John McDonnell has now decided, rather infamously, that Osborne’s fiscal charter isn’t kosher after all. At Labour conference, the shadow chancellor said he would commit Labour to vote for the government’s fiscal rules. He fudged things a lot, saying that while Labour would go along with the chancellor’s basic idea of balancing the books, that would exclude “capital projects” from the equation, which in McDonnell’s reasoning would comprise almost anything you could spend money on in the known universe.
But I guess that wasn’t enough, because after other left of centre parties attacked Labour for this, McDonnell caved and did a U-turn on the subject. Apparently, “matters have moved on”, according to a letter to Labour MPs regarding the matter.
“….I believe that we need to underline our position as an anti-austerity party by voting against the charter on Wednesday. We will make clear our commitment to reducing the deficit in a fair and balanced way by publishing for the debate our own statement on budget responsibility. We will set out our plan for tackling the deficit not through punishing the most vulnerable and damaging our public services but by ending the unfair tax cuts to the wealthy, tackling tax evasion and investing for growth.”
All right, so exactly what you said at Labour conference except for the whole voting with the Tories bit, got you. Which was supposed to, I can only assume, gift you economic competence with the portions of the English populace who think Labour are economically incapable. So McDonnell does something he knows will annoy the hell out of the Left in order to try and get some votes from the Right, only to take the maximum shit from the Left and then U-turn, meaning he’ll get no credit it for any of it from anyone. Well done.
It’s like the Ed Miliband opposition on speed. It took Ed five years to make the arc from comparing cuts marchers to the Suffragettes to saying that cuts along the same lines as the Tories were necessary. But it was a slow motion arc, one Ed clearly thought no one would notice because it was so bloody prolonged. But Corbyn and his mates? The whole thing flits all over the place like a newborn housefly: the Queen is awful, I hate her; no, I’ll be in her Privy Council; I won’t sing the national anthem, won’t even fake it by mouthing the words; okay, I will, but I won’t inhale. What I expected of Corbyn was a steady, assured sink into the mire – instead, it’s like they’re in a rush to get to the bottom of the electoral pile as quickly as they possibly can.
I genuinely don’t understand Labour’s position on the deficit now, and I do mean at all. I half expect McDonnell to pop up today somewhere to declare: “Okay, I’ve decided that I do like the fiscal charter after all, but only if it means FREE CHIPS FOR EVERYONE IN WALES!” It wouldn’t be any sillier than what he’s already said on the matter to date.