“If we are to win back trust we have to start by admitting that we should not have been running a significant deficit in the years before the crash.” Who says this? Liz Kendall, the Blairite candidate for the Labour leadership, who also supports Michael Gove’s mad ‘Free Schools’ idea? No. It’s the one candidate I would have considered voting for in the election: Andy Burnham. But this is not an admission of a truth: it’s accepting the Tory lie about Labour being responsible for the worldwide economic crash. And it wasn’t true. Gordon Brown didn’t cause the collapse of Lehman Brothers or Northern Rock or the crash of the entire Greek and Spanish economies.
And there’s worse. Which was the audience to which Burnham was addressing his comments? The Parliamentary Labour Party? The Fabian Group? The Labour Conference? Why, no. He was addressing an audience at serial tax dodgers Ernst Young.
As if to confirm his pro business credentials, Burnham then says this:
“We didn’t celebrate the spirit of enterprise. Far too rarely over the last few years has Labour spoken up in praise of the everyday heroes of our society. The small businessman or woman, the sole trader, the innovator, the inventor, the entrepreneur. The small businesses that become big businesses. The people with the creative spark to think of a new idea and the get-up-and-go to make it work. Who often have to fight against the odds to succeed, but put in the hours, the sweat and the hard graft to do it.
“So I want this message to go out loud and clear today: Labour must always champion wealth creation, and show we understand that if we want high-skill, high-wage jobs then we have to support the businesses that create them.”
I don’t disagree with much of this, but has Labour ever been against those “everyday heroes” to whom Burnham refers? Not to my knowledge they haven’t and I wouldn’t want to know a Labour Party that was against them. I have friends who come under all these categories, who work hard, employ people and, yes, create wealth. I would argue that these are the very people who form part of the aspirant, meritocratic country I long for. I read into Burnham’s words a bit more than perhaps he has actually said. I sense a “but” in there somewhere. “We didn’t celebrate the spirit of enterprise and instead just kept banging on about those pesky nurses, doctors, teachers and free fighters.”
Above all, I am mightily pissed off by what Burnham said and by how he said it. The election of Liz Kendall as Labour leader might see me not even bothering to vote Labour, but more of this and Burnham will come into that category. Yes, by all means shout from the rooftops that we need entrepreneurs to help create wealth, but just remember why Labour was created in the first place: to enable all of us to share in it.
I don’t remember the Labour government of which Burnham was a cabinet member “celebrating the spirit of public service”, never mind “the spirit of enterprise”. I don’t remember being rewarded by words or by money. In fact, whilst the Labour government was nowhere near as bad to those of us on the frontline as the Tory/Liberal one, it was far from perfect. In terms of restricting pay and all but ending career progression for all but the select few where I worked, the Blair/Brown era didn’t regard us as “everyday heroes”. We were not allowed to innovate, seek to improve, be creative or come up with new ideas. Certainly in much of the public sector, Labour did everything on the cheap and hard work was certainly not rewarded. The bad news for public sector workers now is that we now have a government which absolutely hates everything they stand for. We were just cost factors to them as we are to the Tories.
If Burnham is saying all these things to appease the right wing press, he is wasting his time. Fresh with the blood of Ed Miliband, Murdoch, Rothermere, Desmond and the Barclay Brothers are thirsty for more. Murdoch has already set the attack dogs on Burnham and it is a war he cannot win by trying to say what he thinks they will want to hear. If he is going to big up the “wealth creators”, then big up the “life savers” too.
There is still time for Andy Burnham to convince me that maybe he is the right man after all. I’ve no idea how he can do that, mind you, unless he has a purpose for and a vision of the Labour Party he wants to lead. At first, I thought he was the best of a bad bunch, but now I see him as little better than a member of a bad bunch. And if people want Tory policies, they will probably vote for the real thing in 2020 rather than a pale red version.