Tonight's vote on the Government's Charter for Budget Responsibility should have been a rare bipartisan moment for the Conservatives and Labour to come together for the good of the economy and the country. A mere two weeks ago, it looked like it would be. The Chancellor proposes to eliminate the deficit and thereafter keep the Government living within the country's means on a year-by-year basis unless, and only when, there is a shock to the economy, outside of normal growth, normal times, that requires an unusual course of action. It is a commitment to avoid the mistakes of the past. What a shame that those mistakes of the past are back, with a vengeance, as present day Labour Party policy. Any prospect of a bipartisan approach has been ditched for the old divisive politics of Old Labour dogma.
In May, the British people returned a Conservative Government that pledged to finish the job of putting our house in order. The electorate trusted us to carry on with our long-term economic plan. And the Charter for Budget Responsibility - the common sense belief in sound finances - is a key part in cementing that plan with independent and transparent oversight from the Office for Budget Responsibility. This safeguard is designed to recognise that the trust of the British people is something we value and intend to keep. 'Honest politics' was a Labour slogan in the conference hall, the Charter makes it a legislative reality from the Conservatives in Parliament. We know that a surplus is the right goal, and that countries with a surplus are stronger and more dynamic than debt-ridden ones lurching from crisis to bailout to internationally agreed (often imposed) restructuring plan.
It is precisely because Germany is careful with its money that it is successful, and precisely because others in Europe followed the borrow-and-spend-and-spend-some-more approach the Shadow Chancellor wants to impose on Britain, that the debt-laden countries have needed a German bailout. It's as though some on the Left see Germany's budget surplus as a sign of weakness rather than strength. An €18billion ball and chain around Angela Merkel's ankle, pulling her back, draining her of energy. "Come on Frau Kanzlerin," they cry, "sure you have a surplus across all German government levels for the first time since reunification but, hey, the view from the top of the debt mountain is wonderful." And in the UK, it is the same Old Labour plan that they have tried before: if you see success, punish it, remove it, use it to reward failure. They have deluded themselves that this time it will work, and they are now trying to convince the public. John McDonnell calls it "tactics", Diane Abbott laughs.
Labour talks about inspiring Britain's youth when its aim is to saddle the next generation and the generation after that with an uncontrolled national debt. We Conservatives want something new: a new commitment to budget responsibility, a new pact of fairness between the generations, a new assurance of independent scrutiny backed up by law. That is what the Government is offering and I will be proud to support them in the lobby tonight. It is a shame that Labour MPs won't be doing the same in the national interest.