The Labour Party in Blackpool: Gould rounds on economic policies

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The Independent Online
BRYAN GOULD, the former shadow national heritage secretary, last night launched an attack on Labour's economic policy.

Mr Gould, who resigned from the Shadow Cabinet this week, said the party's election defeat in April had a silver lining because it would have suffered a similar fate to that of John Major's government on Black Wednesday.

'Imagine the odium heaped on a Labour government which had had to devalue in those circumstances,' he said in an impassioned speech to the Tribune Group at the conference. He made a long critique of Labour's economic policies and its acceptance of the Maastricht treaty.

When the Tories had entered the exchange rate mechanism, 'we were incapable of doing anything but bleat about the consequences of the policy because we couldn't attack the policy itself', he said. 'It pains me to say this, but does anyone in this room doubt that if we had won the election we would have sat around with a Cabinet team in the midst of a sterling crisis raising interest rates, raiding the reserves, and eventually going down to defeat - the inevitable that such a policy always produces?'

He claimed Labour politicians who had objected to Labour's policy of supporting entry to the ERM at a rate he considered too high were moved out of positions of responsibility on the economy. 'I was obliged to remain silent over that period. I thought it was a sacrifice that was worthwhile in the interests of getting a Labour government elected,' he said.

On Maastricht, he said the treaty handed power over economic policy to an unelected central bank instructed to put price stability at the centre of its policy and to cut public spending. A British government committed to full employment could not change that policy. 'If we accept the treaty, we condemn the whole of Europe to permanently entrenched deflation, and a system of government imposed on people without their understanding or consent.'