#Labour must challenge pro-austerity dogma

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Jeremy Corbyn visits the Nye Bevan stones in Tredegar, Wales, on 11 August 2015. Photograph: Tracey Paddison/Rex Shutterstock

The YouGov poll in July (Anti-austerity agenda a vote loser, poll reveals, 5 August) is surprising, not that 56% (of the 3,000 electorate sample) agreed that “we must live within our means, so cutting the deficit is the top priority”, but rather that 44% did not. This is the dogma that has been pumped out relentlessly by George Osborne, all three main political parties, the City and business establishments, and the rightwing 70% of the media for five years. It is extraordinary that such an orchestrated barrage, opposed not even by the Labour party, should command support from only slightly over half the population.

And of course the 44% who disagreed or were not convinced by austerity were right. We should indeed live within our means, but the best way to do that is by growth, not by endless cuts. Despite five years of grinding austerity, the deficit is still an enormous £90bn, having been cut by only £24bn over the last three years. At that rate it will take another 11 years to pay off the deficit. Meanwhile, growth in the previous three quarters halved from 0.8% to a measly 0.4% and is now a very fragile and unbalanced 0.7%. We thus have the worst of all worlds – endless cuts, a debt mountain marooned at a huge, hardly reducing level, and deflating growth. If only the Labour party could speak out and tell the truth about this, the 44% doubters and disbelievers in austerity would soon become an irresistible majority.

It is notable also that the poll found that a new Labour leader emphasising continuity “is less likely to be effective than someone who represents radical change”. Anti-austerity is that radical change, and Jeremy Corbyn is that leader who represents it.
Michael Meacher MP
Labour, London