Okay, I understand why, for many reasons, Phil Hammond didn’t want to give another doom and gloom statement from the Treasury about the economic conditions of today’s Great Britain. One, he’s starting to get typecast; two, he wants to seem medium-Brexity for the short term at least, so he had to inject some oomph into proceedings. However, given how uncertain everything is, including whether there will be a transition period or not, the current Tory messaging strategy strikes me as highly risky.
It goes like this: austerity has worked. The deficit reduction project began in 2010 means we can now loosen our belts a bit and inject some more money into frontline public services. Occasionally this messaging has already strayed into genuinely foolhardy territory (see John Redwood’s quasi-magic money tree moment for more details), but for the most part, I get it. Only thing is, you’ve got this sort of big deal change coming up in the shape of, you know, leaving the European Union and all of that, which could go pear-shaped on you. Your “light at the end of the tunnel” messaging may look very silly this time next year.
But Phil ultimately has little to fear as HM official opposition was there at his rescue, as ever. John McDonnell’s response was beyond parody.
“The Chancellor has made great play this week of reaching a turning point in reducing the deficit and debt. It’s a bit rich coming from a Party that has increased the debt by over £700 billion.”
Which is bit rich coming from a party that didn’t want to cut the deficit in any way whatsoever, thus inevitably increasing the debt over the same period.
“And when they have a responsibility to meet the challenge of Brexit, we have a Chancellor who this weekend admitted he hasn’t even modelled the government’s Brexit options…..This isn’t a Government that’s preparing our country for the future. It’s a Government setting us up to fail.”
Yes, because if Brexit is a “challenge” that is “setting us up to fail”, it would be great if McDonnell could explain why he and his mate Jeremy are so gung-ho about it all.
The rest of McDonnell’s response was boiler plate Labour crap – the usual, we live in a Mad Max style dystopia already, with millions of people living in cardboard boxes and eating their shoes. There were loads of things to attack in Hammond’s statement, but the Labour leadership is cut off from most of them, either by ideology or the confused decisions it has made messaging-wise since the general election.
One day, we’ll have a decent government and a decent opposition. Or at least, one of those things. I need to cling to that belief.