What hope would the UK have if THIS man continues as Chancellor of the Exchequer after the general election?
George Osborne will deliver his final budget of the current Parliament on Wednesday and – if it proves to be the last he ever gives – it won’t be a moment too soon.
Ever since his ’emergency’ budget of 2010, which ended the economic growth created by Labour’s Alistair Darling and ushered in three years of economic flatlining, we have had to endure an unending stream of nonsense from this chancer-among-chancellors, this most mini-among-ministers, this least-treasured Treasurer.
Today we heard that he is again attempting to bribe pensioners into voting Conservative, with a plan that encourages them to take out their defined contribution pension annuities for a lump sum – which, it seems likely, will then be used up in short order, leaving the pensioner to fall on the mercy of the state.
It seems to be more short-termism – getting senior citizens to spend, in order to create a minor boost to economic activity now, while storing up problems for the future.
Osborne says no, and told the BBC that it was “patronising” to suggest people might blow the money on an expensive sports car, then come back for more when they ran out of cash.
This is from the Chancellor who, prior to the financial crash, told Gordon Brown repeatedly that bankers could be trusted to run their businesses unregulated; and who, once in government, based his entire economic strategy on a theory that has since been comprehensively trashed.
The Guardian has listed a few more claims that Osborne might make in his Budget speech, along with the counter-arguments. We shan’t bother with the arguments in support of him here – let’s skip to the good parts. Here are the claims – and their debunkings:
The Government’s plan is working – Deficit reduction has been much slower than Osborne forecast five years ago. In his first budget, in June 2010, the chancellor predicted that he would need to borrow £37bn in 2014-5 and that tax receipts would cover day-to-day government spending. The actual figure will be almost three times that, and, when adjusted for the state of the economy, the 2015 budget deficit is expected to be higher than any other EU country barring Croatia, according to Investec.
Britain has the fastest-growing economy in the G7 – Osborne’s account of his stewardship is partial and misleading. It ignores the first two years, in each of which austerity measures knocked one percentage point off growth, resulting in a flatlining economy. Britain’s recovery from the 2008-09 slump has been the weakest of any in the past 100 years, slower even than the bounce back from the Great Depression of the 1930s. Real wages have at last started to rise as a result of falling inflation, but incomes per head are on average the same now as they were in 2006, before the financial crisis. Business investment has fallen for the past two quarters, and the current account deficit is higher than ever, at 6% of GDP.
We are helping hard- working people by raising tax allowances – Raising the personal allowance is not a well-targeted way of helping the low paid because it helps earners further up the income scale as well. Britain’s low-pay culture means millions of workers don’t earn anything like £10,600 a year. As a result, Osborne is thought to be toying with the idea of raising the threshold for employee national insurance contributions, which is effectively another form of income tax but kicks in at a lower level.
We will ease back on austerity while sticking to our deficit-cutting target – Even after a trim, Osborne’s cuts programme will still look drastic. Labour will argue that he is taking too much of a risk with economic growth and jeopardising essential public services.
We will launch a new crackdown on tax evasion – This is too little, too late, and many of the perks that help the super-rich avoid tax – including non-domiciled tax status – remain in place. Meanwhile, the Conservatives are under fire for appointing former HSBC chairman Stephen Green as a trade minister, apparently without checking his possible involvement.
Feel free to copy out the above and check it against Osborne’s speech on Wednesday.
One thing is certain – it will contain nothing that should persuade you to vote Conservative in May.
Cart crash: In line with the theme explored in this article, not only is it likely that George Osborne won’t even have the right vehicle to carry his budget – he’ll probably crash it, too.
Part-time Chancellor Gideon George Osborne will be having another go at delivering a budget next week; while we can all hope he does better than the last four wrecks, experience – and a voodoo poll on the ConservativeHome website – suggests the opposite.
The poll asks readers to prioritise possible policies on a scale of one to 10, where one is “low” and 10 is “high”. The policies themselves?
“Cut spending further, so that the deficit can be reduced faster”. Clearly this is nonsense. Osborne’s massive spending cuts have, so far, delivered tiny reduction in the national deficit of only £7 billion – from £118 billion to £111 billion. In four years. Clearly, he needs to change his ways.
Other possibilities include cutting the higher rates of tax (or raising the threshold for them) – helping the very rich; extending National Insurance cuts for employers taking on young workers – helping employers; cutting business rates – helping businesspeople; and privatising more state assets, such as roads – helping rich investors and penalising the poor.
Other ideas intended to harm the poor include regionalising public sector pay, extending the freeze on public sector pay rises or cutting public sector pay, lowering the benefit cap to less than the current £26,000 per family and lowering a cap on broader social security spending that is yet to be introduced (it is scheduled for 2015).
All of the measures mentioned in the above two paragraphs will harm the British economy, rather than helping it. If Osborne includes any of them, he will deserve censure (if not prosecution, although it might be hard to find an offence on which to charge him after five years of Tory/Tory Democrat tinkering with the legal system).
