On Sunday the Guardian published an article by their Economics Editor, Larry Elliot, analysing why Jeremy Corbyn is enjoying so much popularity in the Labour leadership race. I think finally the Guardian, after a great deal of frustration with Corbyn’s stubbornly high popularity, has alighted on the correct reason and it is certainly my main motivation for supporting Corbyn over the other candidates: that Labour was (notwithstanding other faults) demonstrably not profligate with the economy and Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters are the ones who have remained committed to exposing this fantasy.
The other candidates may believe that Labour didn’t overspend or borrow too much, and that it didnt have a negative impact on the economy or contribute to the global financial crash (or how prepared Britain was to weather it), but they have decided to pursue the majority of the electorate in believing the deficit myth as they see the task of trying to address it as insurmountable.
Here is Elliot’s article: .
Jeremy Corbyn is right to blame the banks, not Labour, for the financial crisis
And an excellent Polly Toynbee piece from 2013 that he references:
Labour’s spending worked. Why don’t they defend it?
So following on from that we can say the main driver of anti-austerity sentiment is that it has all been unnecessary and it is based on a myth, the same myth that has done huge damage to the Labour Party.
The facts behind what really happened economically under the last Labour government (that the long Tory reign from 1979 to 1997 brought public services into a very sorry and neglected state which Labour went a very long way to putting right through investing in them) point to a wider truth underlying the whole difference between left and right on the political spectrum. The left is demonstrably largely good for the majority of people, there is evidence to back that up. The right, on the other hand, may have been drawn to the centre in some respects (in the UK at least, hardly in the US) but is essentially working in the interests of a minority of already powerful individuals and must rely on convincing people into voting for things that may in fact harm them or their fellow voters (hence, to some extent, the embracing of more centrist ideas).
So a lot of people with very little to no individual power are set against a very small minority of very wealthy individuals with a huge amount of power and influence. It’s been that way for a long time, probably since the Labour movement arose and started to use collective bargaining power, but still it persists. People are still inveigled into supporting the right, usually through untruth or misdirection. Accusations of identity politics are a very good example, where an argument is made that the left are working in the interests of a minority only when in fact they are working for the majority and the accusation would be better levelled at the right.
As long as powerful people peddle snake oil like the “Labour’s profligate spending” myth and people buy it (often motivated by the identity politics misdirection among other things) then little will substantially change. One thing Blair and Brown got right was their political ruthlessness towards the opposition and that’s what we see mimicked by Cameron and Osborne today. But clearly Labour were not nearly ruthless enough if the public consciousness can be so easily altered and their work so easily undone.