Why do the British shy away from optimism? We seem much more comfortable in being miserable and bemoaning our lot in life. When Obama appeared with his message of hope, the people of the US embraced that and whipped out their shades to look to the bright future he spoke of. Why is it then, that in the UK, when the signs are that the recession is ending, all we hear are cynics and naysayers, talking our country down?
I understand the Tories' motives, I mean they are hardly going to say that Gordon Brown has done a great job – no matter what the rest of the world says about his achievements in saving the banks. Despite David Cameron trying to convince us that Gordon is not a strong and decisive leader, those are exactly the words that were used to describe the action he took over the banking crisis. He has previously been hailed as “Gordon Brown: European Superhero” by Le Monde and as the “saviour of the world financial system” by Paul Krugman in the New York Times. The fact remains that Gordon Brown was the best leader to guide the country through this world-wide recession and he remains the best person to nurture and encourage the growth that is at last beginning to appear.
The Conservative Government in the early 1990s also had a recession to deal with. Admittedly, the fall in GDP during that recession was lower than the cumulative effects of six consecutive quarters of negative-growth that we have seen in this recession, BUT the number of businesses failing and house repossessions were higher. The figures for unemployment in this recession have been consistently lower than in other recessions in recent history. Figures for the third quarter of 2009 – the sixth quarter of this recession – show the rate of unemployment to be at 7.8%. When this is compared with previous recessions, it can be seen that in the same quarter of the recession in the 1980s, the unemployment rate was up to 9.6% and in the sixth-quarter of the 1990s recession it stood at 9.5%.
Being in work is not just an economic necessity, it is of psychological importance too. Having a purpose, doing something constructive and useful adds value to people's lives. Obtaining a skill that will enable economic survival by providing employability brings hope to the young. Importantly, this Labour government understands that. The priority for the Conservative government that presided over the recessions in the 1980s and 1990s was not to help the blue-collar workers, which is why unemployment was allowed to rise as it did. Margaret Thatcher deliberately moved the UK away from the traditional manufacturing industries and pushed us into greater reliance on finance and banking. Now, that isn't me saying that we can blame Thatcher for this recession, it really was a world-wide phenomenon, but I am suggesting that some of the effects that the UK has felt from it, would have had less impact, had we nurtured and maintained our industrial heritage, rather than throwing it away.
Gordon Brown and the Labour party have policies that genuinely stem from wanting ALL people in the UK to have better lives. Assisting young people into training and work through schemes like the 'jobs guarantee' for all 18 – 25 year-olds and SureStart, which enables parents to obtain the support they need to help them back into the workforce are measures that not only give opportunity but also hope. This will end though, should David Cameron and his Conservatives obtain power in the forthcoming General Election.
Cameron is calling for cuts, cuts, cuts, a plan that further exposes his ignorance when it comes to fiscal policy – let us remind ourselves that Cameron was Special Advisor to Chancellor Norman Lamont at the time of Black Wednesday. With the first signs of growth being announced for the last quarter of 2009 and a fall in unemployment, it is a time for care and vigilance. Knee-jerk reactions are not what we need; Gordon Brown has warned that the action Cameron proposes would risk the recovery, halt growth and jeopardise jobs, we need to reduce the deficit steadily, he says. Brown is the voice of experience here, laying down plans that will reap rewards in the future, not trying to make a short-term point for political gain.
When I speak to young people in my area, they are not pessimistic about the future. They are looking forward to going to college, university or beginning work. They haven't yet developed negative, unnecessary cynicism and most of them understand which of the political parties will look out for them. They are angry when they hear David Cameron talk about “Broken Britain” – that is not the Britain they know. They are right, Britain isn't broken. Eighteen-years of Conservative rule gave her a battering, a bloody nose and almost broke her spirit but they didn't break her.
We must work to ensure the Labour policies that bring opportunity to those who need it most are able to continue. These are policies that allow young people to have ambition, policies that are there to benefit the majority. We have to fight the cynicism and negativity and look to the future with hope.
Under a Labour government, we can.