All recessions are bad. Businesses go bust; men and women lose their jobs, families are torn apart because of the stresses and strains that financial constraints brings, crime rises, public services are cut and people lose faith in their Leaders and in each other.
I won’t pretend that recession under Labour is somehow not like this. To do so would not only be naive but it would be misleading.
This November will see President Obama take on Governor Mitt Romney for the right to be President of the United States. It is hard to believe that four years ago, the world watched in awe as America showed their ability to take ten steps forward and elect the first black man to the leader of the free World.
During that campaign we were mesmerised, as we always are during televised American Presidential campaigns, by the “promise of America” and “the American Dream!” We were all inspired to believe in a new politics, albeit on the other side of the Atlantic, but one that was tangible and could one day be replicated in this place. We were all part, in spirit at least, of the “Yes We Can” brigade. And on the day of my 45th birthday on November 4th 2008, we all felt part of history.
Little did we know that just as Obama was capturing the imagination of the world, Britain’s banks were careering over a financial precipice of their own creation. Sheer gread resulting in a worldwide crisis that still reverberates today. It was a time when it looked like Capitalism would eat itself. A time when U-turns from those who at one stage were pressing for greater deregulation of the financial markets (Osborne/Cameron et al) made a mockery of mature politics. And a time when those innocent of any part in the downfall of the banking sector (the general public) where forced to bail out those really responsible: THE GREEDY BANKERS!
Four years feels like a long time. The days of the New Hampshire primary and the euphoria over Hillary Clinton and Obama’s election challenge are now but moments in history. Since that election, Britain has suffered the worst recession in living memory. Caused, in part, by the failure to regulate the banks, but caused in even larger part by the banks’ mismanagement and market greed.
And despite facing a media relentless in their pursuit of Gordon Brown’s blood, the Labour Party actually steered Britain out of recession 12 months earlier than most economists were predicting. Unemployment levels were falling and we had growth in the economy. This wasn’t by chance, but by making sure we put money in people’s pockets so they could spend.
Whether or not you voted for Labour or indeed, whether you chose to protest against Gordon Brown and abstain, vote Liberal Democrat or even vote Tory, the sober eye of history makes it absolutely clear that Labour were right all along.
Obama followed Brown’s lead and while it is true to suggest that the path America has taken has been far from smooth, (with recent question marks over the numbers of jobs created), it has been one that has now yielded economic growth, business confidence and additional employment.
Biullingdon Boys Cameron and Osborne of course knew better. By embarking on an austerity programme that was more of an ideological siege on the size of the state, they ruined any chance of economic growth and instead brought us back into a totally avoidable double dip recession made by them in Nos 10 and 11 Downing Street.
That’s the bit that hurts, doesn’t it? This was totally avoidable. And we warned that this would happen.
You see, Cameron was elected leader of the Conservative Party in December 2005. Between 2006 and September 2008, Cameron and his best mate Boy George Osborne, constantly argued that we needed to spend more and loosen the 'regulatory burden' on the banks. The hypocrisy of the pair is just staggering.
As soon as Lehman Brothers crashed in America, Cameron was straight up at the dispatch box to tell people that Labour’s investment in teachers, doctors, nurses, fire fighters, police officers, care workers, businesses, roads, railways, schools, universities and every other segment of the public sector, was the reason the world - not just Britain, but the world – was now in recession.
So what’s his excuse this time? Cameron blames Labour. We had a solution in 2010 that yielded jobs and growth and we have a solution in 2012 that will yield jobs and growth. Cameron blames the Eurozone. Germany and France avoided recession and in fact, had it not been for the Eurozone and our trade exports, Britain would have been in recession well before April 2012. Cameron blames the “inflated public sector” but promised the private sector would fill the gap entirely, therefore recognising the need for the jobs and the investment. Cameron blames the future King of England for marrying his bride. Stats would suggest the Royal wedding provided a boost to the economy with added tourists and more shopping and leisure time. Cameron blames the snow, yet we had one of the warmest winters on record. When will Cameron stop blaming everyone else and recognise, this was a recession made in Downing Street and delivered by a couple of posh boys out of touch with the reality of ordinary peoples' lives.
So as Barack Obama prepares for the campaign trail again and as the world prepares to watch yet another rollercoaster US election, the message from the White House is clear; we got it right, it will be tough, but we’re on course and we will get through this. It will be a fresh campaign, with new slogans and more speeches that will find their place in the history books come November.
Downing Street will look on wondering ‘what if’? What if we had economic growth? What if unemployment was falling, not rising? What if we had the words to inspire a nation? When Cameron stops wondering, he will realise that the reality is he has got this badly, badly wrong. It’s time now that our Prime Minister put people before politics and found a plan B.