George Osborne sealed his reputation as not only the most ideologically driven Chancellor in UK history, but also as the most incompetent resident of 11 Downing Street ever. Even with his slashing of the welfare budget, wanton destruction of the NHS, trashing of public sector pensions and strangulation of growth via the suicidal VAT increase, Osborne is STILL unable to balance the books. In fact his much trumpeted independent Office of Budget Responsibility have down graded their forecast for growth, saying it will be the most sluggish post recession growth in our history.
The economy has flat lined and we face what Prof. Danny Blanchflower (former Board Member at the Bank of England) calls the “death spiral”, which comprises of a lethal combination of poor growth, stagflation, rising unemployment and an increasing Government deficit. Austerity simply exacerbates the situation as it is by it’s very nature anti growth as the tax take falls, confidence for outside investors is nil but above all it’s the poorest and most vulnerable in Society that bear the brunt.
But if you were a fly on the wall in Cameron’s den in Downing Street you would find a bullish and satisfied atmosphere over whatever the posh boys choice de jour of refreshment is.
This situation is a dream for the Tories, an absolute gift. Their bete noirs are the Public Sector, the NHS, comprehensive education, welfare, the poor, women, the disabled and Trade Unions (not necessarily in that order).
The deficit lie (it’s as much a tax crisis as anything) allows them to turn their fire on their enemies and once again Osborne delivered a body blow, this time to teachers, by abandoning their right to collective salary bargaining. Head Teachers (who are completely untrained in this area) will now set individual wage levels year by year based on that old chestnut of “performance”. This is a massive incentive for staff to flee schools in challenging areas and is the next step of what the Tories want; two tier education with nice, fresh faced middle class kids learning Latin in one set of well funded academies, and the rest in poorly funded, falling down sink schools with poor morale and performance out comes.
The Chancellor returned to his thumb sucking comfort zone when he was unable to announce one iota of any good economic news, by sticking the boot into the poor via a raft of welfare cuts. His disgraceful, but honest hatred of the disabled and poor was encapsulated by his aping of Progress/ New Labour extremist Liam Byrne’s statement that, “hardworking people are sick of going to work and seeing their neighbour’s curtains shut”. I take this pretty fucking personally as my degenerative brain condition, which has wrecked my life, and trashed the aspirations of my family, means I have to take anti nausea medication and wait until I can incrementally pull myself of bed before hauling (or crawling if it’s a bad day), to the bathroom.
Then Osborne decided that women should bear four times the brunt of the cuts by the way he has cut benefits for working women, and stay at home Mums. The working poor are the biggest losers. In April, the month that millionaires will get an average tax break of £107,000 (yes, you read that right), poor families with children will lose £279 and this is on top of the £450 lost to VAT increases and without the crippling rise in fuel costs.
But the Tories don’t care a jot, as it doesn’t affect them.
Labour’s response has been predictable. Rachel Reeves and Ed Balls forensically demolished the Coalition’s wrecking of the economy and it’s devastating effects. But no real alternatives are on the table. There is vague talk of fiddling around the edges by repeating the Bank Bonus tax to create jobs for our young people, but overall there are no answers.
In addition there seems to be an ethos of “wait until 2015 and the return of a Labour Government”. This is wrong on so many levels. Firstly there is no guarantee that we will win the election with a working majority. Incredible as it is, the UK public still trust the Tories more on managing the economy, and blame us for the crash. And they will continue in this vein until we come up with a real alternative: the Land Tax which will wipe the deficit off in one go, allow the total abolition of VAT and see massive investment go into housing and creating a hi tech manufacturing base. Only 15 of people will pay it.
Secondly people are hurting right here, right now. I see month by month the collapse of the NHS via my weeklong stays in hospital. My GP tells me that the Government, “are setting up the NHS to fail and will then blame it on us”.
This region has lost nearly £1/4 BILLION in cuts, money stolen directly from its citizen’s pockets. But the silence from the regions elected Labour representatives is deafening. The campaigns around the NHS cuts have only been actively supported by one Labour MP, and John Prescott. There is no seeking a way of opposing and campaigning against Council cuts. There is no overarching campaign led by the front bench against NHS cuts. Why aren’t Labour Council Leaders combining to act in defence of their communities? Pickles and his Officials can’t intervene to run EVERY Labour Council as it isn’t practical, and a mobilized public wouldn’t put up with it.
Wait and see just will not do. Leadership is needed. Labour must make it’s own tough choices and decide whose side they are really on. If they don’t they are leaving the field clear for others, and who would blame the public if they were attracted by radical alternatives?
The reply is always, “It’s not as simple as that”, and “things go on that you don’t know about”, or the old chestnut of being, “pragmatic and nuanced”.
Ed Miliband said in December 2011 that Cameron “has declared class war”. Well, correct me if I’m wrong but don’t you fight back if someone attacks you? Time to fight back.