Posts Tagged ‘George Osborne’

These current times seem very reminiscent of the dying days of the Major administration. Remember when they were under fire from all sections of the media, even print, couldn’t get any Tory legislation passed, and people were just itching to boot them out of office for a fresh start? Now we regularly see sacrificial ministers wheeled out to be plucked like quivering chickens by the usually gentle and convivial Andrew Marr; answering questions in the irritatingly evasive manner of a suspect waiting for their lawyer to arrive. Mistress Mayhem AKA The Maybot ™ AKA The Feeding Seal has discovered that, much to her chagrin, the left were right all along: that her honeymoon period was almost entirely superficial, down to a combination of soft interviewing, the lauding of her by the press and their relentless hatchet jobs and character assassinations on her opposite number.


The inescapable problem for the Tories is that they have boxed themselves in with their narrow ideological obsessions. When the global financial crash struck in 2008, Gordon Brown was at the helm, and by 2010, following his clandestine insult of a voter being inadvertently broadcast, it should have been a cakewalk for the Tories, and they almost even blew that. As it was, the coalition with the LibDems should have suited David Cameron down to the ground. He could play to his natural liberal instincts and put into place his own vision for the country, which may have been closer to a LibDem vision than a Thatcherite Tory one.


Unfortunately for him, his party had been packed with raving neoliberals since Thatcher’s day, itching for further privatisation, deregulation and tax cuts for big business. ‘One Nation’ patrician conservatism was outdated; an anachronism. This may not have been too much of an issue if Cameron was smart, dedicated and strong, but he proved to be none of those things as he gave the Chancellor’s job to his old Bullingdon chum George Osborne, rather than the eminently better-qualified LibDem Vince Cable. Suddenly, we went from “coalition in service of the country in its hour of need” to “coalition in service of forwarding the interests of Tory party hard ideologues and big donors”.


Osborne was a proper neoliberal in the strictest sense: socially and economically. He idolised Thatcher, and embodied the worst Tory instincts that come with mindless privilege and a cocaine addiction. As far as he was concerned, he could ‘learn’ the chancellorship ‘on the job’, and soon treated cutting expenditure as some kind of game of Monopoly. Some Tories have been accused of reducing the state’s role to ‘custodian of the military’ and using war simply as a colonial tool. Osborne took a similarly reckless myopic approach to the treasury, seemingly taking gleeful abandon in slashing benefits to non-Tory voters, and privatising everything he could lay his hands on, even bragging of it as an end in itself. He clearly understood ‘disaster capitalism’, and the opportunities it presents for furthering nefarious ideological agendas which would otherwise prove publically unpalatable. As long as he kept blowing the ‘deficit’ trumpet, the Emperor’s clothes could remain just about visible to the oblivious masses.


When Cameron quietly dropped his ‘Big Society’ idea, most came to the reductive conclusion that Cameron was simply an empty vessel: an acceptable housewife-friendly face to front the completion of the UK’s asset stripping by the Tory neoliberals; a leader whose background in PR would stand him in good stead for bullshitting his way through the myriad social and economic issues Osborne’s demented slashing and burning would wreak.


Now though, finally, the tide seems to be turning. Whether the reality of Brexit fallout has been grasped, or people have just seen through the contradictory rhetoric of “all in it together”, the Tories have lost their majority, despite again being investigated of cheating on election expenditure, and having huge swathes of the mainstream media dancing to their tune.


Separating Theresa May’s abysmal campaign from the effectiveness of the party in general, an obviously oversimplified hypothesis of their failings would be that they do not know how not to do what they’ve done since Thatcher’s day, despite society and events moving on immeasurably. When Thatcher was handing every public asset to the private sector, it was new. You could disagree with it, but you couldn’t prove categorically that it would fail. Memories of the ‘Winter of Discontent’ sustained Thatcher’s crushing of trade unions and selling off of state monopolies: the context has changed in these last 40 years. Neoliberalism is a discredited economic ideology and a busted flush: 2008 was its natural death.


But rather than be flexible, the Tory ideologues have only one thought process: more privatisation and deregulation. Only, there is hardly anything left to sell, and it is now hugely unpopular with the general public. Their ‘zombie neoliberalism’ is fooling no one. People can see the connection between the Grenfell Tower disaster and the wider narrative where people are only valued for their economic power and big business literally gets away with murder in pursuit of profit.


