George Osborne’s budget this week represented a continuation of the same economic strategy that has seen the richest 1% watch their wealth double while ordinary families struggle to make ends meet.
Whilst there were some sweeteners for voters, it lacked a vision for a better future and showed the Chancellor is not listening to the growing coalition of voices – from the experts at the IMF and OECD to our trade unions – that our saying government investment is needed to navigate the choppy waters ahead. As Jeremy Corbyn put it in his response, “The Chancellor has failed on the budget deficit failed on debt, failed on investment, failed on productivity, failed on the trade deficit, failed on his own welfare cap and failed to tackle inequality in this country.”
To give just one example, the budget had little to say on the biggest problem we face here in London, namely the lack of affordable housing.
Since Margaret Thatcher stopped building council homes for rent, house prices have soared beyond the means of most Londoners, and our children and grandchildren are forced to rent homes that cost more than half their take-home pay. Vast swathes of London are seeing families who have lived here for generations forced to leave the city in a devastating tide of social cleansing.
Thatcher slashed public-sector investment in infrastructure and housing but the private sector not only failed to fill the gap but didn’t achieve the levels of investment in business that were the norm before the Thatcher era.
Osborne is not learning these lessons today. As John McDonnell put it this week, “by trying to target government investment for cuts alongside day-to-day spending, he’s undermining the performance and potential of our economy.”
Indeed, government investment is scheduled to fall in this Parliament as a share of GDP.
We need to invest not only in a major house-building programme, but also to modernise our transport system and install a speedier broadband service equivalent to those in the Far East. This would lay the foundation for an influx of private sector investment. By taking a lead in tackling climate change – as Jeremy argued in Prime Ministers Questions this week – Britain could create new high-skill, high-tech, high-wage jobs, which would also boost our exports.
We didn’t lose the last General Election because we were too Left-wing but because we didn’t have a coherent economic strategy. Now, Jeremy and John McDonnell’s economic plans to rebalance and modernise our economy can both restore Labour’s economic credibility and offer millions of voters the hope of a better future.
What makes me angry about the state of ‘austerity Britain’ is that my generation is the luckiest in human history.
In contrast, this week whilst the Chancellor said that this was a budget for the next generation, the Institute for Fiscal Studies predicted that absolute child poverty would rise from 15% to 18%.
Born into post-war Britain’s welfare state we all got a job, healthcare, free education and help to buy our homes or pay our rents. I want my children and grandchildren to have the same opportunities we had.
The strong opposition that Labour is providing to Tory austerity – and the credible, coherent alternative that puts investment in our future at its core – makes this, and victory in 2020, possible. Then, if we create a better, balanced economy, our children and grandchildren can grow up in a world where things get better.
First published in the Huffington Post