I absolutely understand that our party must be united to be victorious – but we have to be united and right, not united and wrong. So I think we need to speak out because there are people within our party who, emboldened by our recent success, are vociferously pushing an agenda that is simply nuts! Their argument seems to be predicated on the belief that they were always right about the need to slash state spending, cut taxes and throw kids in borstals – and finally, at the Crewe by-election, the public have done a U-turn and now agree with them. I don’t agree.
We have a strategy, and we should stick to it:
We will commit to spending the same on public services as Labour – but we will show how that money can be spent to make those services more responsive, more efficient and less demanding on the public purse in the longer term.
We will commit to re-balancing the tax burden now, to give relief to hard-working families, and to incentivise business to get the economy growing. But it is only when we have real growth that we can afford to reduce the tax burden overall.
We will commit to tough measures that ensure people take responsibility in their lives. However, we will do so not to rebuke them, but instead to build their confidence, to help and support them to be economically and socially active citizens again, because that is good for them, and good for society.
Just because this agenda is not rash, doesn’t mean it isn’t bold, and doesn’t offer real change. We have to decide whether we are the enemy of the state and the judge on the way-ward, or whether we are the friend of the citizen and the guide to the lost.
The people of Crewe were not bought off by a last-minute £2.7bn tax give-away from Labour – so there’s no reason to believe that even if we were to double it, we would do any better. Edward Timpson did not win in Crewe by promising to cut funding to Leighton hospital, but perhaps, in part, because he ran marathons to raise money for that hospital.
I suspect, now the stakes are finally looking real, the battle for the heart and soul of our party is just beginning…when that battle is won, then we will be ready for government.