Week 42: Villain – George Osborne & The 21 Labour Abstainers

by Jackie_South on October 19, 2015

Con&Lab_villainThis week, we give a joint award for villainy to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and to the 21 Labour MPs that abstained on his fiscal charter

“George Osborne & The 21 Labour Abstainers” might sound like the indie band from hell, but (in a compromise by our editoral board) reflect the two sides of villainy in the Fiscal Charter agreed by Parliament last Wednesday.

First, the author of the Charter. No matter that Osborne himself had once described legislation where Parliament forced fiscal controls on itself as “vacuous and irrelevant”, he now has put a third such Act on the books since he has been Chancellor.

Osborne was right about this sort of legislation being vacuous and irrelevant: it does nothing to change anything the government plans to do and is meant as a political stunt with the principle objective of embarrass the opposition. But the villainy is less in the game-playing and more in the political intention that it makes concrete: the Fiscal Charter tightly defines “normal times” and prevents net government borrowing in those times – even if such borrowing was for investment that might help growth and generate greater returns to the Exchequer over time.

John McDonnell has had to carry out a U-turn on the charter once it was clear how restrictive its terms were. Sadly, 21 Labour MPs decided not to follow suit. No matter that their votes would have zero impact on either the public’s view of Labour’s economic policy or their own electorability – their abstentions were not about the party or their own political standing but a “matter of principle” devoid of political value. This is an act of personal vanity for show to the chattering classes, which of course can only hurt the Labour Party by demonstrating division within the party.

To emphasise that point, a number of the 21 chose to go running to the press afterwards, in the form of the not-very-Labour-friendly Times, complaining that they had received some critical emails from Labour members and suggesting that this was intimidatory behaviour by the party’s new leadership, rather than the frankly more likely explanation – the result of a spontaneous disgust by many party members sickened by their betrayal of the party’s anti-austerity values.

Even if their abstention could be dressed up as some sort of principle, their belly-aching to a hostile press is an open act of treachery.

So, step forward, you disgraced 21 to join the Chancellor in our list of shame:

  • Rushanara Ali
  • Ian Austin
  • Adrian Bailey
  • Ben Bradshaw
  • Ann Coffey
  • Simon Danczuk
  • Chris Evans
  • Frank Field
  • Mike Gapes
  • Margaret Hodge
  • Tristram Hunt
  • Graham Jones
  • Helen Jones
  • Liz Kendall
  • Chris Leslie
  • Fiona Mactaggart
  • Shabana Mahmood
  • Jamie Reed
  • Angela Smith
  • Graham Stringer
  • Gisela Stuart

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

John Stone October 20, 2015 at 6:09 am

Not sure if the 21 are villains or prats. The simple fact as you say is that there is no politicsl benefit to being sucked into playing Cam-borne’s idiotic little game. Instead, there is no reason why the whole Labour party should not get behind vocal opposition to these stunts and point out how the Tories are wasting legislative time on posturing when this country has so many more important issues to address.


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