It is hard not to come to the inescapable conclusion that the strongest weapon in the Referendum campaign for a YES vote is the performance, and utterances from the official opposition at Westminster.
Today's statement from Ed Balls demonstrates that things won't change anytime soon, if Scotland retains its place in the UK. The statement that only a Labour Westminster Government can deliver social justice and so wait till 2015 is now a fanciful and risible notion.
The attack on universalism is a dangerous course, - how far does mean testing go, if we start with winter fuel payments, then what is next? Surely Peter Hain is correct when he says " if middle Britain ceased to benefit from the welfare state through some
of the few universal benefits that are left, how can we convince them
to fund the larger part of that budget through their taxes?”
Surely providing some universal benefits for everyone is a matter that encourages citizenship and electors to fund the welfare budget through taxation?
And how much does means testing cost?
Curiously, Peter Mandelson outlined in his book The Third Man, the debates which took place in 2010, where he persuaded Gordon Brown that cuts had to made rather than grow the economy out of the crisis. This being the case then, Brown was correct and Mandelson was wrong.
If Labour do support a continuance of austerity where does that leave them with their European colleagues?
In my recent visit to Brussels I listened to the former Minister for the National Economy for Greece, who advocated massive cuts to the public sector, including cutting jobs, wages and welfare payments. (perhaps a good reason why he was the former minister). This proposed medicine would only make the Greek situation worse.
As the European Union realises that austerity measures aren't working, why are Labour going down the same road as the Conservatives? What is noticeable is the tired and dreary vision being recycled by a shadow cabinet led by former policy advisers who are stuck in a 1990's timewarp, convinced that what won the election in 1997 was "iron discipline" i.e. sticking to Tory spending limits - and that this bitter medicine should be prescribed again. Once again proving that Labour are a party with a past, and not much of a future.
It is a grave error indeed to suggest that demonstrating you can be trusted to run the economy means more cuts and more restraint. The answer to austerity is to grow the economy and invest.