Hain blasts slowest economic recovery since records began

Anti-austerity champion Peter Hain has launched a stinging attack on Chancellor George Osborne as figures reveal Britain is struggling through the slowest economic recovery on record.

Data compiled by the Trade Union Congress shows that the British economy has typically grown in size by 16.1% in the first five years after recession – however under George Osborne that number has struggled to reach 8.8%.

This news compounds the Tories economic woes as in January it was revealed that over one quarter of Wales’ working age population is economically inactive.

The Neath MP said, “We have to recognise the utter folly promoted by George Osborne and his Tory austerity addicts. Britain desperately needs growth and their cuts jeopardise the country’s economic security.”

Mr Hain continued: “Between 2010 & 2012 the government made a number of disastrous decisions which seriously harmed the public investment led recovery the last Labour government had started.”

“As the TUC’s research shows, the strongest recovery on record occurred after the Great Depression, when massive public investment helped create jobs, tax receipts and growth.”

In the last quarter of 2014 Britain’s economy grew by just half of a percentage point, much lower than estimates from the Office of Budget Responsibility and City of London had expected, while Britain’s growth prospects for 2015 have also been revised down to just 2.4% in total, after the OBR had initially confidently predicted growth of 3%.

Fears are growing of another recession in Britain as economic indicators are suggesting a general slowdown. Employment in Wales fell by 40,000 over the year from January 2014.

“A vote for a Tory is a vote for economic lunacy in the upcoming election”, said Mr Hain, as he urged Welsh voters to defy the neo-liberal orthodoxy that drastic cuts would balance the British economy.

A graph by the TUC details the average growth of the British economy in the five years after a recession.

Labour’s Relationship With Unions Must Change

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme Peter discussed the relationship between Labour and the Trade Unions. The key is to revitalise Labour into a broader movement rather than an old fashioned party like Tories and Lib Dems with declining memberships.

He spoke of a need to develop a party that connects widely across the country, connecting beyond traditional party membership and creating an active movement, this means mending not ending the relationship with the unions.

To hear the full interview visit www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01chcjh

Hain Questions Government’s Commitment To Economic Recovery In Wales

Neath MP Peter Hain has today joined the Trade Union Congress in voicing fears that local communities such as Neath are being left behind by both European and world economic recovery in wake of the major job losses and plunge in living standards that have hit South Wales since the onset of the financial crisis.

‘The economic woes of hard-working people up and down the country show no sign of ending,’ Mr Hain warned, as it was announced that at no other time in history has the UK economy taken so long to recover from a recession. ‘The UK has fallen way behind the rest of the G7 in key areas like manufacturing jobs, exports and wage growth.’

Mr Hain was keen to point out that this very real crisis is being sharply felt by his constituents, commenting that ‘zero wage growth and a dearth of manufacturing jobs are issues that affect areas like Neath more than others.’

Regarding the real-life effects of continued flat-lining growth, Mr Hain said, ‘this is about real people’s lives and real people suffering, who are being told that they have to wait a further four years to see their quality of life returned to the standard of 2008 – which at this rate seems highly optimistic to me.’ He added, ‘I would like to see some serious commitment to growth from this Government, starting with much needed real and large-scale investment in construction through house building and infrastructure projects.’

Ignore the pessimists, Labour is well-placed to win in 2015

Ed Miliband walks through Hyde Park after addressing TUC members at the end of a march in protest against the government’s austerity measures on October 20, 2012. Photograph: Getty Images.

Although Eastleigh was dire for the Tories, most commentators were wrong in suggesting it was also bad for Labour’s prospects at the next election. In fact, it confirmed why Labour can still win in 2015, despite its terrible defeat in 2010, because these are times that defy psephological orthodoxy.

First, the Tories took office on a historically low base for a governing party. Their vote had been stuck over nearly two decades, inching up painfully slowly from a dreadful low of 30.7 per cent in 1997, to 31.7 per cent in 2001, then to 32.4 per cent in 2005 and finally to just 36.1 per cent in 2010 – in government without having won. And that despite facing a Labour Party with an unpopular Prime Minister, which had lost trust, and which had carried the can for the worst global economic crisis for 80 years.  Not only did the Tories fail to win, they managed to gain a mere five per cent in the thirteen years after their landslide defeat in 1997.

