When Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader of the Labour party in September 2015, his opposition to Tory austerity was regarded as dangerous and short-sighted by the majority of the mainstream media and a huge section of the parliamentary Labour party.
And yet just over a year later it seems like even the Tories have now begrudgingly acknowledged that Corbyn was right all along.
Although it has been quietly forgotten by the mainstream media, one of the first moves undertaken by Osborne after the Tories won the 2015 election was to announce his austerity driven “emergency” summer budget in which he outlined plans to cut £12bn from welfare, with the eventual aim of running a budget surplus by the end of parliament.
These austerity measures, we were told, were absolutely essential to save the UK from certain economic collapse, and make sure that we had a strong economic recovery.
None of those promises have come to fruition, and in fact the opposite has been achieved. Far from cutting it, Osborne has added massively to the national debt. When austerity began in 2010, the national debt was just under £1trillion, it has now gone up to £1.6 trillion. The equivalent of £100,000 for every single British family. And absolutely nobody, apart from the already wealthy, have benefited.
But austerity was never about saving the country from certain economic doom. It had far more to with the current neoliberal political orthodoxy of transferring wealth from the poor to the rich, as former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis pointed out on the BBC’s Question Time:
The problem is that austerity is being used as a narrative to conduct class war.
To be talking about reducing the state further when effectively what you are doing is reducing taxes like inheritance tax and at the same time you are cutting benefits – that is class war.”
Six years of unnecessary cuts have inflicted widespread pain and misery on the most vulnerable people in our society, and in the worst cases directly led to deaths and suicides.
To see just how bad the Tories’ economic decisions were, Aaron Bastani from Novara Media runs through the figures:
And yet despite the human carnage it entailed, the only Westminister politician to seriously oppose the economic consensus was Jeremy Corbyn.
“Austerity is a political choice not an economic necessity.”
Corbyn’s economic plans also consist of investment in housing, energy, and transport as the key to rebuilding the economy. And with a national investment bank, essentially he is proposing the direct opposite to austerity.
And, after six years of abject economic failure, the Conservatives now seem to agree with Corbyn. This week the post Brexit Chancellor Phillip Hammond announced to the Conservative Party Conference that he would be abandoning the economic policies of his predecessor. The ones that so gloriously defined the austerity era.
Hammond has said he will prioritise spending on new homes and transport rather than following Osborne’s aim to balance the books by 2020. He said it is “common sense” to invest to support growth and jobs.
The fact that Hammond now considers investment to be a simple common sense approach to job creation and growth shows just how big of a lie austerity was in the first place.
This marks a significant shift away from the prevalent economic dogma that the Conservatives spouted so proudly for the last 6 years.
We are still a long way off from having People’s QE, or a national investment bank as proposed by Corbyn. But at least we now have some progress.
This shows the real value and importance of having a Labour Party with a leader who is truly willing to oppose the Tories’ destructive policies.