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The Chancellor’s strategy is clear. It is to use the crisis in the budget and the economy to shrink the size of the state, whose growth, according to his logic, is responsible for the crisis in the first place. The logic is twisted, and the morality deplorable. For present purposes, it is enough to say it will not work.
There is simply no way of achieving a budget surplus unless the economy grows; and the economy will not grow sustainably as long as the Government continues to cut its own spending. Proof of this is that in the three years of austerity 2010-2013 the deficit showed hardly any improvement, despite vigorous cutting.
Thank goodness growth has restarted and is expected to strengthen next year. This is not a vindication of austerity. Economies always pick up from the bottom. The question is only how long it takes and how persistent the recovery is. And here policy does make a difference.
The charge against the Chancellor is that his austerity policy delayed the recovery and that the current recovery is too fragile to be sustained. That is because it is based on the same bubble features that brought us crashing down in 2008. I am reminded of Keynes’s remark:
“Speculators may do no harm as bubbles on a steady stream of enterprise. But the position is serious when enterprise becomes the bubble on a whirlpool of speculation. When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done.”
It is the ‘steady stream of enterprise’ we lack. Business investment and the consumer spending which stimulates are way down from their pre-crash levels. The banking system remains severely damaged, and the Chancellor, while exhorting it to lend more, piles new regulations on it which will reduce its incentive to lend. So we cannot avoid the question: where is the sustainable growth to come from?
The Chancellor can claim the support of the latest batch of growth forecasts. Growth is expected to be 1.4% this year and 2.4% next year, both up from previous forecasts.
But these forecasts are useless unless the model of the economy underlying them is robust. The same organisations underestimated the depth of the collapse and overestimated the speed of recovery. Why should they do any better next time? Have they changed their models? I have not heard so.
So unless policy is drastically changed – which means in practice a big acceleration in the announced programmes of capital development – expect weak spurts of growth followed by collapses and further years of semi-slump. All completely unnecessary, and immoral to boot.
Lord Skidelsky is a crossbench peer, Emeritus Professor of Political Economy at the University of Warwick and author of a highly acclaimed biography of John Maynard Keynes
Nelson Mandela’s middle name in Xhosa is Rolihlahla, and as his body is carried ceremoniously through the streets of South Africa this week it is that name that will be at the forefront in the minds of many of us mourners who will line the route.
Why? Because it means “shaker of trees”, which, in a tradition that stretches across the continent to the country of my own childhood Ghana, means “troublemaker”.
I think it is partly that which always caused him, whenever I was privileged to meet him, to want to know the detail, who was up who was down, in the cut and thrust of the battles which we wage in Parliament at Westminster. “Now young man, tell me what are they up to in that place?”
He wanted to know what the Parliamentary tree shakers on all sides of the political argument were thinking. This too would have drawn him to the Square his statute now adorns, all those years ago in 1962, at a very different time, with his comrade in arms Oliver Tambo, on their mission to seek support for their struggle. Macmillan wouldn’t see him. Hugh Gaitskill and Jo Grimmond took a more supportive line, and that was how the land lay in this place for many years when the sanctions Mandela called for were consistently resisted.
Bob, now Lord, Hughes led the anti-apartheid movement tirelessly and the Association of Western European Parliamentarians Against Apartheid came ultimately to enjoy all-party membership. Outside Westminster, Mandela’s ANC enjoyed a greater degree of support from the British people, not just from the Trade Unions but across the political spectrum, particularly in the churches and in later years in the City.
Nelson Mandela was of course appropriated by a world starved of visionary political leadership. The people to be seen this week paying their respects in Parliament Square are drawn from across the continents.
Mandela the man however can only fully be understood in the context of his beloved Africa in general and South Africa in particular. He will be buried in the remote rural Eastern Cape amongst the Xhosa people who gave him that middle name. He was after all a fiercely proud Xhosa Prince, never broken, comfortable in his own skin, but never allowing its colour to define him.
This was a very special man. You knew it always in his presence. He knew it too. Once I recall a reference to President Mugabe: “Aaah Robert, yes Robert. Robert was a star in Africa, and then the Sun came out.” This followed by a mischievous chuckle left you in no doubt Who was Who in the pantheon of African freedom fighters.
The clarity and focus which shaped his own profound sense of identity never left him, enabling him to lead, from prison, his people to ultimate victory and reconciliation with those who had perpetrated such horrors upon them.
The world needed Nelson Mandela to give us all a sense of hope that however bad things get it remains possible for good to prevail against all the odds. The Long March to Freedom remains the definitive treatise on the triumph of the Human Spirit. The picture of the assembled great and good trampling over themselves to get him to sign their copy over a lunch in the Admiralty was a sight to behold. All pretence that it was for the kids was abandoned.
No one, however, related to the young as he did. Visiting, as Patron of the Duke of Edinburgh Award, a youth prison in South Africa, he held the hand of a boy serving life for murder. ‘It won’t be easy’, he said, ‘but prison for however long is never the whole story. You too will have a life.’ The boy wept and the onlookers, including the Duke, never forgot that moment.
