Progress | Centre-left Labour politics

Combating cross dressing Osborne

George Osborne crossed dressed and declared himself a one nation chancellor in both the headline measures of his budget and in its details. Legislation for a living wage was intended as the closing showstopper and abolishing permanent non-dom status stole the policy with which Labour appeared to have most momentum in the general election. Training levies are another idea with Labour pedigree.

Noting that the Commission for Employment and Skills have previously reported that a third of employers spend nothing on training, Kevin Meagher argued, in a book that Labour Uncut published at 2013 Labour party conference, ‘the only remedy which is fair to all employers is a compulsory skills levy of some sort’. Today Osborne introduced such a levy for apprenticeships at large firms.

The last budget that Osborne delivered during a Labour leadership election disorientated the party throughout the last parliament. This budget promises that no year in this parliament will have cuts as deep as the two that immediately followed that 2010 budget. Osborne has committed less to cuts and more to absorbing ideas with Labour themes, in a way that may be even more of a threat to Labour than the 2010 vintage. It certainly poses a new kind of challenge.

In her response, Harriet Harman was quick to commit the party to being ‘a grown up and constructive opposition’. Being magnanimous enough to support the government when they deserve support is a precondition of moving from this status to government. The real art, though, will be in finding and credibly articulating sufficient points of difference that Labour is a more compelling alternative.


Jonathan Todd is a contributing editor to Progress and deputy editor of Labour Uncut


Photo: BBC News

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Jonathan Todd

is Labour Uncut’s economic columnist

1 comment

  • This was really a very honest appraisal. A very hard hitting one would ask why Labour in office and in the elections was not bolder and able to deliver on any of the Osbourne’s ‘killer themes’. There are at the moment only minor variations between Osbourne’s pragmatism and that of the Progress party’s conservatism. This was reinforced by the weak (and I think embarrassing) performance of LIz Kendall who (in an interview on channel 4 news) was only able to repetitively mutter that she has (an abstract and unspecified) different approach. This left me thinking that whilst she may wish to present it differently, the outcome would be the same/similar. Surely it would be more conducive to her future to withdraw her from the leadership contest now rather than damage her future prospects further. But the above author’s contribution is wise to point out that parking on our lawn will be a regular approach by Obourne until he is anointed as PM – a formidable politician and able to take the Progress approach along his journey. But surely we should not try so hard to invent differences with Osbourne if our philosophy has not already given rise to them. What will be the Party establishment’s response to the future characterisation of the Tory’s as the Workers Party? More importantly will anyone not already committed believe them. Labour needs to devise a radical programme and forget Tony & Brown. I may be in a minority but I think Milliband made a good start until Progress pressure diverted him.

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