Why Labour Should Have Abstained on Osborne's Fiscal Charter

15/10/2015 13:14 BST | Updated 15/10/2016 10:12 BST

I agree with the Shadow Chancellor that there has to be an alternative to the Conservative Government's austerity agenda. In my own constituency of West Bromwich West I see very week in my surgeries the impact of the Government's cuts to public services, to housing and to our NHS.

However, Labour lost the General election, and we lost it badly. From our own internal polling it is clear that this was because of a perceived lack of credibility in our policies on tackling the public sector deficit and management of the economy.

The challenge for the Shadow Chancellor therefore was to underline our commitment to stable public finances whilst demonstrating that there is an alternative strategy to achieve this. A strategy that would allow us to commit to funding our education, healthcare and welfare without damaging the public finances. It was this approach that won three successive General elections for Labour. We were seen as delivering on the issues people care about, whilst being responsible with, and growing, the economy.

Opposing the fiscal charter leaves Labour open to charges of fiscal irresponsibility and inconsistency which played a large part in losing the last election and could undermine our ability to win in 2020.

I feel that Labour should have used the debate to underline its support for the underlying principles behind the charter; the need for balanced books and to live within our means whilst demonstrating the failure of the Government's austerity programme to deliver this.

By opposing the charter outright, Osborne was able to portray the Labour party as inconsistent and in denial of the economic challenges ahead, drowning out many of the legitimate points made by the Shadow Chancellor.

I abstained on the fiscal charter vote as I couldn't in good conscience support a party position which in my mind weakens the position of the Labour Party. Indeed, I believe that Labour should have abstained and then brought forward our own proposals during an opposition day debate. This way we could have highlighted the many flaws in the charter whilst demonstrating our commitment to fiscal responsibility.

The revised charter was no more than a political trap. An appropriate response would have been to abstain on the basis that it was irrelevant to dealing with the challenges presented by our sustained public sector deficit.

Like every other Labour MP I want to see our party returned to Government at the earliest possible opportunity. It is only by being in government that we can eradicate poverty and reduce inequality. My constituents need a Labour Government because it is only though being in government that we can turn our values into action.

To be in Government, we need to be able to demonstrate that we can be trusted on the economy. Failing to win back this trust means we will never make this a reality.

Adrian Bailey is the Labour MP for West Bromwich West