JUST as a monkey and a typewriter could, in time, produce Shakespeare’s works, so the possibility exists that an Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) forecast on Britain’s economy might, one day, prove accurate. Its pre-referendum prediction that a Leave vote would trigger an immediate large negative economic shock was part of the Remain campaign’s Operation Fear.
Late unlamented chancellor George Osborne seized the prophecy by the “highly respected, independent OECD,” calling it “another wake-up call of the grim economic consequences of leaving the EU and the single market.”
It was inaccurate, in common with a succession of its forecasts regarding economic output in Britain.
Far from being embarrassed by a record less reliable than Mystic Meg’s, the OECD now projects a second referendum to reverse the Leave decision as the golden key to unlock the door to El Dorado.
And by magical coincidence, Tony Blair’s former soothsayer Alastair Campbell pops up in The Guardian to advise Theresa May to adopt a new path — declare that “Brexit is a disaster,” publish legal advice revealing her power to “unilaterally revoke article 50” and then go ahead and do so. Campbell has previous on legal advice, of course, explaining partly why his credibility is as tarnished as his former master’s.
For May to attempt such political sleight of hand — and, even worse, were Labour MPs to encourage it — would result in an electoral field day for Ukip and its allies on the right of the Tory Party.
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell wisely avoids the OECD call for a second referendum — what next, best of three? — concentrating on the organisation’s criticism of Britain’s weak productivity, huge regional equalities and the need for major regional infrastructure investment, increased research spending and improved training.
Similarly, TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady highlights insecure work and the need to ban exploitative zero-hour contracts and bogus self-employment. All valid points and none of which requires a referendum somersault.
Indeed, it’s noteworthy that Osborne’s chum Emmanuel Macron is pushing, with EU backing, for the same neoliberal model of reduced regulation and employment rights opposed by Labour and the trade union movement.
As the new People’s Assembly pamphlet In Place of Austerity illustrates, Labour’s investment policies that contradict free-market dogma could be struck out by European Union regulations.
The labour movement must keep up the pressure on the Tories for policies that benefit the many not the few but beware of identifying with EU negotiators and the conservative forces behind them whose commitment to austerity is no less rigid than the Tories’.
PATRICIA HEWITT prepared a future defence for the Tories, during her two-year period as health secretary, against Labour criticism of NHS privatisation.
What Tory and Liberal Democrat health ministers did after 2010 simply built on what Hewitt and her New Labour colleagues had done earlier, they explained.
The worst thing about such statements is that they were palpably true. Labour had to work hard to regain lost ground with NHS staff and patients.
She has clearly not changed, planning £300 million of “savings” through cuts in prescribed medication to be replaced by walking classes, village hall soup kitchens and GP-dispensed debt advice.
Walking is good, meeting people counters loneliness, but Hewitt’s approach is about persuading patients that they are to blame for their own condition and don’t merit medication. Same old New Labour. Blame the victims not the system.