Freebies: the 'cynical trick'?

Update: Wednesday 11am

A great deal of response to Johann Lamont's speech - this is one take from the Spectator blog:

"Lamont's speech was, in effect, a repudiation of fifteen years of Labour thinking. The devolution years have been an exercise in fantasy politics in which everything has a value but nothing comes at a price. There will be cake for everyone. Labour built this political culture. Now it falls to Labour to try to change it".

You will, all being well, hear a Welsh Labour voice on this from the party's Manchester conference on Sunday Politics.

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Who said this?

"What is progressive about a chief executive on more than 100,000 a year not paying for his prescriptions, while a pensioner needing care has their care help cut?

"What is progressive about judges and lawyers earning more than 100,000 a year, not paying tuition fees for their child to follow in their footsteps at university, while one in four unemployed young people can't get a job or a place at college?"

I'll give you a clue. It's not Andrew RT Davies. It's a Labour leader and surprise, surprise, it's not Carwyn Jones.

Need to read more?

"I believe our resources must go to those in greatest need.

"But if the devil's greatest trick was to convince the world he didn't exist, Mr X's most cynical trick was to make people believe that more was free, when the poorest are paying for the tax breaks for the rich."

The answer is Johann Lamont, leader of Scottish Labour, in full flow in Holyrood today. Who is the Mr X and his 'cynical trick' of giving freebies that protect the affluent as much as the poor? That, of course, is Alex Salmond.

Image copyright Welsh Government
Image caption Free school breakfasts are here to stay.

Now I wasn't in Holyrood but my colleague, Brian Taylor, was. He lives there, I think. For his reading of what Ms Lamont was out to achieve, click here. If you're pushed for time, here's a bullet point precis:

  • The Scottish Labour leader is out to paint the SNP leader and First Minister as shifty.
  • She's doing it by attacking him for offering goodies when it's not clear they're affordable.
  • Why? Labour hope their leader will be seen as upfront and honest, that voters are fed up of politicians promising stuff when it's not clear where the money is coming from.
  • The SNP think she's just given them a freebie - her head on a plate. After all, these policies are popular and seen as positive.

"We are not going to touch free prescriptions. If you look at what people have found most beneficial to them they will talk about free bus passes, they will talk about free school breakfasts, they will talk about free prescriptions. Those are the areas that I think members of the public will expect us to protect."

A quote from Alex Salmond? Actually no. That'll be Carwyn Jones , leader of Labour in this neck of the woods, where the Labour line is that universal, rather than means-tested services, are a key part of progressive politics (and that cutting universal benefits brings you relatively little cash but a whole lot of political pain).

That's devolution for you, they may argue, Scottish and Welsh Labour coming to their own conclusions based on what is best for Scotland and for Wales (and who is in government, who in opposition, perhaps.) You may however argue in return that you'd expect basic points of political principle to remain pretty much the same - in the same hymn book at least, if not on the exact same hymn sheet.

Are the two leaders sharing a stage at Labour's conference in Manchester later this month? Now wouldn't that be a whole lot of fun - and free for all.