Trusted on the economy – to do what exactly?

The Observer today (Sunday) repeats what can be read in any newspaper and heard endlessly on the radio. Labour needs to come to terms with the fact that it wasn’t trusted on the economy. This is the message for Labour’s leadership contenders as commentators work up a sweat at the prospect of a substantial vote for Jeremy Corbyn.  What that means is never actually spelled out but there are enough hints. It means ‘make cuts to reduce the deficit’; forget re-distribution (never mind ‘pre-distribution’!) and put government at the disposal of business.

When the history of this period comes to be written Gordon Brown will actually emerge as the hero of the 2008 crash. If he didn’t save the world he certainly saved the advanced economies from a slump that would have dwarfed the collapse of 1929. If Labour lacked competence it was for quite different reasons. Brown thought the old economic cycle of  boom and slump had been superseded, but it hadn’t; Labour invited the rich to get richer in the hope that wealth would trickle down and not enough did.

Trusted on the economy to do what? There is a curious underlying assumption that governments actually manage ‘the economy’. Tax and spend is a significant economic lever but it only amplifies movements already underway and does little or nothing to change the patterns of economic activity that determine so much of people’s lives. The commentariat are re-cycling meaningless waffle. Oh for someone to ask ‘trusted to do what’?

As for Jeremy Corbyn the papers are asking where this left wing sentiment has come from. A more pertinent question might be why this sentiment wasn’t able to express itself in the day-to-day life of the party?

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