For nearly a decade the Tories have sold the lie that the British economy is safe in their hands. In 2010 they took over the management of an economy which had returned to growth under Labour, despite the epic scale of the global financial crisis.
David Cameron and George Osborne immediately set about choking off Labour’s recovery. They and their successors, Theresa May and Philip Hammond, have presided over the longest fall in living standards since records began. They have endeavoured to finish the ideologically deranged neo-Liberal job Margaret Thatcher began.
For all the pain the Tories have wrought – spiralling inequality, soaring homelessness, higher prices and growing debts – they claim that they have put the economy back on track. Despite promising to wipe out the deficit by 2015, they managed only to halve it (in line with Labour’s plan). Still they seek the deficit’s elimination, at enormous social and economic cost.
Now the Tories lead the nation towards the hardest of hard Brexits, with the moronic phrase, “No deal is better than a bad deal”, falling from their gaping mouths. For all their claims to have put sound money back at the heart of government, the Tories’ desire to keep their warring party together supersedes all economic reason and sense. They are betraying their country on an unprecedented scale.
Aside from a brief respite, when Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling rescued the economy in 2008, the Tories have enjoyed open season on financial matters. They have relentlessly hammered home the untruth that only they can be trusted with the public finances. Under Ed Miliband, Labour tamely surrendered to this narrative, avoiding discussing the economy where possible, and allowing the lie that the last Labour government wrecked the economy to fester.
But this week and last, the mask began to slip. Speaking at an event hosted by the Spectator last Thursday, George Osborne absolved Gordon Brown of blame for “the subprime [mortgage] crisis in America”, and congratulated Labour on doing “what was necessary in a very difficult situation”. Of course, Osborne could never have admitted this inconvenient truth while trashing Labour’s record, but he can be honest now he is so far from power.
Then, at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, Jeremy Corbyn routed Theresa May on the economy. Consider the significance of this for a moment. The economy has been both Corbyn and Labour’s Achilles Heel for years. Every single attack Labour and Corbyn have made on the government in the last seven years has been rebuffed with the lie that public services are only “safe” due to the sound economic management of the Tories.
A number of factors are now coming together which could well smash the Tories’ economic credibility for a generation. The economic situation is worsening significantly, partly because of the Tories’ humiliating mismanagement of Brexit. Inflation is rising. The pound is weakening. Growth is slowing and interest rates are about to rise. A nation which has been through horrendous pain to pay for Tory deficit reduction these past seven years is about to suffer even more.
And the Tories will rightly be blamed for this betrayal. The chickens are coming home to roost on the social costs of Austerity, too. The appalling handling of the Universal Credit roll-out has echoes of the Poll Tax debacle. The Tories have already been forced to scrap the punitive charges people were being forced to pay to check the status of their Universal Credit application. Then, this week, the Tories had to impose a three-line whip on their MPs to abstain on a Labour motion calling for a Universal Credit “pause.”
None of this is good for the country. We are embarking upon one of the most drastic constitutional and economic realignments in our history in the shape of Brexit. And we are being led by the littlest of Little Englanders. It seems that only Labour, whose leader Jeremy Corbyn was in Brussels this week to try and salvage the Brexit talks, can possibly rescue the situation. The whispers will soon become a clamour. Only Labour can be trusted to make the economy work for all.