View from the Margins

Politics from a 'Marginal Constituency’ by Andy Reed

Anybody who has followed politics over the last few years cannot have failed to have been impressed by the case made by the WASPI women in their fight for their pensions.

If you haven’t been keeping up to date if you aren’t one of the the 3m women affected you can read some of the background here on the BBC News Story.

The case has been well made but it’s not really as clear cut as it seems and any policy and financial response needs to be carefully thought through.

But this weekend Labour took everybody by surprise by coming out to say it would pay £58bn of compensation to about 3m WASPI Women.

Over the next few days it will become clear how far in advance this policy announcement had been decided, because the way it has been announced seems strange and has sadly distracted from what should be good news for Labour.

As soon as I heard the launch I was surprised on two fronts. First it had been mentioned in the manifesto only a couple of days previously but without the promise of immediate action. Second and most importantly the manifesto was launched with commitments to £billions more in spending that was already difficult to sell on the doorstep to a cynical public wary of large uncounted spending commitments. To counter this Labour had ‘costed’ its manifesto and where the extra revenue was coming from to pay for each of its announcements. Already the respected IFS had questioned these figures but at least those on the doorstep and doing the TV studio interviews could point to the Grey Book and defend the position. However, it looks really strange announcing an extra £58bn of Spending just 48 hours later.

From a strategy point of view it looks either uncoordinated or nobody spotted the difficulty in maintaining fiscal credibility with the spending commitments already made and hard to defend. It undermines all the previous hard work to make some sense of the £billions more being spent. Labour has always had a harder level of scrutiny than the Tories on spending commitments. Why did the leadership make it even easier ?

The £58bn bill for this WASPI commitment will haunt Labour in this election. It’s a fiscal mistake they should have seen coming

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