborne had pulled one out of the hat, offering people lower tax on their savings and a chance to get hold of their own cash. What did Milliband do? He decided to paste in whole lines from previous budget responses in reply.

Responding immediately to a budget is one of the toughest gigs in politics for any opposition leader, but if you want to be Prime Minister you need to be able to cope with these difficult moments.

What it also underlined is Labour’s complete weakness on how it should handle the economy. Although it is not really my place to speak for the opposition, I do believe that the Labour Party made a fundamental error at the start of Mr Milliband’s leadership, and one which ever since has been impossible to reverse, and that is that is has never conceded or apologised for carrying on spending long after retrenchment was needed.

Refusing to accept their part in the recession simply meant that the Chancellor could pin all the blame on Labour which he has done and done very successfully. Then, when it was necessary to enforce the cuts and get the books back in order all Labour did was oppose everything while offering no viable alternative.

It was a misjudgement of the first degree because although the public found the cuts painful, and will for a while yet, they did have a basic understanding that it was necessary.

Whoever wins the next General Election will need to keep a tight rein on public expenditure so we are entitled to know how Labour would address this.

Of course what Labour could have done, even should have done, was to develop a bold new agenda for the state. They should have come up with some new ideas, about efficiency, about an improved service quality at a lower price. The electorate might just have believed they understood the meaning of austerity then but no they went on to attack business, they took on private vested interests, they turned themselves into the party of the public sector leaving itself no room to introduce reform.

When they complained about lack of growth, they did not cover their backs for when the economy decided to turn, and when it did, they were again unprepared. This Labour party is not new, it is very “old”, and will inevitably revert back to its old ways, because no other option is available to it anymore, cuts are too awful and reform too unsettling, what is there left for it to do? Why tax and spend of course!

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  • greasyian  |  April 10 2014, 9:07PM

    I won't be taking political advice from a Tory called Hugo thank you!

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