Left needs credible economics, Gilmore says


PARTIES OF the centre-left in Europe had to prove to voters that they had “credible answers” for dealing with the economic crisis, Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Eamon Gilmore said in Dublin yesterday.

In a keynote address to a conference of leading European social democrat politicians on the issue of “progressive governance”, he said the mood in Europe was shifting towards the centre-left.

“But we have to build now, on that success. We have to prove to our electorates that we have credible answers for dealing with the crisis,” he told the conference, organised by the London-based Policy Network think tank and hosted by the Labour Party.

Chairing a session on “Steering Europe Out of the Crisis”, former Northern Ireland secretary Peter Mandelson asked the participants whether they felt there was “something inherently flawed” about the euro zone’s original design.

“There are those who believe that it was either misconceived in the first place or not sufficiently well-conceived to succeed and flourish, or that it was a fine conception but there were too many short-cuts taken at the beginning.”

British shadow chancellor Ed Balls said the best analogy was a group of people who decided to engage in the “really dangerous” practice of off-piste skiing.

“You’ve never done it before and you’re going down the mountain tied together. One of your members falls: what do you do? You can’t stop halfway down the mountain and start having a discussion about why this person hadn’t been doing more fitness training for the last five years,” he said.

Describing himself as “a representative of a fundamentally pro-European political party”, he said it was “hugely important” for British Labour that “Europe is seen to succeed and the euro zone to make progress”.

Swedish shadow finance minister Magdalena Andersson said that although there were “faults in the construction of the euro and the euro zone”, she initially thought Sweden should join but she was not sure now.

Hannes Swoboda, leader of the Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament, said there were “many flaws and mistakes” but it would be “a disaster” to withdraw from the euro zone.

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin said that, on coming into Government, Labour had inherited “an enormous bank debt” from the previous administration.

“That was a decision made under pressure during the night,” he said, adding that he didn’t think it was very well thought out.

It was decided that “the rotten bank that was Anglo” should not be allowed to fail, but the insistence was “that Ireland should take the full burden and that is what we are still carrying.”

He added: “We are in negotiations to lessen that burden.”