Autumn Statement analysis: The Tories could fight an election tomorrow. Not so, Labour...

The Labour leadership needs to add detail to its alternative journey

Share
Related Topics

George Osborne is the first Chancellor in history to have briefed or announced in advance all the policies in his Autumn Statement.

He did so to create the space for an argument that he hopes will lead to election victory in 2015.

We also knew what the argument would be. Osborne wrote an article at the start of the year in which he revealed his intention to lift President Obama’s election-winning message: “We are on the right road but there is still a long way to go”.

Sure enough, he opened his statement yesterday with the Obama metaphor before blaming the previous government for the economic emergency that he inherited – another part of his story he will narrate repeatedly between now and the election.

The traps for his political opponents, the third part of Mr Osborne’s strategy, were also trailed in advance during his party conference speech in October.

Yesterday he made clear again that spending cuts would continue after the election for at least another three years. Will Labour support this proposition? If not, Osborne will claim that Labour plans a tax bombshell that will hit hard-working families. Even if Labour more or less backs spending cuts for years to come he will still make the claim.

In another moment of curious candour, David Cameron told journalists recently that he planned to adopt themes from the 1992 election, the last time the Conservatives won an overall majority. It is so clear how they plan to fight the election they might as well hold it next year.

The wearying distance between now and 2015 in this overlong five-year parliament is another reason why there were few meaty announcements from Osborne. He has one more Autumn Statement and two more Budgets to go, and there will be pre-election goodies in some of those. Cameron and Osborne might be planning to revisit the 1992 election but their economic strategy has closer echoes with the 1980s when medicine was followed by more populist policies as the elections moved into view.

Whether it will work this time is doubtful. The fragile recovery is a repeat of what has happened before so many times, one built precariously on a property boom in the south of England. Osborne’s narrative is also based on a re-writing of recent history. In reality when the Chancellor came to power the economy was growing. Soon after his first austerity package the UK was back in recession. The Chancellor’s plan to wipe out the structural deficit in this parliament was scrapped within two years. Only now is the economy growing again from a low base.

In such a context I wonder whether voters will have the appetite for more real-terms spending cuts for years in the future. Most are in favour of cuts in theory but there will come a point as the NHS creaks and the UK falls even further behind equivalent countries in housing provision and infrastructure that they will cry out for more investment.

Still, Osborne has an accessible story. He is on his road and he is planning to complete the journey after the two Eds took us to the edge of a cliff. Don’t choose to go on another journey with those two.

The Labour leadership needs to add detail to its alternative journey. What does it see as the role for the state compared with the much smaller state envisaged by Cameron and Osborne? Why will it follow Osborne’s spending limits at first and what will it do later in the next parliament? How will it re-balance the economy so a recovery is possible that is based on more than debt and soaring house prices?

Its astute focus on the cost of living can only be part of a response to Osborne. However contentious the ammunition, Osborne could fight the election campaign tomorrow. Labour still has some big decisions to make.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Read Next
RIP Voicemail?  

Voicemail has got me out of some tight corners, so let's not abandon it

Simon Kelner
A sculpture illustrating the WW1 Christmas Truce football match in Liverpool  

It's been 100 years since the Christmas Truce, but football is still changing the world

Jim Murphy and Dan Jarvis
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there