There are some encouraging signs that our message about the economic impact of cuts is beginning to be more widely understood. Today's STUC analysis of Scottish long term unemployment figures brings the message into stark focus. Their analysis confirms a rise in long-term unemployment of 132% across Scotland; rising to over 400% in 3 local authority areas; Borders (475%), East Lothian (420%) and South Lanarkshire (416%).
James Cusick's analysis piece in the Sunday Herald The cuts: is there an alternative? highlights growing public concern that has even reached some of the Con-Dem coalition's political allies. He points to the OECD data and suggests that "fast track belt-tightening could be the wrong medicine at the wrong time". Charles Kennedy is not the only Lib-Dem to baulk at the ideological attack on public services that is causing misery for many. Tom Gordon's piece in the same article points to the number of households without any adult in work rising by 10.4% in Scotland compared to 3.3% in England.
Today we also have an unlikely ally in the IMF, usually the bastion of neo-liberal economics. The IMF undermines the main thrust of the Con-Dem coalition's economic strategy, warning western governments that they risked holding back the recovery and creating a massive pool of disaffected labour if they pursued draconian cuts in spending. The IMF Director General, Dominique Strauss-Kahn appears to have read The Spirit Level on less equal societies, because he also said "If you lose your job, you are more likely to suffer from health problems, or even die younger. If you lose your job, your children are likely to do worse in school. If you lose your job, you are less likely to have faith in public institutions and democracy."
Finally some evidence, again not from a usual source, that we are beginning to win the public debate. The Times newspaper reports three pieces of bad news for the government in a Populus poll.
* the government’s deficit reduction strategy is rejected by three out of four voters.
* the public is more gloomy about the economy than at any point since the summer of 2009 – with those expecting things to get worse up 8 points since June, to 33%.
* most people reject the idea that the Labour government is most to blame for the deficit.
Even a majority of Tory voters agree with Labour's strategy.
We have a long way to go, but many others are beginning to grasp that there is a better way.