They no longer have an aura of competence, or a plausible narrative for their plundering of state assets. How can they say more cuts are necessary when they’ve had 7 years to deal with the deficit and failed miserably? Who will be inspired to welcome more misery and cutbacks when they’ve seen no positive results from the 7 years they’ve already endured? Did they really think nobody would notice the stealth abolition of the NHS?


The Conservatives have managed to alienate and piss off most of the public sector, including the people we tend to value the most: doctors, police and firefighters, while propagating a culture of racism, class discord and anti-intellectualism. And the only plan they have to satiate these people is to tell them to suck it up because Brexit is the only thing that matters in the world, but they can’t tell us anything about what its aftermath will look like.


Perhaps I’m jumping the gun: record numbers still voted for the worst manifesto I have ever known from a major party, and a leader who is seemingly terrified of people unless they’re subservient acolytes. But a leopard can’t change its spots. Either the Tories start ripping off more Labour policies, or they will continue claiming the state can’t do anything positive other than bending over for big business. I cannot see either inspiring again, particularly when it becomes clear that Brexit was a huge mistake. A purge of the neoliberals may take a decade, but surely it is the only cure for this death spiral for the party that seemed unassailable just a fortnight ago.


Imagine you lived in a tiny village across a river, with only a single bridge connecting it to the outside world. Any time you needed provisions, a business meeting or simply a night out, you’d have to go over this bridge (unless you were a strong swimmer and had a change of clothes). The bridge was made of wood and iron, and its integrity was unsurpassed.

Now imagine the mayor on the other side announced the bridge was rotting, and urgent remedies were needed. He announced a new super-bridge to be constructed just down the river, but this bridge was made of a metal suspected to be toxic to fish when immersed in water. Obviously you would not be happy.

So you and the village folk gather to protest. You insist the new bridge is not worth killing most of the fish, and it would cost too much money. You insist a different design will have to be drawn up. Meanwhile, the mayor puts up posters and runs television adverts proclaiming the new bridge to all and sundry. Suddenly, everyone is open to the idea of this flash new construction, and your protests are beginning to fall on deaf ears. You and your hardy group plead with locals, but they seem to now believe that this new bridge is the only way to go. Some are more inclined to believe something that has been on television and official posters.

Away from this imbroglio, a tiny faction of ‘militants’ hire in an outside body to assess the old bridge, and their thorough report documents that the bridge is in fact structurally sound, with no signs of rot. These people release the report, but it hardly gets a mention, even among the strong ‘new bridge opposition’ group. The pro and anti-bridge rhetoric flies back and forth, while the people who understand that the original bridge is fine shake their heads and wonder what the point in anything is any more.

This whimsical allegory of course illustrates the ‘austerity’ argument, and the foundations on which it is based. The problem is not whether more austerity or less austerity is required; the problem is why is it deemed necessary at all when we look at the evidence?

It’s evident that the national debt as a percentage of GDP has been higher for the majority of the last century (chiefly driven by the two World Wars), so we might ask why it has suddenly become a major issue. The interest payments again are not even half of what would risk defaulting, despite the current coalition vastly increasing the national debt. Looking at ‘social spending’ (welfare and pensions) as a proportion of GDP, it becomes clear that the biggest outlay for welfare comes during the Thatcher years and post-2008 crash. This seems pretty obvious, as Thatcher dismantled the full employment agenda of the State, leading to permanent levels of unemployed, and of course the crash led to mass redundancies and contraction of the private sector:

So from these two statistics, the ‘massive debt’ and the ‘massive welfare bill’ are overblown and also more likely under recent Conservative governments. Another point to take from the debt charts is that despite the debt slowly growing post-2000, the Labour government prior to the worldwide financial crash had a national debt-to-GDP ratio lower than that it had ultimately inherited from John Major’s Conservative administration, who went from a low of around 25 % GDP to over 40% when leaving office in 1997. The New Labour administration was hovering just over 36% when the financial excrement hit the fan.

But of course then the coalition would likely mention that it is the deficit (gap in spending to tax collected) that they are most concerned about, and that ‘you can’t borrow your way to prosperity’. So the fact that they have failed to wipe out this deficit as they promised, as well as losing the UK’s AAA rating, and borrowing more in the first 3 years in government than New Labour did in 13, is a glaring and insulting contradiction:

So, rather than arguing about what kind of new bridge we should be building, perhaps we should remember that there is nothing fundamentally wrong with the old one. Let’s base arguments on facts instead of propaganda.

‘The tragedy of the Commons’ was an economic theory by Garrett Hardin, which essentially suggested that in a situation of common ownership, an individual’s self-interest would inevitably lead to depletion of the shared resources, meaning that people unthinkingly pursue selfish ends, despite the actions harming them in the long-term (and others).

