Throughout the Eighties the British people were persuaded that the scale of the public services was the cause of our economic decline and that cuts in income tax were desirable, leaving the tax burden to be imposed on the poor by higher indirect taxation.
Things have moved on since then, however, and more and more people are coming to realise that the huge tax cuts made for the very richest widened the gap between the rich and poor, undermined the possibility of providing the health and education services that we need and, indeed, strangled local government, which also provides essential services.
No doubt next year, as a final gift to its wealthy supporters, the Government will make even more slashing cuts in personal taxation, hoping to leave the Treasury bare so that an incoming Labour government will lack the resources to meet people's needs.
If Labour is going to win the argument as well as the vote, it has to be quite clear about income tax and not pretend that it can be cut and that public services can be maintained and improved.
In 1959 Hugh Gaitskell gave a pledge during the election campaign that a Labour government would not increase taxation, and that statement punctured the credibility of the Labour case like a pin in the balloon, for after that, no one really believed that a Labour government could solve the problems it would inherit.
As we are seeing now in France, the international financial community is absolutely determined to destroy the welfare state in order to bring about a single currency administered by a central bank that would be free from any democratic control, and the social cost of this policy will be catastrophic.
The Labour Party now must face the harsh reality. It must bring its thinking up to date and start thinking the unthinkable again; namely, that people need to be put ahead of profit, and must be put above the demands of international capital.
The MPs who voted against the tax cuts on Tuesday night were making a stand for the public services against the bankers who would like to take over the world. And I suspect that there is enormous support for that position among thinking people who do not want to see our social fabric destroyed.
The writer is Labour MP for Chesterfield.Reuse content