Instead one Ed has supported the other, who has given a speech ostensibly about economics but really about marketing the Labour "brand" for consumption in the pages of the right-wing press (http://labourlist.org/2012/01/ed-balls-speech-to-the-fabian-society/).
In fact, Balls gave a credible Keynesian critique of Osborne's reiteration of the Treasury orthodoxy of the interwar years, but the Labour leadership preferred to let the headlines be written around a remark that Labour cannot promise now to reverse cuts if it forms a Government in 2015 ("we cannot make any commitments now that the next Labour government will reverse tax rises or spending cuts. And we
This statement of the obvious (who knows what circumstances would face a future Government more than three years in the future?) was then reinforced by a futile pledge of support for public sector pay restraint.
This pledge was given because, according to Balls, " Jobs must be our
priority before higher pay." This sounds like an echo of 1970s corporatism, but in circumstances in which, wrenched out of its historical context, it has no meaning.
This Government isn't applying the money it has saved by forcing down the living standards of public servants to job creation! On the contrary, our pay freeze has been accompanied by massive job losses, with more in prospect, having the negative macroeconomic consequences which Balls himself describes;
"Fragile consumer and business confidence has been crushed by the inflationary hike in VAT, the threatened withdrawal of public sector demand, the reality of falling incomes and the fear of rising unemployment." (The touchstone blog spelt out before Xmas how falling real wages are restraining consumer expenditure - http://touchstoneblog.org.uk/2011/12/inflation-real-wages-and-potential-economic-surprises-in-2012/).
Yet, for the two Eds, it is more important to be seen to have "economic credibility" by talking tough about painful choices than it is to advance a workable alternative to austerity which does not require working people to bear the costs of a crisis not of our making.
The trade unions have, broadly speaking, advocated economic policies in the interests of our members. If our affiliation to the Labour Party is to remain defensible to our members (the large majority of whom - in UNISON - choose not to pay into the affiliated section of our political fund) then the unions need to establish, at Party Conference, economic policies for the Labour Opposition, and a possible future Labour Government, which offer some hope.
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