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“Privydrizzling”: Philip Hammond delivers his speech to the Conservative Party Conference.

Philip Hammond’s speech at the Conservative Party Conference was the opposite of John McDonnell’s – not in its political slant but in its total lack of any useful content.

This Writer therefore had to devise a word to describe it, that is the opposite of “barnstorming”. Fortunately my brother – Beastrabban – came up with a perfect term when I caught up with him yesterday, and here it is: “Privydrizzling”.

You know it’s the right word for the job.

Among the comments the Chancellor (God help us!) “drizzled” into the conference chamber “privy” was:

How monumentally ignorant.

This zombie-grey fool needs to remember that the bankers are responsible for the collapse of the western world’s financial system in the crash of 2007 onwards. They created the recession that has pushed living standards through the floor and into the gutter.

Voters are going to be angry about that.

The financial crisis pushed government debt through the roof on the expectation that working people would pay it back, rather than the rich financiers who racked it up.

Voters are going to be angry about that, as well.

And while working people were experiencing the longest-sustained squeeze on their wages since the 1750s, the richest in society were enjoying a near-tripling of their already-exorbitant incomes.

Voters are going to be very angry about that.

But Mr Hammond thought it was appropriate to apologise to the bankers who created all that chaos, for failing to deliver the election result they wanted. We may, therefore, assume that the Conservative Party in its entirety is in thrall to the financiers of the City.

They’ll never do anything for real people, other than exploit us. The evidence is all around but some seem willing to be misled.

What else did Mr Hammond say?

Well, he badmouthed Labour, and Jeremy Corbyn. He did a lot of that, in fact.

A surprising amount of it.

No, really – he spent most of his speech harping on about Labour.

He referred to “Corbyn’s Marxist policies” and attacked the plan to renationalise privatised utility companies:

“We know what state control does to industry: utilities, transport; energy; steel, coal, mail, shipbuilding, telecoms, ports, airports and much of heavy manufacturing were all nationalised.

“Almost all of them were massively inefficient, running up huge losses – because the Unions knew that with the state as owner, they could not go bust. So the setting of wages and prices was determined by naked political power, not market forces. The losses those industries piled up, and the capital they needed to keep going competed with our public services for scarce resources. The Labour Government squared the circle by borrowing money and then when the lenders took fright at the mounting debt and the supply dried up they had to go cap in hand to the IMF.”

But his rhetoric ignores the fact that privatisation has not improved matters; it has made them worse. The industries he mentioned have been bought up mostly by private concerns and nationalised industries based in foreign countries – and bled dry, the profits they make going abroad, rather than being invested back into improving the services.

Here in the UK, we have ended up paying more and more for ever-worsening services, while the state has been forced to continue subsidising the industries it privatised. Look at the railways – the public purse pays more for their upkeep than ever before, and most of that money goes abroad as profit. That is the result of Conservative policy and if Mr Hammond thinks it is a triumph then he needs to be in a psychiatric hospital, not a political party conference.

Oh, and did you notice the jab at the unions and workers? The claim was that they pushed up wages beyond the ability of their nationalised industries to pay.

But nearly half of the FTSE100 – British companies – have helped themselves to £44 billion of profit and refuse to pay a living wage to their workersThe money is there – and always has been. It’s just being paid to the wrong people, in the wrong amounts.

Let’s not dwell on Hammond’s attacks on Labour, though. It’s his claims about the Conservatives, and (lack of) policy announcements that were the real howlers.

He said the Thatcher government abandoned “the delusion that the state could run the economy, that we could borrow our way out of every problem”.

But the Conservative and Conservative-led governments of 2010-17 (so far) have collectively borrowed more money than every Labour government, ever. Mr Hammond seems to think the state can borrow its way out of every problem, so attributing that flaw to Labour is nothing less than a lie.

He said the Tories “created the conditions that led to decades of rising living standards for the British people”. Delusional. Remember: We are in the longest-sustained squeeze on living standards (for the many) since the 1750s.

He said, “Under Ruth Davidson’s dynamic leadership we saw Scotland sending 13 Conservatives to Westminster – re-establishing an assertive Scottish Conservative voice in our UK Parliament for the first time in two decades.” That happened only because some Scottish voters lost faith in the SNP but did not return to Labour; the Tories won in those constituencies by default and that won’t happen again.

“Our economy is not broken: it is fundamentally strong,” he said. Delusional. If it was strong, then productivity would be increasing and people on part-time and zero-hours contracts would be taking offers to work longer hours for higher wages, and that’s not happening.

“And while no one suggests a market economy is perfect, it is the best system yet designed for making people steadily better off over time and underpinning strong and sustainable public services for everyone.” Delusional. People are increasingly worse-off and public services are collapsing.

He said: “We face an immediate challenge managing uncertainty about the outcome of our Brexit negotiations. We face a medium term challenge of restoring our public finances to balance and starting to pay down our debts – so we do not burden the next generation with the cost of our mistakes. And we face a longer term challenge of raising Britain’s productivity – increasing the amount we produce in each hour we work – so that we can get wages growing more quickly, without simply stoking inflation and so we can fund our public services to support our ageing population.” But he offered no suggestions on how to meet these challenges.

Announcements were thin on the ground, in fact, but I did hear this: “Today I am announcing a further £300 million to future-proof the railway network in the north.”

But…

He announced an extra £10bn in funding to provide loans under the Help to Buy housing scheme through to 2021. But this will increase demand without increasing supply, artificially inflating house prices. The knock-on effect is that homeowners won’t want new houses to be built, because that would cut down the value of their own homes, which have now become investments. But how will they ever get a return on them?

Have I missed anything? If so, it probably wasn’t worth the time.

Verdicts from people who aren’t Tories have been as negative as you might expect:

They’re also accurate, to the acute embarrassment of the Conservative Party at large – and Philip Hammond in particular.


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