Speaking in Cardiff recently, George Osborne warned that the UK faces a 'dangerous cocktail' of economic risks, pinning the blame on external forces such as China's slowing economy, for example. This is in stark contrast to the upbeat tone the Chancellor adopted during his Autumn Statement where you'd be forgiven for thinking the economy was thriving under the Conservatives.
The grave problem with Osborne's speech was that he created one rule for his own party, and another for Labour. For years, the Tories have blamed the global financial crisis of 2007-08 solely on Labour's supposed overspending, despite many economists highlighting that the crash was in fact caused by a dramatic housing bubble experienced around the world. Yet in doing so effectively, they have convinced vast swathes of the general public that Labour cannot be trusted with the economy, which pollsters have indicated was Labour's downfall in last year's general election, as well as in 2010.
Indeed, this campaign to discredit Labour's economic credibility has been the Tories' greatest triumph in decades as it has led them to two successive election victories, defying the pollsters in the most recent election and winning a majority of seat in parliament. If it were not for this campaign and the public still trusted Labour to run the economy, then it is conceivable that we would not have witnessed two consecutive election defeats for Labour.
However, despite the success of this Tory campaign, it stinks of hypocrisy. For it claims that it is perfectly adequate to blame Labour for the global financial crisis of 2007-08, yet when it comes to the Tories and what would seem to be a tough economic year ahead, it is merely the fault of external forces.
It is now vital that Labour calls out this hypocrisy and takes the fight to the Tories when it comes to the economy, for if they don't they risk another election defeat in 2020. Arguably, Ed Miliband's greatest mistake during the lead-up to the last election was that he failed to tackle the Tory myth that Labour 'overspending' triggered the financial crisis.
Furthermore, the Tories will undoubtedly use this poor economic news as an excuse to implement even more devastating austerity, with Osborne warning of a 'creeping complacency' and highlighting how we need to 'get down to work' and 'finish the job'. In other words, how even more cuts are on the way, despite already creaking public services failing to cope with the extent of funding cuts.
Rather than 2016 being the year of more cuts, as Osborne has suggested, it needs to be the year when the public is presented with a coherent economic strategy that differs substantially from the one on offer from the Tories. Sure, the election is not until 2020, but now is still the time for Labour to effectively take on the Tory myth that they are responsible for the financial crisis and begin to build momentum surrounding the economy. Accepting responsibility for something the Labour Party is not responsible for is not only ridiculous, but has proven to be ineffective in the last election. Just as the economy starts to slow and Osborne's so-called 'long-term economic plan' begins to unravel, there has never been a better time for a real economic alternative. It's up to Labour to deliver it.