By now, dear readers, some of you will be sitting with your blood boiling at this insolent blogger who’s telling you your prized policy ideas won’t work. You’re probably itching to demand what I would do to address the challenge.
I would have examined the economy from a different angle. Let’s look at it metaphorically.
Imagine the British economy is a haulage lorry or, better yet, a horse and cart. Tories are pushing us back towards pre-industrialism so we might as well get used to the idea. Either way, the job in hand is to take provisions to different parts of the locality that will allow the people there to prosper – and return with a share of that prosperity, to be distributed equally for the benefit of everyone.
Firstly, you need fuel. This is where we can prove that Osborne’s austerity is completely useless. How far can a lorry travel with an empty fuel tank? How far will a horse pull a cart if you don’t feed it? Not very far at all.
Then you need to make sure you’re providing the right kind of fuel. A diesel lorry won’t go far on petrol or vegetable oil before it starts to complain; give a horse the wrong kind of food and it will develop who-knows-what kind of digestion-related illness and keel over. This is what happens to an economy that is over-reliant on – for example – a single economy sector such as finance, or an economic ‘bubble’ like the housing growth triggered by Help to Buy (although this scheme could work well with the correct controls, in the same way you can probably keep a horse working with the correct medicine).
The result in both cases – no fuel or wrong fuel – is the same: Your supplies don’t get out to your people and they suffer as a result. The last four years of Tory/Tory Democrat rule has proved this.
In non-metaphorical terms: There must be investment, and it must be the right kind.
Then, of course, there is the question of what you have in the back of your lorry (or on the cart). You must be providing your people with what they need, otherwise there’s no point in making the journey and the fuel/food in which you have invested – in fact, the whole journey – will have been wasted (like Osborne’s last four budget attempts). Your choice of supplies will depend on what your people are doing – what crops they are growing or products they are making – and on whether these can be traded with your neighbours. If they have been misled into producing wares that can’t be traded, what good is that?
Get it right and you’ll be able to make a return trip laden with goods and supplies that will – with a bit of wise distribution and trade – help build up your society, meaning that the load might not be so great on the next trip. This means less fuel/horse feed will be needed and there won’t be as large a load in goods to be redistributed on the return journey (although an expanding economy means there might be farther to travel, so this must be recognised in the amount of fuel to be used).
That’s about as simple a metaphor as I can devise at the moment.
If I had to predict what will happen on Wednesday, though, I would probably expect Osborne to be demanding that we leave the lorry in the garage (or the horse in the yard), and struggle out on foot with all our burdens on our own back.
Not so much “all in it together” as “everyone for themselves” – and that’s how we’ll all be ruined.
A moment of crisis for David Cameron as he realises it is unlikely that George Osborne has the faintest idea what the Autumn Statement means.
If anybody else had prattled on for 50 minutes while hardly uttering a single sensible word, they would have been consigned to a mental hospital forthwith.
But this is Coalition Britain, and the speaker was George Osborne, the man who likes to tell us all that he is in charge of the nation’s finances. Thanks to his government’s Department for Work and Pensions, nobody is allowed to have mental illnesses anymore; after this speech, it seems likely we all have an idea about the reason for that.
A 50-minute speech is a lot of verbiage, and it is certain that worthier journalists across Britain – if not the world – have already analysed it to exhaustion. Allow me to let you into a secret:
They’re probably trying too hard.
Most of the speech was about putting Labour down. The Opposition has made all the headway over the past few weeks, and we all knew Osborne was under orders to change the mood music of the nation in time for Christmas.
Did he manage it? Not really. His speeches always come across as strained events, where he’s making an effort to be clever without ever achieving it. As a result, the message gets lost. We can therefore discount the Labour-bashing.
That leaves us with what he actually said. Even here, his meaning was at times opaque. What follows is an attempt to provide a handy guide to George-speak, for anyone unfortunate enough to have heard him yesterday.
Osborne: “We have held our nerve while those who predicted there would be no growth until we turned the spending taps back on have been proved comprehensively wrong.”/Meaning:“I am lying. Austerity failed miserably and the economy flatlined. A few months ago I realised that we would have nothing to show at election time so I turned the spending taps back on, with Help To Buy and Funding For Lending. I know that these are exactly the sort of Keynesian economic levers that I preached against for three years but I’m hoping that nobody noticed.”
The hard work of the British people is paying off, and we will not squander their efforts./Osborne appears to be celebrating his three years of stagnation. He inherited growth and decided to trash it. (MagsNews on Twitter)
There was no double-dip recession./“Phew! Lucky escape there!”
At the time of the Budget in March, the Office of Budget Responsibility forecast that growth this year would be 0.6 per cent. Today, it more than doubles that forecast and the estimate for growth will be 1.4 per cent./“Please God don’t let anybody remember that three years ago, the forecast for this year was 2.9 per cent.”
