Earlier tonight a Labour Councillor in Ipswich, Stephen Connelly, a candidate on Thursday, claimed that George Osborne has borrowed more in four years than Labour borrowed in thirteen years, with the implication that this is somehow a revelation. I can’t show you the tweet because he has since blocked me, which is rather surprising since I don’t recall ever tweeting him anything. The benefit of the doubt suggests it was a mistake.
I’ve seen this fact put about by Labour peeps for many months, and it never fails to irritate me.
Yes, George Osborne has added more £pounds to the National Debt than Labour did in thirteen years. He did this because, in May 2010, he inherited an absolutely immense and unsustainable public spending deficit, and because of a variety of factors, including a lacklustre recovery in the rest of Europe (and until recently in the United States of America), he was unable to fulfil his pledge to eliminate the deficit by the end of the last Parliament.
I would have absolutely no problem with Labour supporters relentlessly reminding Tories that Mr Osborne promised two fiscal developments during this Parliament and missed them both – deficit reduction and maintaining the UK’s credit rating.
But by highlighting the increase in the debt – which is undoubtedly very worrying and should focus any incoming Chancellor – it implies that these people do not understand basic economics and, like Ed Miliband, do not accept that Labour overspent when they were last in Government.
One of the BBC QT audience – not one that Labour have yet managed to prove as a Tory plant – said quite bluntly that if he got to the end of the week and didn’t have any money left over for a pint, he’d overspent. Multi-millionaire Oxford Graduate and Class Warrior Ed Miliband didn’t seem to realise how damaging that would be to him.
I’ve had that line repeated back to me in recent days. Despite being unwell, and almost restricted to bed, I’ve heard it said in the pharmacy at the end of the road (and I live in a pretty Labour area, my local councillor, Hamil Clarke, was out delivering pledge letters this afternoon to almost every house in the street) and in the Co-op.
When a line from a politician gets what is known as “cut through” it can define them. Of course the Cameron “career defining” line will probably define him entirely if he loses on Thursday. But for Labour, the big fear remains that they simply do not have it in them to run our economy.