The speech made by Paul Maynard, the Conservative MP for Blackpool North and Cleveleys, in the House of Commons on 23 February 2021.
Let us be clear about this debate: it was Labour who failed to fix the roof while the sun was shining, so that when the financial crisis struck, we lacked the resilience we needed as a nation to do what was necessary. Labour spent a decade pretending that it never happened—that it was a global crisis that did not affect us here and was nothing to do with them. But there was no money left, as that famous letter said. Despite having spent the last few weeks campaigning to regulate the “Buy now, pay later” sector, it is clear that Gordon Brown was the founder of the Klarna approach: he spent now and bought now, expecting the British people to be the ones to pay later.
After 2010, the Conservatives did fix the roof, and we now have the financial resilience we need to do what we have had to do to protect jobs and livelihoods as the coronavirus wave broke across our shores. Labour harp on about those they claim have not benefited from a Conservative Government, both before and during the pandemic. However, it would be remiss of me, representing a constituency with so much deprivation, not to observe that it is this Conservative Government who cut income tax by around £1,200 for the average basic rate taxpayer, by lifting the income tax threshold to £12,500. Labour’s approach, of course, was to abolish the 10p rate of income tax. Income inequality, however we measure it, is lower than it was in 2009-10, and a third fewer children live in a workless household. Although there is more to do to tackle in-work poverty, I find it hard to credit that some see this reduction still as a bad thing.
We introduced a national living wage, which raised incomes in areas of low average incomes such as my constituency, and universal credit to address the challenges of seasonal unemployment, which were such a scourge in seaside resorts, and let us not forget that the top 1% in this country pay a greater share of income tax than they did when Labour was in power.
To be fair to the shadow Chancellor, who I believe is that rare thing, a thoughtful politician, I do not think she would deliberately seek to drive the economy over the cliff. However, I fear that she would be too busy rummaging in the glove box for a Labour road map to see what was fast approaching. In her Mais lecture in January, she quoted Gordon Richardson’s 1978 Mais lecture, in which he said:
“We are now at an historical juncture when the conventional methods of economic policy are being tested.”
In trying to apply that to now, she seemed to miss the irony that it was a criticism of precisely the statist solutions that Labour offered in the 1970s and is reheating now.
Like every Opposition day debate so far in this Parliament, this debate has had an air of unreality about it. It is only thanks to Conservative policies that we are in the position we are in to deal with the crisis we face now.