Mike Yarwood is one of my lifetime favourite stand-up comedians. I used to enjoy, particularly, his impression of Harold Wilson.
He would start off with his Wilsonian narrowing of the eyes and take the pipe out of his mouth
“We of the Labour Party… “ and I would usually start to roll over before he said anything else. Many of the jokes were deprecating of the characters portrayed, as you would expect of an impressionist but those made about Wilson just seemed to be much more undermining. He would start to talk of Labour’s achievements. “Under Labour, we won the World Cup,” he said.
Behind that joke is a very cold uncomfortable truth for Labour. They really have very little to boast about. Their achievements can be summed up in one sentence. They have never succeeded in leaving the Nation in better economic shape coming out of office than when they went into it.
Looking at Labour’s record in Government during their hundred years of existence another pattern emerges. The longer they have been in power, the more destruction they leave behind. The problems that we face today come in the wake of 13 years of Labour Government. That is the longest consecutive period that they have been in power. We certainly have the economic problems to match that length of tenure.
Recently, I came across a document, published in 1977 by the Conservative Party entitled “the Right Approach.” I republish here the following extract from its introduction:
“In the 1950s, Tory freedom worked
“When the achievements of Conservative Governments in the 1950s are compared with what was happening before the 1951 election, there can be no disputing that. And if it seems strange now to be recalling the events of a quarter-century ago in a work which is primarily about the future, we make no apology for it. Another “break for freedom” is needed now: yet now our opponents are repeating with remarkable fidelity what was being said by the leaders of the Labour Party about the policy proposals which won the 1951 election for the Tories and were subsequently carried out.
The late Mr. Aneurin Bevan forecast ‘housing riots’ and –in one speech civil war. When they were not saying that a Tory Government would be at war with “Soviet Russia,” within 6 months Labour Ministers were threatening the British people with starvation and vastly increased prices if food rationing and subsidies were abolished. Indeed, the then Prime Minister, Mr. Attlee, in a revealing aside in one speech, actually said that if food rationing had been ‘good for the people’ in wartime it must surely be good for them in peacetime. And – of course – the Tories would create ‘massive unemployment.’
Apart from the customary abberations of Socialist politicians, there were many businessmen in industry and commerce who were less than enthusiastic about losing the certainties of regulated markets and being freed from familiar restraints of competition and enterprise.
In the event, of course, the real living standards of the British People rose rapidly. Everyone – not least the pensioners, who had fared very badly under Labour – was better off. At the same time, public spending was reduced and taxes cut. The housing programme surged ahead, people were better fed, and goods became available in the shops – not only for the rich – which had been absent for a decade.
We may be forgiven, then, for regarding with some amusement the precisely similar prognostications being made now by Labour Ministers and others about the likely results of our proposals to reverse – yet again – the familiar Socialist policies of massive public spending and borrowing, high taxation, controls and over-detailed planning.
Of course, we are not so simple to imagine that the circumstances of today are exactly similar to those of 1951 – or that history precisely repeats itself. In many respects, the economic plight of Britain in 1951 is considerably worse than that of 1951.
But a flashback to 1950-51 is a salutary exercise; for it shows that Labour governments always create the same kinds of problems and frustrations – and that socialists never really learn from their failures in the past. They may be pushed by events – or the IMF – into temporary conformity with the policies needed in a crisis. But their ideology remains unaltered and next time in office they are at it again.”
A similar updating document could have been written by the Conservatives before the last election with the opening words, “From 1979, Tory freedom worked”
Much of what was written in this piece could easily have described Labour in 2010. Their operation through New Labour was more sophisticated but they were still the ‘tax and spend’ party. They left the burden of taxation much higher than they started it with. They always leave Government in much more debt than they started with. They always blame all of things that have gone wrong on other things, such as the global economic recession. They tell the public that the Conservatives are the party of spending cuts and they are the party of public investment. The socialist leopard never really changed its spots. Labour’s record is a litany of socialist failure.
Once again, Labour have left the Conservatives (this time with the Liberal Democrats in coalition) to pick up the pieces. Just as in 1979 the Conservatives faced a much greater struggle than during the era which began in 1951; the coalition today faces a much greater struggle than the era which began in 1979. Austerity was difficult enough in the early 80s. It will be much more difficult than then during the next few years.