Yesterday saw the opening salvo in a war of words destined to continue for the next four months (so get used to it, in other words). The Conservatives claimed that Labour has a £21 billion hole in their budget plans; Labour obviously denied this. Most of the Tories plans for holding onto the keys to Downing Street rest on asserting that their rivals to the throne will ruin the economy; most of Labour’s plans rest on convincing the British public that the Tories want to dismantle the NHS and other public services. But in the end, the thrust of neither argument holds a great deal of water.
William S Burroughs once wrote something entitled “No More Stalins, No More Hitlers” which is so relevant to what I’m now writing about, I will quote it in full:
“We have a new type of rule now. Not one-man rule, or rule of aristocracy or plutocracy, but of small groups elevated to positions of absolute power by random pressures and subject to political and economic factors that leave little room for decision.
They are representatives of abstract forces who have reached power through surrender of self. The iron-willed dictator is a thing of past.
There will be no more Stalins, no more Hitlers.
The rulers of this most insecure of all worlds are rulers by accident. Inept, frightened pilots at the controls of a vast machine they cannot understand, calling in experts to tell them which buttons to push.”
I’ve been asked a few times, by friends and readers, who I would vote for if the Lib Dems did not exist. I have begrudgingly said Labour, but only really because of Europe. If Labour got in, we wouldn’t have to have a referendum for a little while longer, and every year we delay it makes it easier for Stay In to win. I’m then asked about the economy and wouldn’t the Tories be better stewards? Marginally, I say back, but only marginally. Truth is, both parties in power now would do what they had to do, what the markets dictate is neccessary. They would push the right buttons on the controls of the vast machine as told to them by their experts. Ed Balls has pretty much admitted as much of late.
I don’t say any of this conspiratorially; this is simply how the market works, it has its own internal logic. When you plug into it, you see that while there is some room for manouvre, there isn’t nearly as much as any party lets on about. We are on the edge of our credit limit and that has to be managed somehow, and there are actually not that many ways round the problem other than deciding what from the public sector you need the least and then shutting it down.
The problem for Labour is that things like the “£21 billion hole” charge from the Tories will probably have their intended effect due to the party having spent the entire first half of the parliament claiming that no cuts were neccessary and that were they in power, none would take place. So a credibility gap exists that the Tories can (and will, ceaselessly) exploit. Whether this is decisive remains to be seen.