IF THERE is one single reason why Labour lost the election, it’s that George Osborne realised the critical importance of framing his project in a way that made it acceptable in the eyes of a majority of the electorate.
The fact that it was a string of lies didn’t matter as long as people believed it.
This was Osborne’s line — the Labour government left a terrible economic mess, we’ve cleared it up by the only means possible, it’s been painful but we’re all in it together, we’ve succeeded in our recovery and should stick with it. Every statement there is false, but in the absence of Labour refuting all these lies, it was the only tale in town.
Labour lost because Ed Miliband, though he won a lot of support for his policies on freezing energy prices, the living wage, house-building etc, nevertheless neither exposed the Tory mantra for the utter falsehood it was, nor, even more crucially, produced a commanding narrative which framed his own project in a manner which grabbed the electorate’s attention.
Labour didn’t cause the economic breakdown, the bankers did.
The Tories didn’t clear up the collapse in the only way possible — they chose to impose austerity when they could have continued with Alistair Darling’s policy of expanding the economy and generating growth and jobs to pay down the deficit quicker.
We were not all in it together when the top 1 per cent have continued to increase their wealth while the squeezed middle and pummelled poorest have paid the price for the bankers’ recklessness and arrogance.
Osborne has not produced a proper and sustainable recovery, only a weak and irregular upturn trapped in prolonged austerity with no end in sight.
Why Labour didn’t say this loud and clear between 2010-15 must remain one of the unaccountable mysteries of modern politics.
But Labour didn’t, and it allowed Osborne, lies and all, to dominate the political landscape right through to the election.
Now he will try to do exactly the same again, and paint Corbynomics into a corner even before it’s got off the ground.
Labour must now urgently do two things. It must tell the truth about Osborne’s total misrepresentation of the political record, even if it means apologising for letting down the country by not pronouncing the truth before.
But above all, Jeremy Corbyn should quickly begin to draft his own project. It might run something like this. The Tory bankers allowed their greed and incompetence to capsize the British economy. The Tory government chose to deal with this by imposing austerity which hits the poorest hardest and lets the bankers off the hook.
It hasn’t worked because hard-working families are still worse off, companies are not investing and household borrowing is at dangerous levels. We need a fundamental change, and growth and jobs are the answer to austerity.
Michael Meacher is Labour MP for Oldham West and Royton. For more of his writing visit www.michaelmeacher.info/weblog.