Friday, 2 December 2011

Polly Toynbee in overdrive

Polly Toynbee is back! Presumably she just couldn't bear the bad news arriving at her posh Italian villa from the shores of these green islands and so she had to cut her holiday short to write a piece that is riddled with class war terminology.

(You can read it HERE: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/nov/29/osborne-class-war-autumn-statement)

While she clearly pleased many of her supporters on the Guardian website with her comments, the Labour Party will lose in the long term if it thinks this immoderate language serves it well. The reason why Labour should tread carefully is simple. Osborne's autumn statement set out a series of factors that makes it impossible to eliminate the budget deficit by the next election. Toynbee is furious that this means more pain for everyone. Yet, what she fails to mention is that the government's plans to balance the books are now almost identical to the one by Labour. In fact, borrowing will be even higher now than under the Darling Plan, given the difficult economic circumstances for the next couple of years.

In essence, Toynbee therefore already got what she wanted: higher borrowing which will be spent on infrastructure projects up and down the country. So, why does she think this is class warfare when it is exactly what she called for only weeks ago?

The conclusion can only be that as Labour's plans to revive the economy and the government's budget are getting more similar, Labour is running out of the ability to portray itself as radically different from the coalition. Hence the shrill sounds from Ed Balls and Toynbee. Toynbee thinks there is only one way to go now: further to the left. For the moment, Darling's plan is still Labour policy. We will see over the next couple of weeks if the Ed Miliband and his shadow chancellor stay in the middle of the road.

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