The Tories have fired the first shot in the 2015 general election campaign – and it’s a dud.
Their brand-new campaign poster shows a road stretching out through the (presumably British) countryside, and bears the slogan, “Let’s Stay on the Road to a Stronger Economy”. It’s eerily reminiscent of the poster for the 1978 movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind – and there’s about as much chance of our economic chances improving under the Tories as there is of alien visitation.
Perhaps the Tories are trying to evoke another image from popular culture:
Either way, they are definitely trying to promote a fantasy.
For comparison’s sake, here’s the actual poster:
The claims beneath the slogan are questionable at best; at worst, outright lies.
“1.75 million more people in work.” Are they? Is that just the number thrown off Jobseekers’ Allowance? Or is it the number of people claiming to be self-employed and claiming tax credits, rather than go through the sanctions minefield that is a JSA claim under the Tory-led Coalition government? Is it the number of people in part-time or zero-hours work?
How many of these people are actually able to pay Income Tax – and thereby contribute to the Coalition’s stated main aim of deficit reduction – as a result of their employment?
“760,000 more businesses.” Are there? As above, how many are people claiming to be self-employed in order to receive tax credits rather than claim JSA? And how many businesses have been ruined over the course of the current, Tory-led, Parliament? Here’s a clue:
That doesn’t look too good, does it?
(Admittedly this graph only runs until 2013 but if one considers the number of new self-employed enterprises – 408,000 in the year to August 2014 alone – and the fact that self-employed income has dropped by 22 per cent since 2008-9, it is possible to work out the facts behind the Tory spin).
“The deficit halved.” Even the BBC have had a go at this! Radio 4’s Six O’clock News contained a segment in which this claim was examined and found wanting, in strict mathematical terms. This is because the deficit stood at around £150 billion when the Tory-led Coalition took over, and is likely to be around £100 billion on election day, May 7. This suggests that just one-third of the deficit has been eliminated.
But even this isn’t the whole story. Michael Meacher MP will happily tell you that the policies of the last Labour government account for around £38 billion of the eliminated deficit leaving George Osborne responsible for around £12 billion of savings. Looking at the number of benefit-related deaths caused by his colleague Iain Duncan Smith’s policies alone (more than 10,000 but the DWP still won’t release the figures), we have to ask: Was it worth it?
The claim that the deficit has been halved is justified with reference to economic growth; because the economy has grown, the deficit as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is smaller. But this means the Tories have used a fallacious argument to make their point; having referred to the deficit in money terms for the last four and a half years, they have had to try ‘moving the goalposts’ (that’s the actual name for this fallacy) in order to make it seem that they have achieved more.
Releasing this poster on an unsuspecting population at a launch in Halifax, David Cameron made it clear that he wanted the Conservatives to be judged on their economic performance. Perhaps he is forgetting that the Tories’ economic performance has been absolutely awful.
Together with George Osborne, he promised in 2010 that the Coalition would eliminate the deficit within its term of office. That time is almost up and it is clear that any government formed after the election will inherit a deficit of at least £80 billion. This government has failed to keep its promise.
Not only that, they promised that the national debt would begin to reduce by the end of the current Parliamentary term, and this has not happened. The national debt is still rising. It currently stands at more than twice its level when the Coalition took office. Mr Osborne is responsible for more debt than every Labour chancellor in history – put together.
And the national debt is still rising!
In fact, all the financial pain endured by ordinary people over the years since May 2010 has been for nothing. Most working households have suffered a real-terms income drop of £1,600 per year – increasing beyond £3,000 per year for those on benefits.
But life has improved for some, hasn’t it?
The richest people in the UK have doubled their wealth since 2009. They have enjoyed huge tax cuts – both in Income Tax and Corporation Tax – the tax companies pay on their profits – while changes made by Osborne to tax law have opened up huge new tax loopholes, allowing them to turn the UK into another tax haven and – again – pay fewer taxes. As pointed out on Charlie Brooker’s ‘2014 Wipe’ (and visible in the video posted on Vox Political yesterday), the current Parliament has seen a transfer of money from the poor to the rich, the like of which is unprecedented in recent years.
That’s right – rich UK citizens have benefited from the Conservatives’ policies. Debt reduction hasn’t had much to do with their plans.
This blog has argued in the past that the current government has been about selling off state assets to private enterprises, in order to create gratitude to the government of the time that is expressed in the form of donations to party funds. The Conservative Party has certainly benefited from this, and has a huge ‘war chest’ of cash to spend on the upcoming election as a result.
And we must also consider the number of millionaires in Cameron’s cabinet, and the Conservatives’ wider circle of acquaintances. Have you ever heard of a kleptocracy?
It’s a form of political corruption where the government exists to increase the personal wealth and political power of its officials and the ruling class at the expense of the wider population, often with the pretense of honest service. Doesn’t that remind you of the Conservative-led Coalition government?
Voting for the Conservatives is the last thing anyone would do, if they want a more prosperous United Kingdom.
And one last thought: Who wants the Tory version of a stronger economy at the cost of human lives? It’s only money, but more than 10,000 people have died because of Tory policies aimed at enriching their friends. It is a price that nobody should be forced to pay.
This writer got all of the above from the Tories’ new election poster.
David Cameron said it was “firing the starting gun” for the election.
It was the political equivalent of shooting himself in the head.
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