Many of us in Parliament wept too as Madame Speaker led him by the hand down the steps in the Great Hall for that memorable address to the joint Houses. We never believed we would live to see that day.
But his first port of call after his release had been not to a palace or a parliament but to thank the churches for their solidarity at the HQ of the World Council of Churches in Geneva. I was there. He was a man with deep spiritual resources, but in no sense otherworldly. He was a tough, tactical, and at times quite ruthless politician. He understood the art of compromise but had an irreducible bottom line of principle.
He loved life and music, as all who ever saw him move with a rhythm that belied his age in Hyde Park or in the Albert Hall can attest. He loved Winnie, who kept his name alive all those long years and Gracia who nurtured him in his later ones. It is not possible to separate him or his enduring achievement from them, or from the ANC movement, older than him.
Oliver Tambo, his friend and law partner, and Walter Sisulu, his early mentor, provided the context in which he was able to operate politically throughout his life. Without that he could not have presided over the transition from apartheid to a free non-racial democratic South Africa that is so much part of his legacy.
Mandela, when asked to opine on the highs and lows of South African politics, would gently remind me and others that: “No one man is bigger than the ANC.” I believed him of course, but they didn’t come bigger than Nelson Rolihalah Mandela. Nkosi Sikelel iAfrika! God Bless Him! God Bless Africa!
Lord Boateng knew Nelson Mandela as Vice Moderator of the World Council of Churches Programme to Combat Racism, as a MP, Labour Cabinet Minister, and then as British a High Commissioner to South Africa 2005 -2009
In previous Parliaments it would be General Election speculation fever time, a will-they-won’t-they guessing game in which politicians and political pundits tried to predict if the Prime Minister would gamble the ranch, or at least the tenancy of 10 Downing Street, by asking the country to decide who rules Britain.
We’re three-and-a-half years into this Government, and as we glance over our shoulder at 2013 there is close to zero chance of a poll in the spring or autumn of 2014, the Conservative–Liberal Democrat coalition inking 7 May 2015 into the diary (so neither party could pull the plug on the other), a constitutional reform with huge implications for journalism as well as politics.
The year just closed saw the passing of two huge figures. Baroness Thatcher, the nation’s first woman Prime Minister and winner of a hat trick of elections, died in April at the age of 87. She divided the nation in death as in life, and friends and foes alike would agree she was a PM of huge significance, and that the 1980s was a decade that changed Britain, whether or not you think that was for better or worse.
The other was Nelson Mandela who died, aged 95, in December 2013. The world’s leaders, including Barack Obama, the US’s first African-American president, who perfectly judged the tone, attended the memorial service in Soweto. Mandela won just one election, in 1994, to give birth to modern South Africa, and the tributes made to him in Westminster attested to the global reverence for a colossus who united peoples and won over enemies with the righteousness of his cause and generosity of spirit.
Otherwise, 2013 will be remembered by your columnist as the year in which economic growth returned to Britain, but in which families faced falling living standards, Labour and the Con–Lib Dem Coalition fought like ferrets in a sack to frame the narrative ahead of that May 2015 showdown. You pays your money, and takes you choice on this one. Labour’s energy-bill freeze, however, was a retail offer announced in a party conference speech in September that continues to reverberate. I’d judge it the single most important policy announcement of the year.
The George Osborne–Ed Balls grudge match is reaching boiling point and has second billing after David Cameron–Ed Miliband. Emerging near the top of the undercard is an increasingly tasty Michael Gove–Tristram Hunt schools war. Nick Clegg, by the way, found his voice in a weekly slot on a London radio show. Accepting the gig was a risk for the Deputy PM and Lib Dem leader, but it appears to be paying off for him as he exploits the platform to get across his views.
It was also the year another MP was jailed. Chris Huhne was locked up for perverting the course of justice. The Cabinet Minister, not that long ago pipped to the post for Lib Dem leadership by Clegg, paid a high price for bypassing a driving ban when he diverted speeding points to ex-wife Vicky Pryce, who was also imprisoned. Two careers, described as “stellar” by the judge, crashed and burned.
The Lib Dems held Huhne’s former seat of Eastleigh in Hampshire, Mike Thornton winning the by-election. Labour retained my home town of South Shields when David Miliband, who lost the party’s crown to younger brother Ed, departed these shores for a job running the International Rescue Committee.
Former social worker Emma Lewell-Buck, the new MP, is the first woman to represent the constituency since it was created in the 1832 Great Reform Act. Mid Ulster chose a fresh MP, too, with Francie Molloy succeeding Martin McGuinness. Sinn Fein is, of course, an abstentionist party, so Molloy is likely to be seen around the Palace of Westminster about as much as McGuinness was. Which isn’t very much.
Banging on the door of Westminster, demanding entry, was Nigel Farage. The UKIP leader’s party took around 150 council seats last May and regularly polled above the Lib Dems, finishing second in both the Eastleigh and South Shields by-elections. Farage is hopeful he’ll win most seats in next year’s European elections, then go on to see UKIP MPs, including himself, in come May 2015. He’s certainly added an extra unpredictability to British politics, whatever my personal distaste (actually, disgust) may be for Farage’s inflammatory, anti-immigrant rhetoric.