Today in Britain, employment is at an all-time high… We have the lowest proportion of workless households for 17 years./These jobs have increased the numbers of the working poor. Too few are full-time; too many are part-time, zero-hours or self-employed, serving up no National Insurance contributions from employers, no holiday or sick pay, or making contractors work long hours for less than the minimum wage.
The number of people claiming unemployment benefit has fallen by more than 200,000 in the past six months—the largest such fall for 16 years./“And we have imposed sanctions on more people on Jobseekers’ Allowance than ever before, in order to produce that figure.”
By 2018-19, on this measure, the OBR does not expect a deficit at all. Instead, it expects Britain to run a small surplus. These numbers mean that the Government will meet their fiscal mandate to bring the structural current budget into balance and meet it one year early./Although of course the books were initially supposed to be balanced by 2015. (Huffington Post live blog)
This year, we will borrow £111 billion, which is £9 billion less than was feared in March./…and £41 billion more than forecast in 2010.
We will cap overall welfare spending./But this will not include the state pension (half the social security budget) or the most cyclical jobseeker benefits./”A living wage would mean less dosh on in-work benefits; letting councils build would mean less subsidies for private landlords.” (Owen Jones on Twitter)
Pensioners will be more than £800 better off every year./But as usual he’s ignoring the VAT elephant in the room. (Mark Ferguson on Twitter)
We think that a fair principle is that, as now, people should expect to spend up to a third of their adult lives in retirement. Based on the latest life expectancy figures, applying that principle would mean an increase in the state pension age to 68 in the mid-2030s and to 69 in the late 2040s./But life expectancy depends on where you live and how much money you have, meaning the poor continue to pay more towards the pensions of the rich./”Current pensioners better off – future pensioners paying for it. What was that about “making our kids pay for current spending” George?” (Mark Ferguson of LabourList on Twitter)
Most wealthy people pay their taxes and make a huge contribution to funding our public services; the latest figures show that 30 per cent of all income tax is paid by just one per cent of taxpayers./Estimates of the amount of tax that is not collected range between £25-£120 billion per year and it is not the poor who aren’t paying up.
This year the rich pay a greater share of the nation’s income taxes than was the case in any year under the last Labour Government./Because they now have more income. Simple really. (Tom Clark of The Guardian, on Twitter)
Today we set out in detail the largest package of measures to tackle tax avoidance, tax evasion, fraud and error so far this Parliament. Together it will raise over £9 billion over the next five years./Including capital gains tax for foreign investors on sales of UK property, which has nothing to do with tax avoidance/evasion, fraud or error.
We must confront this simple truth: if we want more people to own a home, we have to build more homes… The latest survey data showed residential construction growing at its fastest rate for a decade./The rate of house building is at its lowest peacetime level since the 1920s
This autumn statement has found the financial resources to fund the expansion of free school meals to all school children in reception, year 1 and year 2, announced by the Deputy Prime Minister and supported by me./On Wednesday, the Lib Dems and Michael Gove’s education department argued over who had to pay for it.
Extra funding will be provided to science, technology, and engineering courses [in universities]. The new loans will be financed by selling the old student loan book, allowing thousands more to achieve their potential./And pushing thousands into the hands of debt collectors.
The best way to help business is by lowering the burden of tax. KPMG’s report last week confirmed for the second year running that Britain has the most competitive business tax system in the world./KPMG would know – it writes the tax system and also runs some of the larger tax avoidance schemes.
From April 2015 we will introduce a new transferable tax allowance for married couples… Four million families will benefit, many of them among the poorest working families in our country./Osborne says the Tories are backing British Families – but only ones who are married it seems. (Mark Ferguson on Twitter)/While the new tax arrangements bribe families to marry, the benefit cap will bribe big families to split up. (Tom Clark on Twitter)
We are all in this together./The biggest lie of this Parliament.
We are also helping families with their energy bills./Commence the cutting of the “green crap”. This from the “Greenest government ever”. (Mark Ferguson on Twitter)
Next year’s fuel duty rise will be cancelled./This is a cut in a tax that was never imposed in the first place.
We are going to abolish the jobs tax on young people under the age of 21. Employer national insurance contributions will be removed altogether on a million and a half jobs for young people./Young people will therefore have less chance to get contribution-based benefit. National Insurance assures people their pension contributions – except when it isn’t paid. So they will have no contributions to show for any years they worked before 21 and will have to work until their late 60s.
The cost for a business of employing a young person on a salary of £12,000 will fall by over £500./This is a bonus for businesses, not employees.
“Jobs tax” – it’s ludicrous, isn’t it? National Insurance has been a respected part of British life for more than 100 years but Osborne, living as he does in a mythical Victorian-era golden age that never actually existed, thinks it is a “jobs tax”. Either that or he’s still bruised by the fact that Labour’s labelling of the under-occupation charge as a Bedroom Tax caught on with the public.
Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls got on his feet and immediately attacked Osborne’s “breathtaking complacency” for denying the drop in living standards faced by everyone in the country, with families already £1,600 per year worse off. Osborne laughed. He thought that was funny.
The Shadow Chancellor pointed out that we are enduring the slowest recovery in a century, and that average real wages will have dropped by 5.8 per cent by the end of the Parliament (except for fatcat business bosses).
He was having a hard time getting his points across, however, because Tory MPs were heckling him very loudly. Owen Jones tweeted, appositely, “Do the Tories think that a bunch of braying MPs dripping with privilege, while ordinary people’s living standards crash, is good TV?”
Maybe they did. Maybe they thought they had the public on their side.
Let’s have a look at a few comments from the public – courtesy of the Huffington Post:
“Planning to kill more people, George?” (Robin Stacey)
“Spend more you wet lipped monkey.” (Will Moriarty)
“No one has an ounce of faith in anything you say, you parasitic pool of curdled warthog’s puke.” (Anthony Nicholas)
And finally: “Hope you end the speech with your resignation x” (Joanne Wood – and yes, she did mean to end with a kiss).
What a shame Osborne did not follow her advice.
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How long has it been since Labour was deemed the party with no policies and no direction? Now it seems the Conservatives have taken up this undesirable label and applied it to themselves (excuse the choice of words) liberally.
Labour’s stand on energy prices sent the Tories scurrying away to find an answer, after they finally realised that baldly claiming nothing could be done was not going to cut any ice.
When they finally came up with something, their answer was to “Cut the green crap” and reduce the environmental levy on energy firms – a u-turn within a u-turn for the party that once proclaimed to the nation, “Vote Blue – Go Green”.
This week they have also u-turned on cigarette packaging – for a second time within a matter of months. Before the summer, the Conservative vision was to safeguard children from smoking by removing packaging for cigarette packets. Then – after coincidentally hiring fag-company lobbyist Lynton Crosby to run their campaigns for them – they decided that the packaging could stay. Now – in the face of a possibly Lords rebellion – they are reversing their position yet again.
This is the context in which Boy Chancellor George Osborne will make his Autumn Statement – and he has already put himself on a sticky wicket before going in to bat.
Remember David Cameron’s massive error of judgement at the Lord Mayor’s banquet a few weeks ago, when he stood behind a gold-plated lectern that could easily be sold off or melted down to help pay of the interest on his government’s ever-increasing borrowing burden, and said austerity was here to stay?
It seems Gideon was eager to follow in his master’s footsteps, stumping up £10.2 MILLION (including VAT at the 20 per cent level that he imposed on us all in 2010) on new furnishings for his Whitehall HQ, from exclusive designers Panik, Ferrious and Senator. One Treasury insider, according to the Daily Mirror, wondered “why we couldn’t have just bought new furniture from Ikea”.
Good question! It is also one that is especially pertinent after it was revealed that Osborne has been calling for last-minute spending cuts from the Home Office and the departments of Justice, Defence, Business and Work and Pensions (yet again), because he will not be able to fund the £2 billion of giveaways announced during the conference season without them.
These include scrapping a rise in petrol duty of almost 2p per litre, free school meals for pupils aged five-to-seven and rewarding marriage in the tax system.
It seems clear that these measures were all unfunded when they were announced, putting the lie to Conservative claims that they have any kind of plan – and ruining their claim that Osborne’s schoolboy-economist austerity idiocy has done anything to improve the UK economy.
Hutton went on to state that Osborne decided to “borrow from the Keynesian economic locker… never admitting the scale of the philosophic shift, and then claimed victory”. In other words, Osborne is the biggest hypocrite in Westminster (and that’s a huge achievement, considering the state of them all)!
Result: “The public is misinformed – told that austerity worked and, as importantly, the philosophy behind it works too… Thus the Conservative party can be protected from the awful truth that Thatcherism fails.”
Labour MP Michael Meacher is much more scathing (if such a thing is possible). In a Parliamentary debate, quoted in his blog, he told us: “We do have a recovery of sorts, but one that has been generated in exactly the wrong way. It has been generated by consumer borrowing and an incipient bubble, and it is not — I repeat, not — a real, sustainable recovery.”
In other words, the – as Hutton describes it – “eclectic and spatchcocked Keynesianism” employed by Osborne, while superficially useful in the short-term, will cause immense damage over a longer period because he doesn’t understand it and only used it in desperation.
Both Hutton and Meacher agree that a sustainable recovery can only come from what Meacher describes as “rising investment, increasing productivity, growing wages and healthy exports”, none of which are supported by Osborne’s current behaviour.
And yet, according to the Daily Telegraph, Osborne will fulfil another of this blog’s long-standing prophecies on Thursday by telling us all that “Britain can no longer afford the welfare state”.
From a member of the most profligate snout-in-trough overspenders ever to worm their way into public office and then inflict a harm-the-defenceless agenda on the nation, that will be the biggest lie of all.
