Austerity Revisited

Let me take you back to November 2013, George, (The Austerity Junkie) Osborne strode the corridors of power, blinkers in place, smugness oozing from every pore. He was on a roll and telling everyone who was not too bored to listen that his strangulation of the economy was slowly bringing Britain out of recession. He and his Graffian follicle challenged mate, Iain Duncan Smith, had totally misjudged the finances of this country. In effect they had attempted to solve a complex mathematical equation without understanding the question.

Their answer to everything was – cut, cut, cut and cut again! A sensible person, using common sense instead of an abacus, would have stood back after the first round of cuts and taken stock. Not so these idiots, they, along with their Eton buddies and the other members of the Coalition Cabinet, pre-planned a variety of swinging cuts with no real thought to the consequences that they would make on the general public or the country as a whole.

The net result was they left Britain virtually defenceless, with fewer prisons but more prisoners, crime, despite the spin which proclaimed otherwise, was on the up because they had demanded front-line cuts to the police force, immigration was and, still is out of control, the NHS was in crisis and the elderly were living in fear. On top of that, people with genuine disabilities had been forced back to work including some whom, it was reported later, had terminal cancer. There were at least three reports of people dying from this dreadful disease within weeks of being told they were fit for work by ATOS.

However, it would seem that if someone worked for the government, be it in the Civil Service, the NHS,the Emergency Services or any other public body the rules of austerity did not apply. It had been widely reported that senior NHS staff had been made to retire under Osborne’s austerity measures and paid vast sums of money in compensation and index-linked pensions, only to be re-hired at another NHS venue with similar salaries plus they got to retain the lump sum pay-out and still collected their pensions. Same story in the police force, here over 5000 officers had been re-employed in civilian roles. It was reported that 17 officers were re-employed by the West Midlands Police Force. This after the force had paid out £2.1m in pension and lump sums. Someone was quoted as calling this, “Jobgate after Plebgate”. A legal way of double dipping into the Public Purse.

Police Commissioners, Health Service CEO’s and any other senior figure, either in the government or Civil Service, all sang the same song, they explained that the practice was actually value for money and good for the country. I ask you to decide on the validity of that.                                                                                                                                                                           People who had been rehired cannot be blamed, under the same circumstances 95% pf the population would have grasped at the same straws. Given that it costs more in the long run to rehire staff the blame should quite rightly lie with the weak managers at senior level who carried out the cuts knowing that most were ill-advised. They should have been standing up to Osborne and his cronies and pointing out that the savageness of the cuts did not make economic sense. Especially when they knew that they would have to fill the void left by the people whom they have got rid of. It was not even good PR because of the furore it caused when the rehiring was made public.

Cameron and Osborne may have been crowing at the slight improvement in the economy but, at what cost to the average person in the street? Don’t be fooled into thinking that Miliband and his shambles of an Opposition would would have done things any differently.

Skip forward four years, the Tories are still in power (just), there are fewer police on the streets, fewer firefighters, fewer doctors, fewer nurses, the NHS is in crisis, London has overtaken New York for the number of murders carried out, over fifty in the first one hundred days of this year! Nationally real crime is at an all-time high while innocent soldiers are being prosecuted for alleged war crimes, pensioners are being arrested for defending their homes from intruders, free speech has been all but banned and anyone criticising ethnic minorities faces either a hefty fine or jail. It reads like a plot from a George Orwell novel!

Labour make great play about the state of the economy, the ‘crisis’ in the NHS, public services, housing, etc, etc. One has to ask though; which Party when in power always squanders the Public Purse? Which Party when in power always turn a surfeit into a deficit? The answer is, The Labour Party. As Margaret Thatcher so aptly put it: “Socialism is fine until you run out of other peoples money!”                                                                                                                                      Conservatives when in power cannot ignore the problems left to them by a fiscally incompetent Labour government but they always take an unnecessarily  hard-line approach to solve it. In a capitalist system, people earn money from their work. Businesses employ and pay people to work. Then people can spend their money on things they want. Therefore, in the short term a Keynesian approach would seem sensible but looking back through history to the 1930’s when John Maynard Keynes developed his fiscal policy model in order to better understand the causes of the “Great Depression”, his views and the interpretation of those views by subsequent Chancellors differ greatly. The basic principle is that governments can influence economic productivity levels by increasing or decreasing tax levels and public spending. The problem we have had is that no Chancellor has been able to get the balance between lower taxes and public spending right. So, they either revert to borrowing on a colossal scale (Labour) or implement over the top austerity measures (Conservatives).  Both Parties over compensate which inevitably leads to a debt spiral.

So obsessed are they with being in power that both parties ignore the very people who put their trust in them and gave them that power. This is what is wrong with the two-party system we have in this country. (The LibDems might just as well go on an extended camping trip to the Highlands and entertain the midges!) Nothing ever really changes, the country lurches from one financial crisis to another.  To compound the problem we then have both Parties lying to the public, both blaming the other for a problem neither completely understands nor, has an answer to. Using the ‘deficit’ (the difference between GDP and borrowing) as a measure as to how well the economy is doing, fools no one. Politicians of all Parties fail, by choice, to understand the basic premise of finance, that being, when you borrow money you are, by definition, in debt!   There is no common sense, no housekeeping, no fiscal prudence, just a short term blinkered view of how to ruin run the county.

It is quite right that people are losing faith in Labour, Conservative and the LibDems. Not one of those Parties has ever managed to get to grips with the economy of this country. Robbing Peter to pay Paul is never a good idea but it is one that the above have grasped with both hands. It is time for a radical change in the way the country’s finances are run. This lot will never change in their approach to matters fiscal so a new approach or, better still, a new Party is needed. A Party not held back by the diktats of an over-burgeoned EU behemoth or, blind to historical facts. It is time for those in Parliament to realise that when we leave the European Union we simply cannot fudge the economy anymore.  It is time for common sense and fairness for all and one can only hope that by 2021 the electorate will have  finally woken up, let us hope that the wake up call of June 16th 2016 still resonates.