Martin Hannan: Labour policy is not working

In recent days we have seen supposedly competent politicians categorically prove that they are nothing of the sort.

Tuesday, 3rd April 2012, 1:00 pm

My disdain for the Tories’ top toffs, David Cameron and George Osborne, and their lickspittle lackey, Nick Clegg, of the Liberal Democrats grew apace when the Budget threw up both the granny tax and the pasty tax, not to mention the utterly disgraceful cut in the top rate of tax for high earners – proof that “we are all in it together” is a lot of rubbish.

How the Chancellor could not see that attacking elderly people’s incomes was going to cause a riot is beyond me. As for the pasty tax, a move that was really to try and sort out confusion over VAT rates on takeaway food has blown up in the coalition’s face. Even Ed “Don’t mention George Galloway” Miliband was able to make mincemeat of the government over the pasty tax.

These two tax hikes and the cut in taxes for the rich proved once and for all that the coalition leadership is not very clever, quite unprofessional as politicians, and completely out of touch with the people of Britain.

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The Conservative and Liberal Democrat collapse in the face of George Galloway’s astonishing victory in the Bradford West by-election was further evidence of those two parties’ unpopularity, and it also proved that people want to send a simple message to the coalition and Labour – you are all hopeless.

Yet we’re stuck with the coalition until 2015. This May, however, we are able to have a say about the political nature of Scotland and Edinburgh when we go to the polls to elect a new council. As I have already predicted, it will be national issues, and local people’s utter contempt for the coalition parties, which will guide many votes.

However, it is already clear to those who have been canvassing on the streets that one issue is preoccupying Edinburgh minds. The trams and the state of our roads have caused normally mild-mannered people to become almost apoplectic, and in dealing with the issue supposedly sensible politicians seem to have lost their marbles.

For we have already had a pasty tax or granny tax moment here in Edinburgh. The local Labour Party’s plans in its manifesto for better control of roadworks, especially by coordinating the works done by utility companies, are eminently sensible. Indeed, I said as much in this column some time back.

But to propose a moratorium on road alterations and traffic schemes for the next two years is just plain daft.

Yes, we are all sick of the trams and need a break from disruption, but to call a halt to sensible plans AND lose the government money available for them is just stupid.

Labour wants to extend the cycle routes in the city, and that is a perfectly sound policy, albeit borrowed from the Greens. Yet its moratorium would seem to contradict proposals on cycleways and pavement improvements.

And here’s an interesting point – the “two year” promise is not mentioned in Labour’s Moving Edinburgh Forward Together manifesto launched by its leader, Andrew Burns.

Instead, it was left to former Lord Provost Lesley Hinds to make the “two year” pledge. Lesley’s been around a long time and she’s just the sort of heavyweight local politician that Labour needed to put up front to lead its case on transport, but I can’t help thinking that by going for a snazzy headline Labour has shot Lesley in the foot.

For no one in this city really believes that a two-year ban on roadworks is even possible. Instead, it will be seen as a cheap shot, a promise that will mean nothing to anyone because it can’t be fulfilled.

It will also take all of Lesley Hinds’ formidable talents to try and deflect attention away from Labour’s role in the trams saga.

The usual myopic suspects who queue up to bash the SNP and try to apportion some of the blame for the trams on my party ignore the single most salient fact in the whole saga – that the project only went ahead because Labour, the Lib Dems, the Tories and Greens all ganged up at the Holyrood parliament in 2007 to force the trams through against the wishes of the SNP government.

That vote, without question, caused the trams to happen, with all their attendant misery. It was the present SNP government which stepped in when the Liberal Democrats were going to make an even bigger mess of things last year with a tram line that stopped at Haymarket.

So in May, if you’re making your decision on who to vote for on the basis of who inflicted the trams fiasco on this city, remember which four parties imposed them on Edinburgh against the wishes of the SNP and vote accordingly.

Personally, I believe voters should look at the totality of the issues facing the city, and my respect for my fellow citizens is such that I don’t think for one minute that they will be suckered by cheap shot policies.

The “no roadworks” joke by the Labour Party is one of those policies. It isn’t clever, it won’t wash with the voters and, like the granny and pasty taxes, it’s just not good politics.