Joe Storey is an A-Level student who is researching Margaret Thatcher’s influence on the current Conservative party’s economic policies.
Seventeen years on from the ‘New Labour, Same Danger’ campaign, the party’s policies remain as dangerous as ever. In a matter of months, the electorate will have the opportunity to make their voice heard at the ballot box. With little time left before this vital moment, it is important the electorate remembers the damage that the last Labour Government was responsible for, namely debt at record levels, a bulging deficit, education bereft of rigour and a shambolic energy policy: these are the remnants of a Labour Government.
Even whilst amassing record levels of debt, the Labour administration still managed to preside over a decline in manufacturing far larger than occurred under Thatcher and the longest and largest recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s. To top off their already abysmal economic record, Labour left the incoming government with the biggest deficit in peacetime history. One damning statistic which undermines Labour’s claims that debt spiralled in all states post-2008 is that between 2000 and 2008, Germany’s debts grew by seven per cent, whilst the UK’s spiralled by 157 per cent.
Furthermore, the IMF has calculated that in 2007 (at the zenith of economic growth), the UK was operating a structural deficit 5.3 per cent of GDP, the largest in the G7. Despite this, Labour simply have not learnt: Ed Balls has claimed he is “proud” of Labour’s spending and when asked if the level of public spending was too high under the Labour government, responded “No, I don’t.” If Ed Balls’ idea of an acceptable level of public spending is £671.5 billion (at that level, government spending is 47.7 per cent of GDP), I dread to imagine what level he deems unacceptable.
As someone coming to the end of their time in education, it’s glaringly obvious that Labour cannot be trusted with it. Whilst it was Tony Blair who once claimed the Labour party’s priority would be ‘education, education, education’, but they only delivered failure after failure after failure. All attempts at rigour were abandoned and replaced with rampant grade inflation which was based on the false premise that students were getting smarter. When the A* was introduced at GCSE level in 1994, only 2.9 per cent achieved it; at the end of Labour’s premiership, 8 per cent of students were awarded this grade.
The problem was not solely confined to GCSEs. As the OECD concluded: “The share of A–level entries awarded grade A has risen continuously for 18 years and has roughly trebled since 1980 … independent surveys of cognitive skills do not support this development.” Despite the supposed intellectual gains made under Labour, their record speaks for itself: in the 2000 PISA rankings, the UK’s science, reading and maths rankings were fourth, seventh and eighth respectively. In 2009, when the last PISA ranking under Labour took place, the UK had fallen to 16th, 25th and 28th in those subjects (albeit alongside an increase in the number of countries surveyed).
All is not lost, however, with Michael Gove at the helm of the Department for Education. Under his control, the Conservatives will endeavour to ensure there are no more generations exposed to substandard education as they were under the last government. Years of endless re-sits, grade inflation and encouraging the study of subjects which were not valued by higher education institutions or employers has come to an end under Gove, allowing future generation to reap the rewards.
Energy policy is another area where Labour lack credibility. Ironically, it is the party who championed the 2008 Climate Change Act and green taxes, who are now haranguing the Coalition for price rises which were fuelled by policies implemented by the last Labour government. Furthermore, gas prices rose by 133 per cent and electricity by 69 per cent; the party of the so-called cost-of-living-crisis is Labour. Their energy illiteracy has continued in this Parliament; now Labour is offering an unworkable energy price freeze, the re-introduction of an energy pool they originally abolished in 2001 (with an estimated cost of £1.4 billion according to the National Audit Office) and to break up the ‘Big Six’, even though it was Labour who oversaw a reduction in the number of energy supply companies from 14 to just six firms.
Perhaps Labour should be forgiven, as they have finally apologised for their haphazard immigration policy, which transpired to be their most ignominious debacle. Labour is responsible for three million migrants entering the UK, which put an unnecessary strain on infrastructure and public services. The apology, however, seems hollow given their futile proposals aimed at controlling immigration. With the majority of immigration coming from the EU as part of its Four Freedoms, it seems fair to conclude Labour have no interest in controlling immigration as they do not want a referendum on Europe, nor do they support Conservative attempts to reform the EU. Infact, the only real policies Labour have had on Europe in recent years is to agree to the EU constitution, ratify the Lisbon Treaty and sacrifice half of Thatcher’s rebate, with a cost each to each UK household of £344 and an overall cost to the economy of £9.3 billion.
Finally, the fallacious notion that Labour continues to be the ‘workers’ party’ must be dispelled. The evidence speaks for itself: it was Labour who introduced punitive green taxes, abolished the 10p rate of tax (doubling the rate of income tax for 5 million working people) and allowed the welfare bill to balloon to a point whereby people would be better off out of work, rather than in work. Whilst cleaning up the mess that Labour left, the Conservative-led coalition has cut income tax for those on the lowest incomes, reduced the green taxes (which Ed Miliband himself is responsible for) and has created the conditions for a record level of employment in the UK. Despite the huff and bluster from the opposition benches, the Conservatives have delivered for the UK. The highest predicted growth rate in the G7, the budget deficit cut by a third and record levels of employment; these are achievements that the party should be happy to be judged on.
Whilst the party should be proud of their record thus far, it is imperative they do not become complacent. There is no denying that Britain still has a long list of problems, but only a Conservative government can solve them. Only a Conservative-majority can deliver a referendum on Europe, repeal the Human Rights Act and clip the wings of Strasbourg, whilst eradicating the deficit and implementing a more efficient tax system which leaves more money in people’s pockets.