As usual Osborne is quick to slough off any hint that his ill-judged economic strategy might be in part responsible for our current crisis of confidence
Owen Smith MP (Labour, Pontypridd) is shadow secretary of State for Wales.
So, it started in earnest, the latest Coalition re-launch, and this time they’ve started on page 6 of the standard re-launch playbook: ‘Regional press offensive’.
In Wales, we awoke on Saturday to find Justine Greening staring out from the front page of the Western Mail, protesting that railway investment in 2019 would ‘kick-start’ the Welsh economy.
Meanwhile inside the paper, Cheryl Gillan, offered more jam tomorrow and urged Welsh business to seize the opportunity offer by the same post-election promise.
Yesterday morning marked phase 2 of the ‘regional’ strategy, with a cut and paste “insert your region here” op-ed by George Osborne and Danny Alexander.
The piece re-re-announced the same post-dated cheque for train-track electrification and offering some vague rhetoric about Export Credit Guarantees (a policy first put in place by the National Coalition of the early 1930s) and other ‘innovative’ measures designed to support jobs in leading edge industry, like aerospace or biotech.
I cannot be alone in thinking that the underlying message of this article is the admission of failure by the coalition – they got their economic strategy wrong.
For over two years, Labour has consistently argued that the cuts were too deep and too fast. They did not listen, and the economy has ground to a halt with a generation of young people having their opportunities blighted. The coalition has removed confidence from the economy- and even companies who could invest are holding back in fear of the ongoing stagnation.
As usual Osborne is quick to slough off any hint that his ill-judged economic strategy might be even in part responsible for our current crisis of confidence and growth: blaming the eurozone fragility as he earlier found scapegoats in weather and weddings.
But, as former allies at the IMF sound warnings that fiscal contraction is curtailing growth, and market fears grow that a third quarter of recession may be unveiled tomorrow, Osborne’s excuses grow ever thinner and his supporters fewer too.
Let us ignore the fact that this standardised op-ed seems ignorant of devolution – for example planning is predominantly a devolved matter and so not under the UK coalition’s control.
We know that trying to roll out some headline spending announcements for projects that will not commence until after the next general election will not fool the people of Wales.
Wales deserves better, and it seems that the people of Wales know there is a better way.
Indeed, in the Assembly elections of May 2011 and the Council elections just over two months ago they voted for a party that is showing it can stand up for Wales – Labour.
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The Welsh Labour government continues to deliver Labour values and Labour priorities in the face of the economic mismanagement of the UK coalition.
Protecting students from the massive hikes in student fees, bringing forward capital investment to support the economy, delivering community safety with 500 extra Community Support officers (not 20% police cuts) all show how Labour can make a difference – and much more.
The launching of ‘Jobs Growth Wales’ (a made in Wales replacement for the Jobs Fund) taking action to help young people find work. By extending a helping hand to try and assist Remploy workers in the face of the cuts made by the coalition. A contrast of values – a contrast of actions.
This week the eyes of the world will briefly turn to Cardiff as Wales hosts the opening event of the 2012 Olympics – women’s soccer at the Millennium Stadium.
I suspect the coalition will be relieved the focus moves to Olympic golds and not the economic mess they have made in Downing Street.
The UK deserves better and Wales is helping to show there is a better way. How much easier that task would be if we had a government in Westminster – a Labour government – that understood the challenges of our times. The fresh vision of Ed Miliband who is consistently proving he is ahead of the curve and grasping the issues of our times.
Ultimately, politics and economics are all about priorities and choice. At Westminster, the coalition’s choices have been deeply flawed and are exacting a generational price in lost jobs and opportunities. Their priorities have been equally clear and equally misguided, as testified to by their decision to cut allowances for pensioners and fund instead tax breaks for millionaires.
In Wales, different choices and priorities are being pursued: investment in social housing, protection of social services budgets, prioritisation of educational excellence for all and Labour priorities to protect the most vulnerable in our society. It is these policies, these principles and these choices that will enable Wales to not only weather the current economic storm, but grow and prosper even as it rages.
The ‘one size fits all’, adapt-your-own article might tick a box in Whitehall, but it doesn’t make a blind bit of difference to communities here in Wales.
The next time the George and Danny show rolls into town, they would do well to bear that in mind.
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