Friday 6 January 2012

Cutting the credibility deficit

Shadow Defence Secretary Jim Murphy has today suggested that Labour needs to have “genuine credibility” on the economy.

While Murphy is not the first frontbench Labour MP to make such a claim in recent weeks, with Ed Balls highlighting a similar approach in the latest Fabian Review, this idea was also expressed in the Fabian Society’s September 2010 pamphlet The Credibility Deficit by Stephen Beer which focused on Labour rebuilding its economic credibility and in the process regaining the public’s trust.

You can read Stephen Beer's The Credibility Deficit here.

At the centre of this pamphlet’s assertions was the notion that Labour faces a difficult challenge it must overcome in order to win the next general election. In fact Stephen Beer claimed Labour needed to respond to the tough decisions it faced on the economy, outline an economic plan for the future rather than a retrospective attack on Coalition policy and most importantly close the economic credibility gap that was first conceived and then grew during Labour’s last years in office.

It is worth noting that these same arguments are now being widely embraced by the frontbench of the Labour Party. Before Christmas, Ed Balls hit the press with his argument for what he termed a “platform of competence” stating, “Rightly or wrongly, there is public scepticism about Labour's willingness to take tough decisions on public spending. A big part of my task is to turn that round and win that argument.”

Mirroring this, Jim Murphy’s interview with the Guardian, in which he has outlined a willingness to accept £5bn in defence cuts, adds to this growing consensus. Purporting to advocate cuts to Nimrod spy planes, deliver savings on trident and instigate cuts to civilian allowances, Murphy claimed. "It is important to be both credible and popular when it comes to defence investment and the economics of defence,” adding, “Credibility is the bridge away from populism and towards popularity.”

Ahead of Saturday 14th January’s Fabian New Year Conference there is a renewed focus on how Labour gains economic credibility in proposing the economic alternative, and it is imperative that such a policy convinces the public. To ensure this, Labour must conquer their demons and be willing to add weight behind these proposals. Coherence is key, as is conviction. With these tenants guiding the party’s path the argument can be won. Either way, success or failure, the next year promises to play a pivotal role in determining Labour’s credibility on the economy.

This is a guest post by Fabian Society intern Kenneth Way.

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