Sunday, 26 August 2012

Bringing back Laws shows the desperation of a failing Coalition

Austerity isn't working. George Osborne's economic policy is in ruins, and he is now a lame-duck Chancellor. Last month the government had to borrow £600 million more, so much for debt reduction. Panic is beginning to grip a failing and fractured government. So it has now been signalled, that David Cameron will re-arrange the deckchairs on the titanic - better known as a cabinet re-shuffle. One of the highlights, we are told, is the expected return to government of the darling of the neoliberal right, David Laws. Laws, who is a millionaire, managed only 17 days in the original Coalition cabinet before having to resign due to a dodgy expenses claim of £40,000, more than many people earn in a two year period.

David Laws
As you might expect, the 'free' market fundamentalists in the Coalition will be delighted by the return of Laws who is a fervent tax-cutter and privatiser. Laws recently called for deeper tax cuts, and the shrinking of the state, in a continuation of the failed neoliberal market 'economic' policies which caused the so-called deficit crisis (the deficit is not really a crisis and is being used as an excuse to destroy welfare) in the first place. All this shows the desperation of a Coalition government which has nowhere to go, the moral bankruptcy of allowing Laws to return, and the growing realisation for Cameron that he will be a one term premier unless he can salvage his sinking ship.

The problem for the market fundamentalists dominating the Coalition is that because they don't believe the state should plan or intervene, by creating jobs for example, they have no levers to pull to revive the economy. Interest rates cannot be reduced, quantitative easing has failed, there is no room for tax cuts, and the economy is still, at best, stagnating. That is why we have suddenly begun to hear calls for big infrastructure projects such as a third runway at Heathrow and a projected £30 billion Severn barrage. Predictably, these are the wrong projects, and even if adopted now, they will come too late to have any effect before the next election. It would have been better for Cameron and Osborne  to begin those projects soon after the 2010 election.

Of course, there are some very real options to get people working and rebuild our economy and you can find them in the Green Party manifesto. But those green solutions are beyond the blinkered ideology of the government. One of the government's key priorities ought to be the building of hundreds of thousands of social homes to boost the economy, create thousands of jobs, and help alleviate our appalling housing crisis, the origins of which lie in the Thatcher government's infamous 'right to buy' policy of 1979. But there is no chance of the government adopting such a common-sense solution. Trapped by their own fundamentalist belief system, government ministers are like the lunatics doomed to repeat the same failed policies over and over again, and each time expecting a different result.

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