Support for George Osborne continues to fall away

The CBI chief, John Cridland, and the Pimco MD, Bill Gross, are the latest figures to stress the urg

First, it was the IMF that deserted George Osborne. Now, it's the CBI and the founder of the world's biggest bond fund.

John Cridland, the CBI chief, argued in a recent interview that Osborne needs to "step up a gear" and deliver a growth plan for 2012 before it is too late. The CBI is also apparently about to scale back its growth forecast for 2011.

"Times have got tougher and we need more action. It's time to get moving; extra gear, more urgency, more action," said Cridland. "It's no good having a growth review focusing on five years' time; we ain't got five years. It's about growth over the next 12 months," he claimed colourfully in an interview in the Financial Times on 5 September. Dead on.

Cridland and I were on the Today programme a little while ago, discussing what could be done to stimulate growth and he seemed an entirely sensible and honourable man. In his interview today, Cridland expressed support for stoking up infrastructure spending in transport, power stations and housing; which is clearly a good idea and I will definitely back him on that. I'm also extremely pleased that, today, Cridland has come out in support of my suggestion that the government should cut National Insurance contributions for employers hiring young people. I am happy to back him on this. The hundreds of thousands of unemployed youngsters are also grateful. Thanks John. These are good ideas that will get the economy moving, although I don't support his view that the 50p tax rate should be scrapped. That would increase inequality and simply look so unfair to those who are struggling to survive in this awful recession. Relative things matter.

Then, in an interview in the Times on 5 September, the managing director of Pimco, Bill Gross, argued that:

The economy in the UK is worse off than it was when the plan was developed, so there should be at a minimum fine-tuning and perhaps re-routing of the plan . . . the problem becomes if it is too quick and swift and leads to an economic contraction, which it appears close to doing in the UK. Bond investors obviously want not just low inflation but some type of positive growth. An economy that doesn't grow, like Japan, ultimately can't resolve its debt crisis, either.

I do recall that long list of people that Osborne was so pleased to trot out, saying that everyone supported him. Those who didn't, he claimed, were "deficit deniers". Where are his supporters now? Long gone as the economy tanks.

David Blanchflower is economics editor of the New Statesman and professor of economics at Dartmouth College, New Hampshire

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How a small tax rise exposed the SNP's anti-austerity talk for just that

The SNP refuse to use their extra powers to lessen austerity, says Kezia Dugdale.

"We will demand an alternative to slash and burn austerity."

With those few words, Nicola Sturgeon sought to reassure the people of England, Wales and Northern Ireland last year that the SNP were a party opposed to public spending cuts. We all remember the general election TV debates, where the First Minister built her celebrity as the leader of the anti-austerity cause.

Last week, though, she was found out. When faced with the choice between using the powers of the Scottish Parliament to invest in the future or imposing cuts to our schools, Nicola Sturgeon chose cuts. Incredible as it sounds the SNP stood shoulder to shoulder with the Tories to vote for hundreds of millions of pounds worth of cuts to schools and other vital public services, rather than asking people to pay a little bit more to invest. That's not the choice of an anti-austerity pin-up. It's a sell-out.

People living outside of Scotland may not be fully aware of the significant shift that has taken place in politics north of the border in the last week. The days of grievance and blaming someone else for decisions made in Scotland appear to be coming to an end.

The SNP's budget is currently making its way through the Scottish Parliament. It will impose hundreds of millions of pounds of cuts to local public services - including our schools. We don't know what cuts the SNP are planning for future years because they are only presenting a one year budget to get them through the election, but we know from the experts that the biggest cuts are likely to come in 2017/18 and 2018/19. For unprotected budgets like education that could mean cuts of 16 per cent.

It doesn't have to be this way, though. The Scottish Parliament has the power to stop these cuts, if only we have the political will to act. Last week I did just that.

I set out a plan, using the new powers we have today, to set a Scottish rate of income tax 1p higher than that set by George Osborne. This would raise an extra half a billion pounds, giving us the chance to stop the cuts to education and other services. Labour would protect education funding in real terms over the next five years in Scotland. Faced with the choice of asking people to pay a little bit more to invest or carrying on with the SNP's cuts, the choice was pretty simple for me - I won't support cuts to our nation’s future prosperity.

Being told by commentators across the political spectrum that my plan is bold should normally set alarm bells ringing. Bold is usually code for saying something unpopular. In reality, it's pretty simple - how can I say I am against cuts but refuse to use the powers we have to stop them?

Experts - including Professors David Bell and David Eiser of the University of Stirling; the Resolution Foundation; and IPPR Scotland - have said our plan is fair because the wealthiest few would pay the most. Trade unions have backed our proposal, because they recognise the damage hundreds of millions of pounds of cuts will do to our schools and the jobs it will cost.

Council leaders have said our plan to pay £100 cashback to low income taxpayers - including pensioners - to ensure they benefit from this plan is workable.

The silliest of all the SNP's objections is that they won't back our plan because the poorest shouldn't have to pay the price of Tory austerity. The idea that imposing hundreds of millions of pounds of spending cuts on our schools and public services won't make the poorest pay is risible. It's not just the poorest who will lose out from cuts to education. Every single family and business in Scotland would benefit from having a world class education system that gives our young the skills they need to make their way in the world.

The next time we hear Nicola Sturgeon talk up her anti-austerity credentials, people should remember how she did nothing when she had the chance to end austerity. Until now it may have been acceptable to say you are opposed to spending cuts but doing nothing to stop them. Those days are rapidly coming to a close. It makes for the most important, and most interesting, election we’ve had in Scotland.

Kezia Dugdale is leader of Scottish Labour.