No one expects a happy new year. Predictions for 2008 are nearly universally morose for the country, and in line supplementary so for Labour. Here is the storm warning: repossessions commit soar also then will charges in the shops, while retail income also the stock market will fall. So cede house prices, while 1.4 million people seek to remortgage and have to pay plenty more. Oil and food prices are rising. The found of directors predicts “stickyflation”, a bad mixture of slow boom and higher inflation. The r‑word is uttered out loud, considering BNP Paribas rates the chance of recession in 2008 at 75%. Doomsters and Labour’s natural predators rub their hands in reflective glee at the unhealthy year ahead. january is the pessimist’s month.
Gordon Brown’s spare year message to the nation is lugubriously cautious, well conscious of the prevailing commentariat’s dark expectations. He promises to “steer a course of stability through global financial turbulence” and to “take no risks hush up stability”. hence let’s pile palpable on as twin extra thick as possible: this year consign sell for awful considering the nation and even worse for emancipationist and Labour.
It is good politics for Labour to arrange whereas the worst, so that if present happens, they don’t look as if they fiddled while London burned. however if, as some dare suggest, things can even be no worsened than another 2005 dip in growth, then this seasonal doom-mongering consign consider been markedly useful to Labour. A minor slowdown with neither inflation nor unemployment rising entrust see Brown’s old “no boom or bust” boasts action this time next year.
In this local weather of fear, king Cameron’s new year message smacks of callow point-scoring, with his five repetitions of “Labour’s hopeless” – and right will look even thinner spell retrospect magnetism a year’s time if Brown has steered through economic rapids without most voters expectation any adverse effect.
Here are any reasons not to panic. The financial institution rate is expected to fall next year, perhaps to 4.5%. Pre-Christmas predictions of a shopping slump have been trounced yet again: figures are expected to show sales up by 3% and more. Housing demand is so intense, due to somewhere to are living and as investment over those jealous of a bumpy stock market, that house prices can’t caper far. Meanwhile, the pensions crisis quietly resolved itself in 2007: most pension fund deficits are now wiped out. It was not, undoubted seems, Brown’s stealth hindrance raid so much to blame as the markets, and bona fide is the markets that have restored pension fund fortunes. Meanwhile, the common 55% of voters still recount the Guardian’s ICM poll they are optimistic about their standard of animate for 2008. All predictions are risky, but I risk the guess this may be an alternative instance when hyperventilating gloomsters have exaggerated.
However, even if Brown defies the gravity of the ones predictions, this is not spirit to be a feelgood year. The squeeze on national spending will hurt. The Treasury will convey no to everything, with undeveloped petty chief for political easements and soothings of crises. Holding public sector finances to 2% for three years in a row is impossible. A government that ran on the greased rails of public service expansion will feel the unfamiliar pinch of parsimony.
This makes 2008 a good tempo to consciousness on things that are cost free. Labour can not smear out, but substantial must make a political spatter. Volatile polls are slipping a bit from Cameron, now only five points ahead even in Labour’s darkest time. Brown has a full year to shape his party’s goal and direction: if he hasn’t finished it by this time next year, it’s all over. therefrom what is Labour for? His party wants to know, and he needs to accelerate it first, breathing fire into its disheartened core.
Oddly, good Labour policies are in place, but with no meaningful political illumination to make them parade. The Children’s Plan, Sure Start, raising the school-leaving age, apprenticeships for all, the baby poverty target – these core Labour values are the reason the birthday party still has any members left. Yet the public is barely aware of them.
Labour’s green policies deserve to have knocked Cameron’s green pretences out of the yelling by now, with Britain first to impose wrongfully binding carbon emissions limits, alongside a promise of 40% of electricity to be generated by renewables. So why don’t radical guidelines near because these upright? as a result of Brown is not sure he wants to be thought radical. Can he be Mr Stability and Mr Radical? These tussles cause a uttered indigestion that leave him politically inarticulate. His Britishness image seems no more than a banal device for avoiding the semipolitical definition he desperately needs.
Start by calling dump all unneeded mess ups. U-turns can be admirable, as Keynes famously noted and as Margaret stateswoman frequently practised until hubris caused her poll tax downfall.
The facts have changed on id cards and on 42-day confinement without trial. Don’t fight pointless, dropping battles. Braver still, abandon Trident: statistics credit changed here too. begin to redirect Britain’s focus towards Nicolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel’s more congenial Europe. Start a dialogue on electoral reform with the Lib Dems: Cameron never leave. Defend the weakest: stop resisting agency workers’ equal rights. Do pick fights for genuine public gain: stick it to the british scientific arrangement over GP rudiment hours. Use the (alas, unretractable) promise to cut inheritance tax as a first step in rebalancing the whole tax system to take much less from low and middle earners and more from the mega-rich. under the ensign of “fairness”, mould all Labour’s policies suspicion a coherent narrative.
Above all, speak for firm. It is the only road. economic balance is a bedrock deprivation – but it is not enough. The danger is that the country is bored with labour and 4 further years of dull Brown leave not look enticing in a 2009 or 2010 election. He is not dull by nature, but seeking safety he has deliberately dulled himself down, dampening his natural political fire. But I suspect he or anyone else can ever win without inspiring a sense of political impatience and brave. He needs to make 2008 politically important – and exciting.