Tuesday, April 05, 2011
Labour: only 95% as evil as the Tories
It being May, there are council elections. It's the turn of the city of my choice to go through the rather bizarre ritual of seeing about a third of us vote in a popularity contest between the national parties, and locally, Labour is doing its level best to make the contest as national-popularity-ish as possible.York is a very Lib Dem kind of a place, even though it doesn't have a Lib Dem MP. (York Outer was, supposedly, a hypothetical new marginal; but somehow the Lib Dems threw it away. It's probably a Zionist conspiracy [ref].) Notwithstanding, the outskirts are classic Lib Dem/Tory, while the inner bit is solidly Labour, as seen in the MPs for the respective constituencies. The local council is minority Lib Dem. This, of course, is where Labour as the second party comes in.The great charge Labour wish to make stick is £21mn of cuts to local services, allegedly agreed by the Lib Dems and Tories, who between them just about have enough votes to keep control of the council. (York's situation is almost an exact mirror of Westminster's: the Lib Dems are the powerful force, with the Tories as a small supporting act.) That sounds like a lot, £21mn. Actually, it's about 5% of the 2009–10 expenditure (pdf). And if the council hadn't been running a surplus, the cuts would have been worse.So that's the context. What is Labour's great claim for votes? They will rescue £1mn of York's public services. Or, put another way, Labour would cut £20mn of public services. In the context of a £444mn budget, that's scarcely worth sneezing over. But the problem is deeper than that. For York Labour want us to believe that cuts are wicked, evil, nasty things, and they'd make £20mn of them. Now, I don't agree with Labour's characterisation of public spending cuts. But let's take it at face value: York Labour's advertisement is that they are only 95% as evil as the Lib Dems and Tories.Me? Well, as I say, I don't buy Labour's approach to the public finances. But even if I did, I'd have to wonder why I'd bother getting semi-skimmed when full-fat evil was on offer.