Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves has been clear that an incoming Labour government will not be able to immediately ‘turn things around’ after the general election.

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Today a reader disputes her claim and points to post-war Labour leader Clement Attlee as an example of how a Labour government has the capacity to dig the UK out of a ditch in dire times.

Leah Gunn Barrett of Edinburgh writes:

"Rachel Reeves told Laura Kuenssberg at the weekend that an English Labour government’s economic inheritance “will be the worst since the Second World War.” 

Reeves should study how the 1945 Labour Attlee government dug itself out of the fiscal hole it inherited. It launched a massive public spending programme that created the NHS, brought coal mines, power companies and railways into public ownership, and invested in education, social services and housing. 

The economy flourished with full employment and no inflation, enabling the UK to retire its war debt. The People became the owners of public assets that later were foolishly sold to private companies under Margaret Thatcher, robbing the people of trillions of pounds. 

The post-war economic miracle was possible because John Maynard Keynes, Attlee’s advisor, knew that cutting spending during an economic slump would only deepen it.  He understood that because the government creates all the money it can never go broke. He knew that government spending priorities signal to the private sector where it should invest, e.g., in new hospitals, schools, energy efficient homes. Public, not private, spending drives growth. 

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The last 15 years demonstrate that spending cuts don’t grow the economy. The UK is in recession, unemployment is up, businesses are failing and inequality is worsening. Yet Reeves promises more austerity.

English Labour has also reneged on its pledge to renationalise energy, rail, mail and water (in England). It need only look to Norway, France and Denmark, which fully or partially own their energy companies and are part-owners of UK energy where they make significant profits. If they can see the benefits in public ownership, why can’t Labour?

Reeves bragged to Kuenssberg that leftover croissants from meetings go to her staff. Crumbs are all that English Labour offers Scotland. It’s time to end the failing union."

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