Osborne gets an American fan

The New York Times's David Brooks falls for shadow chancellor's economic dogma

David Brooks is one of the most thoughtful conservative journalists in America, so it's a pity to see him fall for George Osborne's "we're all in this together" schtick today.

Taking the shadow chancellor entirely at his word, he argues that Osborne's economic honesty and maturity provide a model for Republicans. In the most egregious passage, he writes:

Last November, Osborne opposed a cut in the value-added taxes on the grounds that the cuts were unaffordable and would not produce growth. It is not easy for any conservative party to oppose tax cuts, but this one did it.

Never mind that in February three economists from the Institute for Fiscal Studies found that the VAT cut had raised real consumption by 1.2 per cent; is Brooks not aware of the tax cuts that the Conservatives have promised? He makes no mention of the party's grossly regressive pledge to raise the inheritance-tax threshold to £1m and appears unaware of the Tories' proposed tax break for married couples.

That Brooks endorses Osborne's call to withdraw fiscal stimulus -- at a time when US unemployment is at a 26-year high of 9.8 per cent -- should trouble his American readers. The greatest threat to economic recovery is not debt, but the fear of debt.The surest way for the US to increase its state deficit would be to cut stimulus spending and thereby dramatically weaken consumer demand. For the sake of the US economy, we must hope that Osborne's delusions do not win a wider audience.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Sadiq Khan gives Jeremy Corbyn's supporters a lesson on power

The London mayor doused the Labour conference with cold electoral truths. 

There was just one message that Sadiq Khan wanted Labour to take from his conference speech: we need to be “in power”. The party’s most senior elected politician hammered this theme as relentlessly as his “son of a bus driver” line. His obsessive emphasis on “power” (used 38 times) showed how far he fears his party is from office and how misguided he believes Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters are.

Khan arrived on stage to a presidential-style video lauding his mayoral victory (a privilege normally reserved for the leader). But rather than delivering a self-congratulatory speech, he doused the conference with cold electoral truths. With the biggest personal mandate of any British politician in history, he was uniquely placed to do so.

“Labour is not in power in the place that we can have the biggest impact on our country: in parliament,” he lamented. It was a stern rebuke to those who regard the street, rather than the ballot box, as the principal vehicle of change.

Corbyn was mentioned just once, as Khan, who endorsed Owen Smith, acknowledged that “the leadership of our party has now been decided” (“I congratulate Jeremy on his clear victory”). But he was a ghostly presence for the rest of the speech, with Khan declaring “Labour out of power will never ever be good enough”. Though Corbyn joined the standing ovation at the end, he sat motionless during several of the applause lines.

If Khan’s “power” message was the stick, his policy programme was the carrot. Only in office, he said, could Labour tackle the housing crisis, air pollution, gender inequality and hate crime. He spoke hopefully of "winning the mayoral elections next year in Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham", providing further models of campaigning success. 

Khan peroration was his most daring passage: “It’s time to put Labour back in power. It's time for a Labour government. A Labour Prime Minister in Downing Street. A Labour Cabinet. Labour values put into action.” The mayor has already stated that he does not believe Corbyn can fulfil this duty. The question left hanging was whether it would fall to Khan himself to answer the call. If, as he fears, Labour drifts ever further from power, his lustre will only grow.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.