I’d highlight another couple of moments in 2013. The first was that the two biggest national parties found bogeymen in each other’s ranks. For Labour, it was Lynton Crosby, the “Wizard of Oz”, imported at some expense from Australia to mastermind the Conservative campaign. Labour saw the lobbyist’s shadowy hand knocking barnacles off the Tory boat, including the stubbing-out of standardised packaging for cigarettes, before an apparent change of heart by Downing Street and the Health Department.
For the Tories, the man in the shadows was “Red Len” McCluskey, the Unite union leader claimed by the Cons to be running the party. There was a spell when it felt as if Cameron couldn’t utter a sentence at Prime Minister’s Questions without including one or more of the words ‘McCluskey’, ‘Unite’, ‘Falkirk’ and ‘Grangemouth’ in the answer.
But the single stand-out moment was a recalled Parliament that rejected military action against President Assad’s regime in Syria. The defeat – Miliband’s Labour vanguard was joined by MPs of other parties – stunned the Prime Minister. The impact was felt across the Atlantic, and calls for a similar vote in a sceptical Congress prevented Commander-in-Chief Obama pressing the button. The rest, as they say, is history.
Kevin Maguire is associate editor (politics) on the Daily Mirror
Hodder & Stoughton, RRP: £25
Sir Alex Ferguson is greatly offended when it is said of him that he succeeded despite coming from Govan in Glasgow. He believes it was precisely the toughness and working class values bred there that enabled him to succeed.
That is almost certainly true, but it needed to be allied to a deep inquisitive intelligence, after all Glasgow has spat out thousands of ambitious men – but only one became the most successful football manager of all time, winning 49 trophies in Scotland and England. His autobiography My Autobiography goes some way to explain how he did it.
I first started watching and supporting Manchester United more thtan half a century ago. Before the 1997 election Sir Alex spoke at a Labour Party fundraising dinner in my constituency. This was so successful we raised enough money to fight not one but two general elections. This therefore may not be the most objective review of his book you will ever read.
Having said that, most political and football autobiographies I have read are insufferably self serving justifications of the decisions that went wrong. I am relieved to say that Sir Alex does not fall into this trap.
Unfortunately his continuing loyalty to United means we learn nothing new about the Glazer’s controversial takeover of the club or of his destructive row with the previous owners about the racehorse Rock of Gibraltar.
Perhaps unsurprisingly for a man who now regularly lectures postgraduates at Harvard, the book is deeply analytical. It is a treatise on leadership and a manual on coaching football. He extols the virtues of absolute control and from his non football reading material it is apparent his role models are benevolent dictators. The emphasis not necessarily being on benevolent.
He sees rapid decision making as essential, if great players have to go because they are a threat to his control they have to go quickly. David Beckham, Jaap Stam, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Roy Keane’s fast-tracks out of Old Trafford bear witness to his ruthless streak.
On the other hand his benevolent caring side is exposed in his treatment of loyal servants who have passed their peak, and young men who didn’t quite make the grade. He goes out of his way to help them continue their careers at clubs lower down the pecking order.
When it’s time for a reluctant Phil Neville to move on, both families are involved. Sir Alex explains to Phil why it is in his interests to go to Everton, while Lady Ferguson comforts Mrs Neville who has remained in her car too upset to enter the Ferguson home. This poignant scene illustrates Ferguson’s emotional range.
Even Manchester United supporters may have forgotten Jimmy Davis, a young player killed in a road accident while on loan to Watford. Ferguson did not, giving a kind and optimistic picture of the lad’s ability and potential. It will undoubtedly have been a comfort to his family.
Pen portraits of many of the superstars who have passed through his hands give great insight into the motivations of the modern day multi-millionaire footballer. It’s not always a pretty picture. Special accolades are reserved for Ronaldo, Giggs and Scholes. Judgement of character has always been as important for him as judgement of footballing ability.
It is a measure of Ferguson’s constant reflections on the game that he is ready to acknowledge his own failings. His acknowledgement of his misjudgements on Paul Scholes make compelling reading. At the start of his career he thought him too small and at the end he thought he would be content to remain on the subs bench as an understudy to Carrick and Fletcher. This was the best English midfielder since Bobby Charlton, and the best of his generation.
Misjudging Scholes had consequences; United may well have prospered in the 2009 European Cup Final in Rome if Scholes had played from the start. He made 25 passes in the last 20 minutes of the games when he finally appeared, compared to the three passes made previously by Anderson, the man he replaced.
After all that, he is of course even more alert to the flaws and failures of his main rivals. He has great fun at Liverpool’s expense, exposing the arrogance and hubris of Rafa Benitez, leading to the purchase of second rate players and ultimate failure. Harsh words also for puerile Mancini, with a complicated appraisal of Wenger’s strengths and weaknesses.
This is a book by a man for all seasons which football supporters will find fascinating and others can learn from.
Graham Stringer is Labour MP for Blackley and Broughton