Sunday, 26 January 2014

Three whopping great Tory lies

I've been saying all along on this blog that Labour will win the next general election and I still subscribe to that view, although its beginning to look like Labour's majority could be quite small. If the Tories do win - or do a lot better than I expect - it will be in no small part due to the successful misleading propaganda that they have been churning out since May 2010. This is a government built on misleading statements and the chief protagonists have been David Cameron and George Osborne. Cameron is a perfect front man for a hard-right party like the Conservatives, and he effortlessly projects a sort of common-sense-bloke-next-door persona which seems to chime with a large section of the electorate. However, David Cameron has almost nothing in common with the overwhelming majority of the electorate, he is definitely not the bloke next door. He is a millionaire who inherited wealth from his tax dodging father and has never done a proper job in his life - I mean that in the sense of having had to go out and get a job in a competitive job market like the rest of us - see my previous post on him. The same is true of Gideon 'George' Osborne, though Osborne is much less smooth than Cameron and not much liked by the electorate.

There are the three great Tory whoppers that I would like to feature in this post because they are likely to have a significant impact on the election:

1. Labour was responsible for the economic crisis: the Tories were quick off the mark with this one. They used it during the election campaign and almost as soon as the Coalition was formed the mantra of Labour's economic incompetence and responsibility for the crisis was repeated endlessly while Labour, shell-shocked by the election result, footled around with its leadership campaign. By the time Milliband was elected the electorate had largely bought it. Of course its not true. How could even Labour be responsible for what was a global economic crisis? Of course they had some culpability in crawling to the banks with 'light-touch' regulation but responsible - no. In fact, under Labour's response to the global economic crisis the UK's economy was doing better than when Osborne subsequently got his hands on it.

2. Austerity is necessary: this is George Osborne's specialty. After the election Osborne tore out of the starting blocks to embed austerity as quickly as possible - for political reasons. His 'emergency budget' in June 2010 cut £81 billion from public spending, doing real harm to the poorest and most vulnerable people in the UK. Osborne's great claim was that the UK had 'maxed out its credit card' but he knows that UK debt is not the same as credit card debt. Analogies about government borrowing and household budgets and people's debt and spending on credit cards are misleading as economists know quite well. Nonetheless, a combination of relentless repetition about UK debt and the 'structural deficit' and Labour's spineless non-response have embedded this idea in the minds of many in the electorate. Austerity isn't a necessity its a political choice, undertaken to make the 99% pay for the failures of the 1%. It is classwar. The 2010 Green Party manifesto showed how the UK could re-vitalise our economy and pay down the deficit without austerity

3. The NHS is safe with us: the 2010 Tory manifesto claimed there would be 'no top down reorganisation of the NHS' and Cameron claimed it would be 'safe' with them. And what did the Coalition do as soon as it got into power? It introduced the Health and Social Care Bill which was intended to break-up and privatise the NHS. Lets be clear a privatised NHS is no longer the NHS. The NHS has not been protected from cuts as has been claimed by the government and now the NHS is in crisis, just like it was when the Tories were last in power in the 1980s and 1990s.

Of the three whoppers it seems the last one is the least likely to be believed by voters, but the first two are likely to have the greatest impact overall. Could this be the most dishonest government ever?

Sunday, 12 January 2014

George Osborne's economic failures

Getting on for four years of 'Tory' coalition government and it already seems like a lifetime. Earlier this week Chancellor George Osborne was once again talking about yet more cuts, a mere £25 billion this time. And where will the heaviest cuts fall? You've guessed it - welfare. The Tory assault in the poorest and most vulnerable shows no sign of letting up with talk of the state being reduced the 1948 levels. Austerity is still very much the agenda. These cuts will happen, conveniently for Osborne, after the Tories have won the next election, or so he thinks. So the good news is that the cuts could be prevented if Labour have the guts to stop the rot. Unfortunately, given Labour's timidity and slavish devotion to corporate power this is very unlikely.

If middle of the road commentators like Will Hutton are getting their knickers in a twist about this we can be sure there is more trouble ahead. In the '1948 levels' Guardian post linked above he said:
"The IMF, after assessing the experience of 107 countries between 1980 and 2012, recommends that, after a credit-crunch deficit, there should be a balance between tax increases and spending reductions. In Osborne-land over the next five years more than 95% is to come from spending cuts – a global first in self-harm."[my italics]
Now I'm not a fan of the IMF and I take its remedies with a large pinch of salt but its obvious that globally too many corporations are paying far too little tax. So are the rich. The 'excuse' for this is that it 'boosts growth' and 'creates jobs' but this is merely self-serving 'free' market propaganda. Tax cuts take money out of our economy - more often than not that money goes overseas or is spent by the rich on things like expensive houses, pushing up the housing market. In any case these tax cuts aren't invested in the productive economy and don't benefit the 99% in any way.

Osborne's strategy is supposed to be about getting rid of the 'structural deficit' which is the difference between the amount governments spend and the amount they get in income.  But as in all things economic there is nothing 'scientific' about the structural deficit concept. It's all about how government's choose to run the economy. The point is that dealing with a structural deficit by austerity cuts is a political choice not an economic necessity. There are clearly better alternatives. The obvious problem that we have in the UK at the moment is that corporations are paying too little in tax and there is too much tax avoidance. If Osborne's deficit reduction plan was working the government would be borrowing less -  but borrowing has increased because of a shrunken economy and falling incomes and taxes. The fact that Osborne has borrowed more in 3 years than the last Labour government did in 13 years shows the complete failure of his economic policies.

But then Osborne's 'economic policy' is not really an economic policy at all it's a political one. His aim is to complete the work that New Labour started in 1997, to finally destroy the post-war WWII settlement by privatising the public sector and ending the welfare state, thus returning us to the 1930s, with all the attendant poverty and misery that characterised those times.