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Thursday, 18 May 2017

Dangerous Politics

In a superficial sense, the current UK General Election seems quite dull. The press is overwhelmingly taking the view that Labour's manifesto is so ridiculous that it confirms their general argument that Mr Corbyn, therefore his party, is unelectable. Mr Farron, the LibDem leader, looks and sounds like an untutored novice: some members of his party may gain [or recover] seats in the House; but not enough to change the situation overall. The Conservatives do not need to seem to try: they just push the image of a 'strong and stable' Mrs May leading an almost-invisible but allegedly competent team to a certain victory.

But yet: the Labour manifesto stirs up a lot of issues that have given rise to much digruntlement over several years. The opposing parties' machines can say that Labour's plans are unaffordable, and produce tables of numbers to show this in terms of statistics from the Osborne era, but against that are two potentially significant demographic appeals. Labour can attract the young, with their promises on tuition fees and on the health service; and they can attract the old by reference to their proposals for the health service, pensions and allowances: and now by reference to the Tories' 'mean' policies on pensioner benefits, pensions and the seizure of the properties owned by deceased former recipients of care in old age. These factors may not succeed in overcoming the image of Corbyn as a bumbling Marxist antique, but they could make the election a lot closer than was thought even last weekend.

The real disappointment is in the Conservative manifesto. They have absolutely no positive policy for the regeneration of the country. While Labour talk of spending billions on the infrastructure of the economy [that would then support growth: as promised in the USA by Mr Trump], the Tories are entirely confined within the constraints of Osborne's austerity.The dull, dull Chancellor of the Exchequer acts as if he were a puppet of the Cameron-Osborne regime. While government spokesmen still talk hopelessly about putting billions into 'education' and mitigating the chronic inadequacy of the NHS, the real and present crisis of funding in the Health Service is apparent to all. The Southern Railway is facing another strike; but their franchise seems secure. The do-nothing regime is neither strong nor stable: it is weak and impotent, like a rabbit caught in the headlights of Osborne's ongoing juggernaut, conveying the economy to national impoverishment.

Britain's economy urgently needs billions of pounds of investment: and not in silly schemes like HS2 or unproved foreign nuclear power sources. As stressed in this blog yesterday, the key to a successful economy is to reach out for higher productiveness: if an economy achieves that, the productivity of workers and investment will grow [and even economists can measure that].

As the details of the Conservatives' manifesto are released, the grey vote may be thrown away. Young people may be attracted to Labour, while they will see nothing in a second referendum on the Brexit issue.

The central proposition of my book: NO CONFIDENCE: The Brexit Vote and Economics was that the British people used the referendum to reject the Cameron-Osborne regime and the political class from which they came. Mrs May is currently turning this election campaign into a defence of what was defeated in June last year. The time for voters to realise this may be too short to determine their votes, and they may rightly be afraid of the uncosted aspects of Labour's programme. But the lady and her close team of minders seem at present to be turned dramatically against the national mood: and that can turn the election against her.

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