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Household debt in the UK has reached a record £1.43 trillion, according to the BBC. What a marvellous achievement for Gideon George Osborne to put next to his already-record public net debt of £1.212 trillion (excluding interventions) or £2.184 trillion (including them).
If you’re surprised at that, don’t be – he needs to pretend that there isn’t any money so he can cut any services that are still left in the public domain after the fire sale of the last few years.
The Tory plan was always to increase private debt. Of course it was – if you cut public spending for people on the breadline, then they go into debt. Why do you think Wonga.com’s owner Dawn Capital is such a prolific contributor to Tory Party funds, with £537,000 in known donations this time last year?
The rich are shielded from debt problems in the same way they are shielded from taxation, thanks to the way our tax laws have been rewritten in their favour – all their money is safely tucked away in tax havens and can’t be touched.
On average, each adult in the UK owes £28,489. Some owe much more than that, though. Yr obdt srvt doesn’t owe a bean to anyone, despite being very poor, so that’s already £28,489 to be spread among everyone else. Mrs Mike isn’t in debt either.
The BBC report cautiously suggests that the record debt level “might increase concerns that the UK’s economic recovery [you know, the one they keep talking about on the news and in Parliament as if it actually exists] is based on increased borrowing, rather than growth sustained by rising incomes” – which of course is correct.
According to The Money Charity, total net lending by UK banks and building societies rose by £1.9 billion in September 2013 – that’s just in one month.
Over the four quarters to Q2 2013, they wrote off £3.67 billion of loans to individuals. In Q2 2013, the daily write-off was £7.61 million.
Based on the latest available data, every day in the UK 285 people are declared insolvent or bankrupt – that’s one every five minutes; 84 properties are repossessed; 1,447 people lost their jobs and eight people became unemployed for more than 12 months; 141 mortgage possession claims are issued and 113 mortgage possession orders are made; and 431 landlord possession claims are issued and 319 landlord possession orders are made.
The benefit system helps nobody. It has been redesigned specifically to push people further into debt – the cap on benefit rate increases to one per cent per year means people are two per cent worse-off for every year it continues, while inflation remains at current levels.
“High-interest, doorstep lending to poor people is Britain’s latest – perhaps only – boom industry. In other words, the government’s sick benefits regime is forcing the poor into debt to organisations that will take away everything they have left, in order to make up payments on a loan whose interest rate they probably made up on the spot.
“And when they’ve taken everything, what do you do then?
Leading us down the garden path: Cameron wants us to believe the economy is growing but, like a bad gardener, he hasn’t fertilised it, and has allowed it to be overrun with weeds. [Image: Andy Davey www.andydavey.com]
“The week before the autumn statement, and the right honourable gentleman [Ed Miliband] cannot ask about the economy because it is growing. He cannot ask about the deficit because it is falling. He cannot ask about the numbers in work because they are rising. People can see that we have a long-term plan to turn our country around.”
What a shame he chose to give Parliament bluster instead of facts.
Does he think that the economy is growing because of the housing price bubble engineered by his deranged Chancellor via his ‘Help to Buy’ scheme? It is massively increasing the cost of housing in London but will inevitably lead to a crash and the loss of serious amounts of money for both buyers and the government (as mortgage underwriter). The Bank of England has revealed that it has no power of veto and can only advise on whether the scheme should continue – it is for the Conservative-led government to decide how long it will last.
Gideon’s ‘Help to Buy’ offers unsupported mortgage guarantees to buyers and lenders. He has not said where he will find the money for it. Critics have warned that this is simply creating another housing-fuelled debt bubble that will burst in a couple of years’ time, leaving even more people in debt than after the financial crisis hit us all.
Michael Meacher has read the £130 billion scheme right – as we can see from his blog: “Where does that sort of money come from when the public accounts are under extreme pressure to make enormous cuts? State-subsidised mortgages for the well-off (houses valued at up to £600,000) seems, even for Osborne, a strange decision when some of the poorest tenants in the country are at the same time being expelled from their homes by the bedroom tax.
“It can only be explained by Osborne panicking at the time of the March budget this year that the economy showed no sign of recovery in time for the 2015 election, made worse by his mistaken increase in VAT and big cuts in capital spending. He chose a big artificial stimulus of the mortgage market to kick-start the moribund economy, repeating the mistake of every previous boom triggered by consumer borrowing and a pumped-up housing market, an inevitable forerunner eventually of yet another round of boom and bust.”
Does Cameron really think the deficit is falling fast enough to revitalise the nation’s economy? In October, borrowing (excluding the cost of interventions like bank bailouts, so we’re already in the realm of made-up figures) fell by two one-hundred-and-thirds, from £8.24 billion in the same month last year to £8.08 billion.
