I’m sick of hearing it, quite frankly.
Whenever ministers and members of the present Conservative government are questioned about their economic policy, they continue to put me into a glowering rage by reminding us yet again that it’s all the fault of the last Labour administration for ‘mismanaging the economy’.
This politically contrived, cynical mantra is, I am sorry to say, a total, bloody fiction. But, as Josef Goebbels frequently observed, if you repeat a lie often enough it becomes the truth.
The last Labour administration left office in May 2010. Okay, it was perhaps silly of the outgoing Treasury Secretary, Liam Byrne, to leave a note on his desk, apologising that there was ‘no money left’. But it was meant to be a joke, and was not without precedent in the annals of government. The trouble being that there was a general impression whipped-up by the Tory press that this time, it was true.
The Tories and their Chancellor Gideon ‘George’ Osborne, scion of a wallpaper dynasty (he’s obviously on a roll… insert orange smiley face if you must), have since had five and a half years in which to put matters right. So if there is still a problem with the economy now it is surely they – not the last Labour administration – who have failed to do anything about it. Any such imputation may, in the Tory party handbook of convenient excuses, be easily shrugged off with: ‘So, blame our previous Coalition partners, those weedy Liberals from the Lower Fourth’.
And again, a lobotomised public, glassily fixated on ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ and ‘The Great Bake Off’, is happy to be incapable of remembering that far back.
It is arguable that the economy would have recovered to the extent it has by now, even with the Monster Raving Loony Party in Downing St. Economies have their own cyclical impetus. ‘Your investments may go down as well as up’, as they say. Another formula from the FSA Handbook of Seductive Marketing Ploys, ‘Your home may be repossessed if you do not keep up the payments’ seems to be the underlying message being drilled into us by the Tories.
Osborne’s economic policy basically consists of putting on a Bob the Builder plastic safety helmet and having himself filmed visiting something called a factory, to show he is on the side of hardworking people, while lying heroically about how good he is at managing the economy compared with the dismal performance of the Brown/Darling combo of yore.
What isn’t being said in the right quarters is that he’s been borrowing more money than the previous Labour administration did – making hay while the very low interest-rate sun shines – what he can’t borrow he’s been getting the Bank of England to print, and shovelling it at the still-dodgy banks. Meanwhile, far from Whitehall, the race to the bottom between key oil-price influencers Saudi Arabia and the USA has provided him with a uniquely low rate of inflation.
What then passes for Tory economic policy?
Deflation; derisory interest rates for savers; deregulation of pensions enriching spivs; everyone on zero-hours contracts; fabulously unaffordable infrastructure and defence initiatives; bumming the price of a Chicken Chow Mein off the President of China, ‘Xi Who Must Be Obeyed’; draining the lifeblood out of health, education, renewable energy, police and local government services; slashing the social security budget; attacking the benefits of the disabled; forcing dead people back to work; making it impossible for unions to strike; clawing back rent subsidies from anyone suspected of having a spare room in their social housing unit; robbing £4 billion in family credits from the already empty pockets of the three million poorest working people in the land, again with the oleaginous lie on his sneering Old Etonian lips that they are going to be better off one day, whatever the economic experts say….
In short, it’s not an economic policy to pretend that the world’s sixth (and Europe’s second) richest nation cannot afford these things. Osborne and Cameron’s ‘austerity’ programme is at base (oops, I nearly wrote ‘at heart’…) an ideological drive to roll back the State, with the aim of ensuring Labour never gets into government again and superefficient private industry can take over running everything. The Tory tendency is always to try to manipulate national policy for party political advantage, hence the suggestion that they might gerrymander the unelected House of Lords to subvert any further opposition to their disastrous legislative programme in the Commons.
The persistent myth-making that Labour ‘mismanaged the economy’ – something, sadly, that too many people who take not enough interest in these matters seem happy to believe – ignores several salient facts.
One is that Gordon Brown genuinely enjoyed a global reputation for economic prudence. It gave him the moral leadership urgently needed from someone in authority when the greed and stupidity of the international banking community drove the global economy into meltdown in 2007/8, to propose a viable way out of the shitstorm.
Agreed, it cost the country billions – maybe as much as a trillion pounds – to bail out the UK banking sector. And of course that was a terrible blow to the British economy. Average wages have only this year recovered to where they were in 2007. But it wasn’t unique to Britain, and the crisis is still not over. What would a Tory administration have done, under the circumstances? Let the banks go to the wall – market forces, old boy? I somehow doubt it.
