>I saw via Twitter this morning that there was something going round saying that Liam Byrne, Labour’s former Chief Secretary to the Treasury, had left a note for his successor saying starkly and simply “Dear Chief Secretary, There is no money left.”
Not having seen a news report, I just assumed that this was some internet joke going round. Not for one minute, until I saw the news and saw new Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary to the Treasury David Laws actually tell the story himself, did I think that anyone could display such crude callousness.
It all brings to mind the Spitting Image sketch from 1992 where the Tories led by John Major are forced, by dint of getting an overall majority, to return to a trashed number 10 knowing that they have to clear up the mess they made. In this case, though, Labour manage to leave their mess for the new coalition to deal with.
So, not only have Labour walked away from the chance to stay in Government, presumably in the knowledge that this gives them the chance to jump up and down and make a huge fuss about the action needed to clear up the mess they’ve made, but they’re also all having a good laugh about it behind the backs of the British public. It’s quite extraordinary that they think it’s so funny. We’ve all resorted to dark humour to keep us going, but to write such a thing down to a successor is just immature and unpleasant.
Every time Labour criticises, they should be reminded of Liam Byrne’s words.
I was hoping that the coalition takes on the Liberal Democrat ideas to include Labour in a sort of commmittee on deficit reduction so that all the politicians together could pool ideas and work together. I’m not sure that Labour are capable of approaching that task with the sort of maturity required.
In contrast, David Laws sent out a message to Liberal Democrat members today giving his personal guarantee that the tough decisions he will make will have social justice at their heart. His whole message is reproduced below. The bold is mine.
My Labour predecessor, Liam Byrne, left me a note saying ‘Dear Chief Secretary, There’s no money left.’ He may claim this is joke, but sadly it is all too true.
Labour have left the nation’s finances in an utterly ruinous state and we face a colossal task ahead of us. That is why today the Chancellor and I announced the creation of the Office of Budget Responsibility as well as the date for the emergency budget in six weeks time on 22nd June.
It is also why over the next week I will be working to identify £6bn of wasteful government spending that we can save in order to start to pay down the disastrous deficit left to us by Labour.
In addition to this, every new spending commitment and pilot project signed off by Labour ministers since the turn of the year will be individually reviewed in a bid to find additional savings. This is simply due diligence by the new coalition government in relation to some of the irresponsible decisions we have inherited.
I would like to give you my personal guarantee that whilst the decisions ahead will be tough I will always put social justice as their heart. I have, and I will continue to reject any proposals which would damage key services or put at risk those on lower incomes.
This is not merely a coalition of competent accountants. The challenge we face is how to address the deficit while protecting the quality of key services, making this a fairer country and ensuring that those on the lowest incomes are protected as far as possible from the actions that are necessary.
This will not be easy. But there is more chance of it being achieved with Lib Dem presence in HM Treasury than without it.
David Laws MP
Chief Secretary to the Treasury”
I hope that history records that it was the Liberal Democrats who took on this enormous challenge when Labour walked away.
What I think we will see from Labour is some fairly vicious scaremongering, like they have been in Fife and Edinburgh as Councils now run by Lib Dems in coalition with the SNP try to deal with the financial mess they left. Every time they do that, they should be reminded of Liam Byrne’s gloating note.