We are told the aim is to keep borrowing for 2013-14 at £120 billion or below. In his ‘Emergency Budget’ of 2010, Osborne predicted that borrowing this year would be down to half that – at £60 billion, and estimates have been rising ever since.
The 2011 budget had the 2013-14 deficit at £70 billion; in 2012 it was expected to be £98 billion; and now £120 billion – double Osborne’s prediction when he became Chancellor.
As for the numbers of people in work, let’s ask Cameron: If more people are working, why has productivity fallen back to the level it reached in 2005? Is it because employers are taking on workers in part-time, zero-hours or self-employed contracts, rather than full-time, in order to take advantage of the opportunity to get out of their holiday pay, sick pay and National Insurance obligations? This seems most likely.
Average wages have been cut by nine per cent since 2010, in real terms, and are still falling. Should Cameron really be boasting about this?
Isn’t it shameful that the Conservatives are attacking Labour because the Co-op Bank chief has been behaving like the Chancellor of the Exchequer?
The ex-chairman of the bank, Paul Flowers – who is a former Labour councillor, is being investigated by police after he was filmed appearing to buy drugs. How is that different from the above photograph of one G. Osborne (now Chancellor of the Exchequer), raving it up at a party with a lot of cocaine on the table (ringed in red)?
Comedy Prime Minister David Cameron made much of the Flowers investigation at Prime Minister’s Questions – even suggesting, after the unimpeachable Michael Meacher asked an important question about business investment, that the honourable gentleman might have “been on a night out on the town with Reverend Flowers” and the “mind-altering substances have taken effect”.
Apparently it is all right for Gideon to be a drug casualty because he is a Tory; only Labour supporters who take drugs can be bad in Cameron’s addled world.
No wonder Labour MPs chanted “Shame!” at Cameron as he slunk out of the Chamber.
His attitude seems wrong-headed because, as managed by Mr Osborne for the past three and a half years, the economy can only be regarded as improving if one has the aid of Mr Cameron’s “mind-altering substances”.
Economic figures released this week are being touted as good news, with tax revenues “boosted” by “a recovering economy and housing market”, according to the BBC.
Take a closer look at those figures and they fall down. Borrowing (excluding the cost of interventions like bank bailouts, so we’re already in the realm of made-up figures) fell by two one-hundred-and-thirds, from £8.24 billion in the same month last year to £8.08 billion in October. Less than two per cent and they’re calling it a “boost”. It might be wiped out again in November’s figures.
Also, it should be borne in mind that growth in the housing market is due to the bubble created by our formerly-substance-abusing Chancellor, while any other economic growth has nothing to do with him and, in any case, does not help the vast majority of the population.
Total public debt has risen again, to £1.207 trillion or 75.4 per cent of gross domestic product – the highest it has ever been – under the Conservatives.
The aim for the national deficit, we are told, is to keep borrowing for 2013-14 at £120 billion or below. In his ‘Emergency Budget’ of 2010, Osborne predicted that borrowing this year would be down to half that – at £60 billion, and estimates have been rising ever since.
The 2011 budget had the 2013-14 deficit at £70 billion; in 2012 it was expected to be £98 billion; and now – £120 billion. Perhaps his original estimate was a coke-fuelled fantasy?
Of course – as this blog repeated only days ago – the Conservative-led Coalition never intended to cut the national debt. This was just a claim ministers made while they changed the system to take as much money as possible from the poor while making it possible for the rich to remove their personal earnings and corporate profits from tax to the greatest extent possible.
Result: Increasing debt and lower-than-necessary tax returns, making it possible for the Tories to claim they must cut public services and the benefit system, while laughing all the way to the banks (the ones that were never penalised for burning all our money in the first place).
So much for “We’re all in it together” – unless that was another reference to “mind-altering substances”, and we didn’t understand it until now.
Flinging around the bling: Someone should have told David Cameron that he shouldn’t surround himself with gold when he’s rubbing the proles’ noses in unlimited austerity. The horse impression may also have been ill-judged.
David Cameron must think we are a nation of fools.
He came into office by the back door after failing to convince a majority of British citizens that his pal Gideon’s George’s plan to starve the economy of money would magically refill the Treasury’s empty coffers. Three and a half years of relentless pro-Tory propaganda from the tabloids later, and he tells us – at an opulent banquet, no less! – that austerity is here to stay.
Isn’t that because his policies have been a disaster, then?
Yes. But a disaster for us, not him or his bankster/financier/corporate masters.
As this blog stated more than a year ago, “people need to understand that the Coalition government’s fiscal strategy isn’t about reducing the national deficit at all. If it was, we would not have had a big tax break for the richest in society as part of the last budget. It’s a strategy to axe public services, selling off to rich corporations any that might be capable of yielding a profit. George W Bush followed this policy in the United States a few years ago; it’s called ‘starving the beast’.”
Look this up on Wikipedia and you will find that it involves cutting taxes in order to deprive the government of revenue in a deliberate effort to force reduced spending. In the USA, we are told, “the short- and medium-term effect of the strategy has dramatically increased the United States’ public debt rather than reduce spending”.
Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson’s tax-cutting plan was expected to be funded by lower government spending on social security and healthcare – and it is important that people here in the UK should see the similarities between that and the Coalition government’s privatisation of the National Health Service (we’re told the NHS is a registered company now), along with its many attacks on people who claim social security benefits.
We’ve had tax cuts for the very rich – the so-called “millionaire’s tax cut” that brought the top rate of Income Tax down from 50 per cent to 45 per cent. Corporation Tax is coming down from 28 per cent to 21 per cent while the corporations that write UK tax policy are using it to facilitate tax avoidance schemes. And the poorest workers in the country are being fooled into believing they are getting a good deal out of the policy of raising the tax threshold to £10,000 per year.
Let’s look at that. Nick Clegg wants to raise it still further, so that nobody is taxed on earnings below £10,500 per year, but this means the Treasury will be starved of £1 billion. That’s a lot of money. Meanwhile, the deficit – and the debt – keeps rising.
We’ve had almost no change in the national deficit, year on year. Michael Meacher’s latest blog entry tells us, “the UK debt overhang is growing, not reducing… the budget deficit is not going down appreciably either. In 2011 it was £118bn and in 2012 this had hardly fallen at all at £115bn. The 40% cut in public spending budgets and the £18bn cut in benefits and hence in consumer demand, plus the £40bn further intended cuts after 2015, has produced searing pain, yet next to [no] improvement in the national accounts which was supposed to be the whole aim of the exercise.”
It is also important to note that the effect of raising the tax threshold for poorer people has been completely negated by other changes in government benefits for people on low incomes, unemployment or incapacity support; in fact they are worse off.
It is against that background – tax cuts for the very rich and the corporates, “searing” pain for the poor and worsening national debt – that David Cameron announced, at the gold-trimmed Lord Mayor’s Banquet, “We are sticking to the task. But that doesn’t just mean making difficult decisions on public spending… it means building a leaner, more efficient state. We need to do more with less. Not just now, but permanently.”
At last he has admitted the point of the last three and a half pointless years. He has been starving the Treasury of the cash it needs to balance the books, and now he feels able to tell us that it isn’t going to happen unless public services are cut drastically.
He must be so happy.
Presumably he hasn’t realised that he has just told the British public that his policies, those of his political party and the Coalition of which it is a part, have been an abject disaster for the people of the United Kingdom.
He promised that he would get the deficit down; he failed.
He promised that the measures he took would be applied equally to everyone, from the highest-earners to the lowest; they weren’t.
Now he has promised to build a leaner, more efficient state, using examples from education and health, whose funding has been ring-fenced throughout his period in office; he is lying.
It is time, now, for serious-minded people to draw a line below the selfish policies of the last 30 years and start thinking about government for all the people once again.
When governments talk about making cuts, they’re not talking about help for the rich. Social or economic programmes, supported by taxes, are only ever put in place to level a playing field that would otherwise be tilted against the poor or disadvantaged. Removing such programmes means a less equal society; one that is more UNfair.
Remember that when Cameron and his cronies – especially people like Iain Duncan Smith and Esther McVey – talk about making Britain a fairer place to live and work.
Their words carry about as much weight as their leader’s 2010 election promises.
Path to prosperity? If the economy has been growing for the last nine months, why has food bank use almost tripled during the last year?
No doubt Gideon George Osborne will spend the next few days (if not weeks and months) crowing about the figures from the Office for National Statistics that say the British economy has grown for a third successive quarter.
He has already tweeted, “This shows that Britain’s hard work is paying off & the country is on the path to prosperity.”
The construction industry has grown by 2.5 per cent on the previous quarter, with house builders buoyed up by Gideon’s Help to Buy scheme, which offers (unsupported) mortgage guarantees to buyers and lenders. He has promised to divert £12 million to this, but has not said where he will find the money.
Critics have warned that this is simply creating another housing-fuelled debt bubble that will burst in a couple of years’ time, leaving even more people in debt than after the financial crisis hit us all.
Has this growth generated work for electricians, plumbers, plasterers, roofers? If so, are they being paid fairly? These are the people who will take their disposable income back into the wider economy, for the benefit of other businesses.
Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls welcomed the signs of growth in the ONS report but warned: “For millions of people across the country still seeing prices rising faster than their wages, this is no recovery at all.”
He is right, of course. Look at the rise and rise of food banks, which have seen a massive rise in attendances from even working people – whose wages simply don’t cover the cost of living. Benefits are, of course, being cut back by our “compassionate” Conservative-led government.
They say there’s no money for it but – if the economy is surging back into growth – where are all the tax receipts from the big corporates that are profiting?
Oh yes – they’re safely closeted in the tax havens that Mr Osborne kindly opened up for them. Ordinary, working, and poor people have to use their own limited funds to pay off a Conservative-run national deficit, presumably because Tories think the rich, who caused the problem, shouldn’t have to pay for services they don’t use.
