Wednesday, 27 November 2019

Is Labour's manifesto achievable?

A lot of the coverage of Labour’s manifesto has concentrated on the question of affordability.  Where, people ask, will all the money come from?  It is fundamentally the wrong question to be asking.  As Professor Richard Murphy explains succinctly here, a government in control of its own currency can always afford to do whatever it wants to do; the question is whether, when, and how the money subsequently needs to be recovered from the economy.  The distinction between finding the money in advance and recovering it after the event may look a small one, but it’s key to understanding the way government finances work – spending always precedes taxation, and spending creates economic growth and jobs.
More importantly for me is the question about how practicable the Labour manifesto is.  There’s much with which I’d agree (although why, oh why, did they feel the need to throw in support for Wylfa Newydd?), but it’s a highly ambitious program which will not only require a huge amount of legislation to be passed through Parliament, but also a huge amount of energy and time to implement on the ground.  I seriously doubt that a government – any government, even a highly competent one – could do all that in the short timescale apparently being promised, even if it hadn’t already committed itself to spending at least the first six months preoccupied with Brexit.  That’s a minimum of 10% of the parliament gone before they could even start on the other stuff.  It’s not that any of what they promise isn’t do-able (and affordable!) in itself; it’s rather a question of whether anyone can really change as much as that as quickly as that.  It left me with the impression that they are happy to promise the earth knowing that it’s unlikely they’ll be called on to deliver.

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