The Tories have rushed into this election because of economic difficulties and are offering no hope for a better future, writes KEN LIVINGSTONE.
IF YOU want to know why Theresa May rushed into calling a general election, despite repeatedly saying she wouldn’t do so, then the much quoted phrase “it’s the economy, stupid” sums it up neatly.
The Tories would like us to believe that the economy has recovered and that Tory austerity over the last seven years has made the economy strong. This message may be dutifully echoed by much of the media every day, but this doesn’t make it true.
Forecasts on Thursday from the Bank of England downgraded growth, earnings and productivity forecasts and upgraded inflation forecasts.
They come following disappointing growth for the first three months of the year and on the back of downgraded forecasts in terms of prospects for the economy from a number of leading independent forecasters.
These choppy waters ahead for the economy will hit the living standards of the majority of the population hard, and as Jeremy Corbyn said this week, across our country — in the high street and on the doorstep — something troubling hangs in the air.
The reality is that under the Tories the economy isn’t strong today even before further difficulties set in.
As I write this column, the TV news is reporting thousands of job losses at BT. Yesterday, the newspapers carried warnings of research, science and finance institutions leaving Britain.
Millions of people are not secure in their jobs and they can’t remember the last time they had a pay rise.
As John McDonnell said this week, when listening to parts of the media “it’s easy to get the impression that the economy is some remote machine purring away in the background as we get on with our lives.”
And for those — including the Tories — who argue the government can’t do anything to make things better, that’s how they want us to see the economy.
They would like us to believe that the economy is something out of our hands that government can’t help shape or work better for the majority of the people.
If Britain is going to have strong economic growth in the years ahead in order to underpin our public services, then things have to change.
Yet other than when it comes to mega tax giveaways for the billionaire oligarchs and massive corporations, the Tories show a real poverty of ambition in this election campaign.
They would have people believe that a country where almost a third of the population fell below the official poverty line at some point between 2010 and 2013 — and an economy with, as the IFS puts it, “persistently poor economic growth” — is as good as it gets.
Their record of failure and lack of plans for a better Britain also explains why they are running scared of debating Jeremy Corbyn and are so desperate to divert discussion away from scrutiny of their economic record or hard Brexit plans.
But there is an alternative to those who say things can’t be better for the majority. I have campaigned for Labour governments for nearly 50 years because I believe things can get better, and never in this time have millions of people needed a change of government more than now.
This week, Labour outlined the essential pillars of its new deal to upgrade our economy so that it works for the many not the few.
These pillars will be education, childcare, housing, infrastructure and a real industrial strategy for a balanced economy, with further announcements to come in all these key areas.
Labour has committed to the investment necessary to upgrade our country’s physical and digital infrastructure, including investment in new railways, in universal high-speed broadband and the high-tech and green industries of the future.
This big expansion of investment is not only vital to turning the British economy around, but also to being able to deliver the growth needed to fund the NHS and a decent education for all our children.
This economic plan to deliver sound and sustainable growth is also the only foundation for being able to deliver a series of policies that will benefit the majority of Britons in terms of their living standards, including free primary school meals, an end to the public-sector pay cap and introducing a real living wage of £10 an hour to give nearly six million people a pay rise.
Contrary to what some in the Tory supporting parts of the media say, these policies reflect both what the majority of people support, and crucially also what our economy needs.
Let’s make June the end of May.
First published in the Morning Star