And the Institute of Directors’ chief economist, Graeme Leach, warned that there are “strong headwinds” restricting the possibility of further growth, including “debt and inflation” which are “rising faster than earnings”.
That’s right. Only yesterday, Yr Obdt Srvt was talking with a gentleman who – despite having a full-time job – has fallen so severely into debt that he has had to cut his expenditure down to nothing but taxes, the vital utility bills (water but not heating), and rent. He has no budget for food and faces the possibility of having his belongings, such as his car, repossessed – and even eviction.
Is he on the path to prosperity, Mr Osborne? Of course not. This report is merely further proof that you were lying when you said, “We’re all in it together” – as you did (again) at the Conservative conference.
It’s prosperity for the greedy few, and austerity for the rest of us.
Maybe you have a different opinion, but ask any average worker on the street and they will tell you that continued wage depression and price inflation, the expansion of the Workfare regime that gives free employment to firms that don’t need it while the workers themselves have to survive on benefits, massive growth in food bank use, and the threat faced by thousands of eviction and the repossession of their belongings are not milestones on the path to prosperity.
A swivel-eyed loon, earlier today. [Picture: Left Foot Forward]
So Gideon wants the long-term unemployed to go on Workfare indefinitely, does he?
Forgive me if I’m mistaken, but doesn’t this mean the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s big announcement – at this year’s Conservative Party Conference – is a tawdry plan to massage the unemployment figures?
I’m indebted to The Void blog for the following information, which I recalled while reading reports of Osborne’s drone to the swivel-eyed masses. An article from May stated that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) had been forced to admit a rise in unemployment was down to a fall in the number of people on Workfare.
“According to the Department, the number of people in work fell by over 47,000 over the last three months – which they say ‘reflects’ amongst other things a drop of 16,000 in the numbers on Government employment schemes,” the article states. As far as I know, this is still correct – if a person is put on Workfare, they are removed from unemployment statistics, even though they only receive social security payments for the work they do.
Putting the long-term unemployed on Workfare indefinitely, therefore, will effectively wipe long-term unemployment from the national figures. This will make Osborne’s administration look very good indeed – despite having done nothing to improve anyone’s chances of finding a job. In fact, those prospects will have worsened because every Workfare place removes a paying job from the market.
And what will this do for the Bank of England’s scheme to raise interest rates only if unemployment drops below seven per cent?
Wait – it gets worse. We can also see a now-traditional Tory ‘bait-and-switch’ going on, supported by a justification narrative based on a bit of voodoo polling. This one pushes lots of our favourite buttons!
Osborne’s rationale for imposing the scheme – the justification narrative – is simply that people want it. He’s basing his reasoning for this on a voodoo poll by the right-wing Policy Exchange, as described on The Void today.
“The general public’s opinions on workfare have been grossly distorted by the nature of the questions asked in this survey – of which there were only two,” the article states.
“The first question asked whether people thought ‘The government should require people who are unemployed for 12 months or more to do community work in return for their state benefits.’ The truth is that only just over half agreed at 56%. But the public were not asked if this workfare should be full time. In fact it does not even specify that the work should be unpaid – previous workfare schemes have come with a top up payment to benefits attached. Whilst those engrossed in welfare policy might assume workfare to mean 30 hours a week, every week, without pay, there’s no reason a survey respondent would think that. They might think yes, they should volunteer in an old people’s home for an afternoon a week, or do a couple of days a month helping out in the local park, for reasonable expenses. This 56% in no way gives a mandate for full time unpaid workfare.”
It continues: “The second question is even more dubious. The Policy Exchange are attempting to use the answers to this question to claim that only 22% of the public support disabled people being exempt from workfare. That incidentally is disabled people “who are capable of working” – another devious phrase as who is and isn’t capable of working is clearly open to debate as the Atos scandal has shown. The obvious inference from the from this figure is that 78% of the public support workfare for disabled people. Yet in question 1 only 56% of people support workfare for anyone at all. There must be something in the going on to explain this bizarre discrepancy.
“Question 2 asks respondents to imagine that compulsory workfare exists and then questions who should be exempt. Now a disabled person completing this survey may think well if I have to do workfare then why shouldn’t a lone parent, and vice versa. That doesn’t mean they support workfare, it means they support equality, of a sort.
“There is no option available for those who think that everyone should be exempt from workfare, although it is possible to answer that every group of claimants given should undertake unpaid work.”
So: Extremely dubious findings, used to support a dubious claim that the public supports increasing Workfare and this is why the Coalition is doing so. In fact, this is a thinly-veiled attempt to falsify unemployment statistics and trigger an interest rate rise.
The swivel-eyed loons must have lapped it up.
Now, why wasn’t Vox Political‘s best friend, Iain Duncan Smith, making this announcement?
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