Alex Hilton: What happened to Labour's conviction?

Sixty years ago, Labour built a nation where everyone paid something and everyone got universal services such as the NHS, as well as child benefit and the state pension.

Alex Hilton
Alex Hilton

It was an act of ideology with the aim of binding us together as one society. This Budget could mark the end of that society.

George Osborne’s first Budget is equally an act of ideology, the one chance in a lifetime to dismantle the vision of 60 years ago; and it is Labour’s fault that he has this opportunity.

During the general election and the preceding months, Labour allowed its reputation for economic competence to be stripped. It didn’t have to be that way. At first, the public agreed with the bank bail-out and the fiscal stimulus and Conservative attacks were easily countered.

Most people believed the Conservatives would have done much the same.

But over time, the repeated Tory attacks on the economy, once Labour’s strongest issue, started achieving success. People really now believe that creating the FSA led to the banking crisis, despite many other countries having the same recession as us.

People believe money spent building schools and hospitals, paying teachers and nurses decent wages and cutting NHS waiting lists was wasted money. People believe the broad thrust that ‘Labour messed up the economy’.

The Labour rebuttals are simply not getting through. The public has heard the pre-prepared lines so many times that it is not hearing them any more. What it is not hearing from Labour is pride.

It is not seeing politicians standing up and saying why their actions were right and saying it with conviction. Well before the election campaign, ministers seemed embarrassed and timid rather than proud of their actions and the jobs and services they saved.

Osborne has conviction. He is cutting for his country like a man who knows this is the most senior job he will have in UK politics. Labour’s front benches, scared of ideology for so long, need to dig deep and find their conviction.

Because that’s the only way they will communicate to the public what’s truly at stake.

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