Another fact then, is that a Tory administration in 2007/8 would have done exactly the same as Labour; while a third fact is that the economy was actually growing faster under Labour, until the crash, with more people being taken out of poverty. There weren’t then nearly a million people depending on food banks and free school meals (which the Tories now propose to take away) to keep Death from their door.
And another fact is that there have been three major recessions and a sterling crisis mis-engineered by Tory governments since 1979, when Thatcher came to power; while both Labour and the Tories have continued crazily to rely on house-price inflation to drive the economy for them, deliberately underbuilding to force the market up.
But all that is Bollinger under the bridge, my friends… we are, after all, the party of economic competence! (Cabinet papers released today outlining MI5 concerns about the relationship between arch-Tory peer Lord ‘Bob’ Boothby and brutal underworld queer, Ronnie Kray, cruising for rent boys in the 1960s, show that the Conservatives can also sometimes be the party of sexual incontinence.)
If there was financial mismanagement, it was surely the bankers who practised it; recklessly and greedily commoditising debt. Brown may fairly be accused of failing to get a grip on the excesses of the financial services sector, sucking-up to the bankers, but would anyone from the Tory side have gone against them? I think probably it is even less likely. And what of Mr Bernanke and the Federal Reserve? Did the USA do better?
There is a date in the calendar that the media sometimes seizes on in unimaginative desperation as being the first day in the year when, it is said, the average taxpayer ceases working for the government and starts earning money for themselves and their family.
A modest proposal: can we not have a day fixed sometime during the life of every Parliament, after which it would be a statutory offence for MPs to blame the nation’s woes on the previous administration?
I’m sick of hearing it. You should be too.
One of the Cameron sneers ‘n’ smears before the May 2015 election that seemed to stick was the accusation that his Labour opponent, the luckless Ed Miliband, ‘would promise anything to get elected’.
Seven days before the election, ‘Dave’ went on national TV to face some ordinary people and assured a well-primed and rather gorgeous member of the invited audience that he ‘absolutely had no plans’ to include removing tax credits from the poorest working families as part of the unidentified package of economic reforms that was promised to reduce the welfare bill by £12 billion.
This was the most enormous lie, and he duly got elected.
Yesterday, despite massive intimidation the House of Lords sensibly told Messrs Cameron and Osborne to take that measure out of the package and rethink it, because the government’s own-appointed independent Office of Budget Responsibility had warned them that three million families would be worse-off by £1,300 a year, even after the introduction of the unenforceable ‘living wage’ and other smoke-and-mirrors tactics to sugar the cyanide.
It was a warning Mr Cameron had sneeringly dismissed only a day earlier on Andrew Marr; insisting that these people would be better off in the Tories’ new high-wage, low-tax economy. (By ‘high-wage’, we are talking about £7.20 an hour for working 16 hours a week on zero-hours contracts. ‘Low-tax’ conveniently ignores the fact that a) these people aren’t taxpayers, they don’t earn enough, and b) VAT is a regressive 20 per cent tax on purchases that remains unaffected by the proposed measures.)
This policy of making teaching assistants and hospital cleaners pay for the excesses of the banking community made the Tories’ slogan that they were now ‘the true party of working people’ look a trifle tenuous. In desperation, they have tried to spin the entire sorry affair into a constitutional crisis, rather than a fiscal blunder – cuntily claiming it was all a Lib-Lab conspiracy because they were sore at losing the election.
We may remind ourselves that Liberal leader Nick Clegg’s political career was trashed, along with his Parliamentary party, because he promised before the 2010 election that, if elected to office, he would not raise university tuition fees. Although not elected to office, he did find himself the junior member of a coalition government that did in the event raise tuition fees – over what eventually became his dead body.
Let’s hope this disgraceful ‘volte farce’ by the Tories also sees ‘Schweinsteiger’ Cameron in the political gutter, blinking up at the stars. But somehow I doubt it will. He seems to be able to sneer and bully his way out of anything.
A message to Readers
B.t.w., fans, I have calculated that if I Post one Post a week in the 18 weeks between now and 27 February, the fourth anniversary of the founding of this, the international news organ of reference, The Boglington Post, we shall have reached on that date the propitious number of EXACTLY 500 Posts, a colossal literary achievement equivalent in weight to the publication of Tolstoy’s ‘War and Peace’, only with fewer Russians.
It will require a slowdown, however, to bring the good old BogPo in line with the falling productivity of British workers. To all those eagerly anticipating a continuation of the current frantic rate of output, I apologise. In extremis, we may have to cheat by adding more PSs to existing Posts, as above….
- Herr Professor Doktor Ernst P. von-und-zu Bogl, Editor-at-Large. Boglington-am-Zee, Europe, The Middle East.