There Is No Hiding Place in the Hard Times: The Current Crises-Economic, Climate, Political-Reveal the True Colours of Labour and the Tories. the Parties' Manifestos Will Show-That, Come the Election, There Is a Crucial Choice to Be Made

Article excerpt

If a crisis tells you a lot about the nature of a person, an economic crisis reveals the true character of political parties. There is no hiding place for your values in the economics of hard times. Throw in the post-expenses political crisis and the climate crisis, and you see the contours of politics--and indeed the parties' manifestos--for the coming five years.

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We plan to show in our manifesto that we have learned the lessons of these crises, and that, despite the constraints they impose, we can continue to pursue our vision of the good society. Politics is shaped by circumstance, but our politics will not be imprisoned by it. So we will demonstrate that we can respond by making Britain more prosperous, fairer, greener and more democratic.

We know what we will be up against. The Tories' only vision of the good society now seems to be the small state. The economic crisis has proved to be the perfect cover for them to advocate what they never stopped believing in. That remains a fundamental difference in politics today: between a Conservative Party that thinks people are best left to fend for themselves, and Labour, which understands the role of government in protecting people and enabling them to pursue their vision of the good life.

The response to the recession is the most obvious manifestation of this difference. We see it in everything, from the action Gordon Brown took to stop recession turning into a depression, to the actions taken to prevent repossessions and help the unemployed back to work. But the differences will also play themselves out in how we sustain recovery and build the economy of the future.

Prosperity after the recession has to be different from what went before. We cannot rebuild our economy with a focus on a single industry, even the financial services sector. We need to strengthen British manufacturing.

Take the area of low-carbon industry. Thanks to both government investment and a clear framework of regulation, an offshore wind manufacturing base is starting to be developed in the United Kingdom. We are helping to build the automotive industry of the future with our support for electric cars. But the Labour manifesto will go further, pursuing an active industrial policy to build the economy of the future.

Another lesson demonstrated by the economic crisis is that we need to grow together, not apart. That is why it is right to reform the bonus system and tackle tax avoidance at the top. But our attention should not be focused just on people at the very top of the wage scale. We need a renewed emphasis on protecting living standards for the lowest paid through the minimum wage. We need to address the issue of consumer credit, tackling loan sharks who charge interest rates as high as 200 per cent and trap hard-working people in a web of debt. And we need to make as much progress as possible on improving the supply of affordable housing, to rent and to buy.

So there are differences in the way to manage the economic crisis, differences in the lessons we learn and differences in what we believe is feasible and right in the wake of it. There will need to be tough decisions on where to target resources in the coming years, and we are determined to ensure maximum efficiency in the way we spend public money. But we approach these" decisions with completely different values from our opponents.

For example, while the Tories want to spend [pounds sterling]1bn on inheritance tax cuts for millionaires, we will make a clear choice of priorities so that we can both help build the economy of the future and improve public services. Indeed, we will put in place new rights and enforceable guarantees for people using our public services. And we are already showing ways of funding important priorities. For example, Andy Burn-ham has demonstrated how we can replace the current postcode lottery of care services for the elderly with a single-quality national standard. …