Last night Hopi Sen dreamt of a politics where Conquest’s third law was repealed. He reports back on what he saw.
It is 5 December. The chamber of the House of Commons is full. George Osborne gets up, his hands shaking a little. The opposition benches notice his nervousness and the noise in the Commons builds.
After what seems like an age, Osborne begins to speak.
‘Mr Speaker, I am pleased to report to the house that after four hard years the economy is growing, the deficit has been cut, inflation is falling, employment is up, investment is increasing and inequality is down.
‘Today, Britain is growing faster than France, faster than Germany, faster than Japan, faster than the United States, the eurozone and the average of the OECD nations.
‘But this is time to plan for the future, not congratulate ourselves on recovery.
‘This recovery has far to go, and we have much to do to secure it.
‘It will be years before the burdens of debt and recession are fully lifted from our backs,
‘But we are now seeing a recovery built by the responsibility, good sense and hard work of the British people.
‘So I want to place on the record my thanks to all those who have made this possible.
‘The families who have worked hard.
‘The public servants who have made sacrifices.
‘The entrepreneurs who have hired new employees.
‘The businesses who have invested for the future.
‘To them, we owe a deep debt of gratitude.
‘For them we can now look to the future.
‘However, there is one group of people who said all this was impossible.
‘Who said that if we were responsible with the public finances, jobs would be lost, the economy would collapse, and recession would turn to depression.
‘Their only solution was not to trust the British people, but to spend, spend and spend again.
‘Sadly, to the party opposite I cannot offer thanks.
‘To them I can only say: Never again.
‘Mr Speaker, after several hard years, Britain is recovering from the catastrophic errors of the last government.
‘Now we must help the British people build a secure future on the solid foundations of hard work and enterprise, not the quicksands of borrowing and speculation.
‘Today I will set out the government’s national agenda, agreed by both parties in this coalition in the national interest.
‘First, we must secure the public finances for good. Never again must irresponsible governments run deficits in years of growth.
‘Second, we must build an economy that supports sustainable growth. We need the roads and rail to travel on, the science and skills to innovate, the homes to return to.
‘Finally, we must help families, businesses and workers gain a fair share of the recovery, as our thanks for their sacrifice in saving Britain from disaster.
‘These are our values. Responsibility. Sustainability. Shared recovery.
‘First, we will return the government finances to surplus by the end of the next parliament.
‘This is the foundation of all sustainable growth.
‘It is the restraint we show here that gives Britain the security to invest for the future.
‘I am able announce today that as the deficit is falling faster than expected, we are in a position to authorise further investment for the future.
‘We will offer businesses who invest in British science and technology new incentives by doubling our support for applied research in high technology areas, matched by private investment.
‘Next, we will build a new generation of technical and vocational colleges, with public and private support, to give apprentices and their employers a chance to boost their careers.
‘And we will increase investment in the infrastructure that keeps Britain’s economy growing.
‘Today I am able to announce that the falling deficit means we can build new roads, extend Britain’s rail network and increase the funding for building new private and social housing.
‘The reward of growth is the chance to lift the burdens on hard-working families.
‘Mr Speaker, this government knows that you do not help families with an easy bribe. Every bit of help must be paid for. There are no free rides, no magic money trees.
‘Sadly, this is a lesson some have still not learned.
‘They are the snake-oil salesmen of modern politics, peddling remedies with no chance of working, in the hope that people will fall for the promise and find it too late to regret the cost.
‘The help we offer is built on the rewards of a steady growth that they denied could ever happen.
‘To help those working hard, we will increase the minimum wage above inflation each year for the next five years, subject to the advice of the Low Pay Commission.
‘To further help working families, as long as deficit reduction meets our targets, we will increase the tax free personal allowance by £500 each year. This will lift millions of people from the burden of tax.
‘However, I seek to go further.
‘So today I can announce that we are correcting another mistake of the last government.
‘We will introduce a temporary 10p rate of tax, which by 2015 will apply to all pay of full-time workers on the minimum wage.
‘Currently, that is 13,000, and this will increase as the minimum wage increases.
‘The cost of this will be met from the increased tax income we have gained as a result of growth, and by holding down welfare budgets.
‘Crucially, delivering these changes will be subject to meeting our deficit reduction targets. We cannot promise people what we have not earned as a nation.
‘This means that we must be vigilant on expenditure. We will not undo the savings we have made on welfare budgets. We will not undo the cap on benefits. We will not introduce symbolic taxes that actually cost us money. Instead, we will go further in reducing the welfare bill, and any money gained will go directly into the pockets of working families
‘There is one final decision I wish to announce to the House.
‘Some have called for a freeze in domestic energy bills. I have carefully examined that proposal, and have rejected it.
‘As leading economists have said, a merely legislative freeze would not work, and, even if it did, every family knows it would not go far enough.
‘Thanks to deficit reduction and growth, we are in position to fund green measures through general taxation. This will have undo the recent price increases, while still preserving our environmental commitments
‘But I want to go further. So, this government will deliver an immediate cut in domestic energy bills, funded by a tax on overseas buyers of expensive property. Further, we will increase the value of the winter fuel allowance.
‘This will at one stroke, deflate a bubble in housing, redistribute funds from the wealthy to working families, and make a real difference to families who work hard and play by the rules.
‘Mr Speaker, these are the rewards of responsible recovery.
‘It has been a hard-earned recovery, and there is far to go.
‘But at last we can turn our back on the false promises of the past, and concentrate on building a real future together.’
At which point I woke up. Surely he wouldn’t be so shameless, so irresponsible, so … smart?
Progressive centre-ground Labour politics does not come for free.
Our work depends on you.