Furthermore, just 23.5 per cent or 10.7 million of the electorate actually voted for them. David Cameron became Prime Minister on a pitifully low base. Apart from when Tony Blair led Labour and despite a significant population rise in the meantime, Cameron achieved the third lowest number of Tory votes since 1931 and the lowest Tory percentage of the electorate since 1918.

Second, Labour under Ed Miliband has quickly recovered its natural vote which had, stage by stage, defected, in the main to the Liberal Democrats, after the introduction of student fees and, above all, the Iraq War. That vote felt utterly betrayed by the Lib Dem leadership’s enthusiastic embrace of a right wing economic agenda which makes Margaret Thatcher look moderate; it will very likely stay with Labour and not easily go back to the Lib Dems except, perhaps, as in Eastleigh, where Labour cannot win.

Third, and perhaps most importantly, the Tory-Labour duopoly of British politics seems broken. Since its high point in 1951, when 97 per cent voted Tory or Labour, it has collapsed to just 65 per cent – that nadir the culmination of a long trend in the rise of smaller parties, reflecting progressive disillusionment with British politics and declining turnout. UKIP’s stunning performance at Eastleigh confirms that this will not easily be reversed.

Furthermore, in the past, people might only vote every four years in a general election and for their local council, often on the same day. Now there are five-yearly European elections, annual elections for multiple layers of local government in many parts of England, and elections every four or five years for devolved institutions in Wales, Scotland, London and Northern Ireland.

The more opportunities people have to vote for different bodies or posts, the more politically promiscuous they become. The Lib Dems have been the main beneficiaries but also UKIP, Plaid Cymru and the Scottish National Party. Once people break the habit of a lifetime by not voting either Labour or Tory, they were more likely to do so again and it has become much harder to win them back, even at a general election.

In addition, some people have started to vote for different parties at different elections. In Wales, for example, significant numbers have voted Labour in a general election, Plaid for the Welsh Assembly and Lib Dem or independent for their local councillor. People have started to mix and match, enjoying greater choice and liking the idea of politicians having to work together in power.

As the political scientist John Curtice has persuasively argued, “the hung parliament brought about by the 2010 election was no accident. It was a consequence of long-term changes in the pattern of party support that mean it is now persistently more difficult for either Labour or the Conservatives to win an overall majority.”

Coalition politics may become a semi-permanent fixture at Westminster, just as it has in local government.  In which case, coalition needs to be done a lot better than under the Cameron-Clegg government, where it has become a byword for broken promises, betrayals and sheer incompetence.

By joining with the Conservatives on an agenda that repudiated all their long claims to progressive credentials, the Liberal Democrats lost, if not forever, then for at least a generation, their niche as the ‘anti-politics’ party – the reservoir for the growing group of disaffected British voters.

But, the recovery by Labour of its natural supporters apart, there is no reason to suppose that the two main parties will bounce back to their previous hegemony. Some of the anti-politics vote the Lib Dems attracted has gone elsewhere, especially to UKIP and the Greens. Given the crisis in Europe and the fault line in the Tories, UKIP are likely to poll well at the next general election, mainly at the Tories’ expense.

All of this means – and Eastleigh confirmed –  that David Cameron won’t win the next election.  Even on a bad day, and doubtless after a relentlessly negative and well-resourced Conservative assault, Labour is well-placed. On a good day, the party could well defy the odds and win outright in 2015.  But it is at the very least realistic for Labour to be the largest single party, able to form a government. The question then is: with whom?  And the major answer would come if, as also seems likely, the Orange Book Lib Dem leadership – which hijacked the party and took it into bed with the Tories – is repudiated by a membership desperate to restore the tradition embodied by Asquith, Lloyd George, Keynes, Beveridge, Jo Grimond, David Steel, Paddy Ashdown, Charles Kennedy and Ming Campbell.

That assumes, of course, that there are sufficient Lib Dem MPs remaining after a probable battering in 2015. In constituencies where they are well dug-in against the Tories, such as Eastleigh, the Lib Dems will hold their own, although they will certainly lose seats to Labour.

On the same night as Eastleigh, most pundits missed Labour’s spectacular victory in a council by-election in a ward where a Tory councillor resigned. It was in the Tory-held seat of Wirral West, a key marginal which Labour lost last time.

Although he still has ground to make up, the new context for British politics means Ed Miliband is looking increasingly like the Prime Minister-designate.

http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2013/03/ignore-pessimists-labour-well-placed-win-2015