Blair endorses Cameron’s economic policy

Says he would have raised VAT and reduced the Budget deficit faster than Brown.

When David Cameron declared, at a 2005 dinner with newspaper executives, that he was "the heir to Blair" he was more right than he could have known.

In his memoir A Journey, Blair offers the coalition's economic policy his unequivocal endorsement and dismisses Gordon Brown as a retrograde Keynesian. He laments that Brown "bought completely the Keynesian 'state is back in fashion' thesis".

Had Blair led Labour into the election, he would have supported a "gradual rise in VAT", he says, a faster pace of deficit reduction and smaller increases in direct taxation.

Here's the key passage:

We should have taken a New Labour way out of the economic crisis: kept direct taxes competitive, had a gradual rise in VAT and other indirect taxes to close the deficit, and used the crisis to push further and faster on reform.

We've long known that while Blair reluctantly supported the new 45p top tax rate, he was opposed to the introduction of the 50p rate -- one of Labour's most popular policies.

On the deficit, he strikes a remarkably Cameron-sounding note:

If governments don't tackle deficits, the bill is footed by taxpayers, who fear that big deficits mean big taxes, both of which reduce confidence, investment and purchasing power.

To my mind, Labour is fortunate that Blair was not in power at the time of the financial crisis. Unlike Brown, he may not have supported the fiscal stimulus that prevented the economy from going into a death spiral.

Writing about the 2010 election, Blair also claims that the public elected "the government they wanted". In fact, most people voted for parties (Labour and the Lib Dems) that opposed immediate cuts in public spending and argued for a slower pace of deficit reduction. What they got was a government committed to economically reckless cuts and to a savage and regressive deficit reduction programme.

But, reading Blair's book, I'm inclined to ask: is there any policy of the coalition's that he disagrees with? The uncomfortable answer for his Labour admirers is: perhaps not.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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John McDonnell accuses Labour of “rigged purge” of Corbyn supporters

The shadow chancellor criticises the party's national executive committee for its expulsion of members and supporters from the leadership election.

John McDonnell has accused Labour of targeting Jeremy Corbyn's supporters in a "purge" of those allowed to vote in the leadership election.

"Labour party members will not accept what appears to be a rigged purge of Jeremy Corbyn supporters", the shadow chancellor wrote. "The conduct of this election must be fair and even-handed."

McDonnell, who is Corbyn's campaign manager, added: "I am writing to Labour's general secretary Iain McNicol to demand that members and supporters who are suspended or lose their voting rights are given clear information about why action has been taken and a timely opportunity to challenge the decision. In particular, the specification of particular terms of abuse to exclude Labour party members from voting should not be applied retrospectively."

The statement follows the suspension of Bakers' Union boss Ronnie Draper from voting in the election, an action Draper attributed to unspecified previous social media posts. Labour's national executive committee has not commented on the reasons for his suspension.

"While Ronnie, a supporter of Jeremy Corbyn, has been denied his say in Labour's elecion, no action is being taken over the Labour peer, Lord Sainsbury, who has given more than £2m to support the Liberal Democrats," McDonnell said. "And no action has been taken against Michael Foster, the Labour party member who abused Jeremy Corbyn's supporters and staff as Nazi stormtroopers in the Daily Mail."

McDonnell's statement adds to an already febrile mood over the election, which sees Corbyn pitted against challenger Owen Smith. A week ago, a group of Labour grandees signed a letter condemning "intolerable" attacks on party staff - who are not allowed to respond to allegations made against them. The latest statement will be seen as a warning shot to general secretary Iain McNicol, who the leadership feel has consistently interpreted the party's rules to Corbyn's disadvantage. 

Helen Lewis is deputy editor of the New Statesman. She has presented BBC Radio 4’s Week in Westminster and is a regular panellist on BBC1’s Sunday Politics.