This week saw chaos in Labour as its shadow chancellor John McDonnell withdrew his support for the Tory government’s fiscal charter, which commits governments to an absolute budget surplus whilst the economy is growing.
On Wednesday night the Commons voted through this measure by 320 to 258, with McDonnell forced to defend his “embarrassing” behaviour and 21 Labour MPs rebelling in the process.
But apparently nobody in opposition thought to consult the history books before the charter debate took place, which would have allowed them to reveal a similar change of heart on the part of George Osborne, the chancellor pushing through the charter.
Back in early 2010 Osbo was the one attacking the then Labour government’s Fiscal Responsibility Act, which called for government to borrow less as a percentage of gross domestic product for each succeeding year, among other things.
A clip from Guido Fawkes shows this in action:
Attacking the then chancellor Alistair Darling, Osborne said:
“Why is he the first chancellor in our history that feels he needs an act of parliament on top of a budget statement? There are only two explanations. Either he doesn’t trust himself to secure sound public finances, or he knows the public doesn’t trust him to secure them.”
As Guido points out, Labour would have done well to quote Osborne’s words right back at him.
But as both sides know, this is not about economics but the perception of economic competence that has proved so harmful for Labour and good for the Tories over decades of general elections.
It is also the second time the Tory government has used a bill as a political weapon against a weakened Labour in the wake of the election, a welfare bill having been used to split the party earlier in July.
Image Credit – George Osborne, South Wraxall, August 2015 by Gareth Milner