What is Labour’s march message?

THE TUC’s March for the Alternative might have brought hundreds of thousands of people on to the streets of London to protest about government policies, but do we really know any more about the “Alternative” that the opposition is looking for?

Leaving aside the tiny proportion of troublemakers who seemed to want to do the government’s job by discrediting the main march, I’m not at all sure about the message that came from the day.

Many of the people marching don’t seem to want to see any government spending cuts . . . ever.

I’m sorry, but that is a totally unrealistic position – and it is not a position that is backed in any shape or form by the Labour leadership.

The official Labour stance is that there should be spending cuts but they should not be as harsh as those planned by the coalition and that they should take place over a longer period of time. This is not an unreasonable or irresponsible policy to pursue.

It is a policy that has the backing of eminent “Keynesian” economists and it is not a million miles away from the economic policy being followed by the Obama administration in the US.

It would see the gradual reduction of the deficit while not creating such a high danger of a “double-dip” recession that some people think this country is heading for. But it is emphatically not a policy of “no cuts”.

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And that is the policy that many people taking part in last Saturday’s march seemed to be supporting.

I know Ed Miliband didn’t say there should be no cuts in his speech, but he took great pains to avoid saying what cuts he would be prepared to see implemented.

In Suffolk the Labour Party has not said there should be no cuts at the county council – it has said that certain cuts like divestment of libraries and school crossing patrols are pointless and will cause more problems than they will solve.

That is a totally reasonable position and a basis for a robust political debate with the Conservative administration.

Ed Miliband and other senior Labour figures were keen to associate themselves with a march attended by hundreds of thousands of people in London at the weekend.

But they need to remember that if they want to regain power at the next general election the views of a large number of people prepared to give up their weekend don’t necessarily reflect the views of all voters.