Critics denounced this as a justification for private over public ownership, suggesting private self-interest in public scenarios should be remedied with by…private self-interest in private scenarios. You see, the prescribed antidote is the poison; only concentrated! It certainly reminds me of aspects of the kind of doublethink and duplicitous actions enacted by these latest shades of neoliberal demagogues.

Examples are plentiful and delight in insulting the intelligence of the electorate. My personal favourite is the ‘self-fulfilling paradigm’ when David Cameron, or one of his many corporate stooge cronies, makes a comment about the Government being ‘wasteful’ with taxpayers money, followed by the government he leads wasting taxpayers money. He actually made a comment about State ‘vanity projects’, after spending a significant portion of his early tenure railroading (pun intended) through HS2, amongst other farcical projects, like bribing the Chinese to build nuclear power stations for us at no financial risk to them. (A House of Lords committee has even confirmed recently that the positive case for HS2 is virtually non-existent:

Then of course there is the generic Tory bogeyman: ‘bureaucracy’, which they have markedly increased by introducing widespread outsourcing in almost every element of essential public services, particularly and shamefully; the NHS.

In the face of the Islamist threat, not at all created or grown through the UK’s illegal wars, or our arms manufacturers selling their country weapons, GCHQ must be able to spy on anyone at all times, regardless of context. To defend our nation’s freedom, we must curtail our nation’s freedom.

Apparently, this is a Government that wants to help young people buy a house. So they have offered to underwrite most of the deposit…but have done nothing to make the house more affordable, in terms of its cost or the value of anyone’s wages. And it won’t step in if these people can’t make payments. So it is actually helping BANKS buy homes.

The Government is getting unemployment down in an innovative way. One might assume they would create jobs, either in direct public sector work, or by spending on infrastructure or such to create demand in the economy. But no, our enlightened overlords simply bribe jobcentre staff to hound people into self-employment or penury. Don’t worry, work will pay. Because benefits are being scaled back so you won’t be able to afford food otherwise.

Interestingly, at least one private hospital provider sucking on the NHS teat has pulled out, leaving the taxpayer to clean up the mess:

Oooh it’s Circle! Didn’t they bankroll Andrew Lansley, who forced through the Health and Social Care Act in 2012 amid huge opposition? Apparently they bribed him, took the NHS money and ran away scot-free. Or so the evidence would suggest.

Remember when George Osborne said the nation ‘couldn’t borrow its way out of the crisis’, only to borrow more in his first 3 years than the Labour government did in 13?

Or successfully turning the worldwide financial meltdown and subsequent bail-out into an irresponsible public spending spree? Funny thing is, Osborne (or the advisors writing his speeches) pledged in 2007 to match Labour’s public spending for 3 years:
and his party was renowned for urging less City regulation, right up until the crash, with John Redwood incredibly urging mortgage provision (the major cause of the crash in America) regulation be abolished:

You see, in a post-political era, where elite politicians represent nothing more than highly-remunerated gatekeepers between multinationals and the taxpayer pot of gold, their main task has nothing to do with empirical evidence, constituent feedback or referendums; it is a psychological war with the electorate. With the right-wing media as their tanks, they roll out stream after stream of doublethink, convincing us that the suspiciously golden shower soaking us to the skin is in fact soft summer rain.

Half a dozen notable tactics deployed thus far:

1) Outright lies (“No more top-down reorganisation of the NHS”/”We are not privatising the NHS”) followed by denials and hoping it all blows over come May.
2) Using corrupt practices your own government deals in to justify ‘less government interference’.
3) Using acts of terrorism your foreign policy and arms dealers bear most responsibility for to justify keeping the entire population under surveillance, despite heavily criticising the previous administration for their proposed ID cards to apparently combat the threat of terrorism. Essentially following an identical agenda via a backdoor route (see also ‘Health and Social Care Bill’)
4) Questioning the ‘witch-hunt’ against phone-hacking tabloids generally favouring the Conservative Party, before demanding crucial investigative files on NSA activity obtained by the Establishment-challenging Guardian be handed over or destroyed:
5) Talking tough against fundamentalist indoctrination, before allowing waves of ‘free’ faith schools to be founded, with no criteria for qualified teachers! (What could go wrong?)
6) Talking ENDLESSLY about cutting taxes, only to end up cumulatively hiking them more than the previous administration….except for the 5% cut for those earning over £150k a year of course:

Tragedy of the Commons indeed.

Apparently, we should all fall to knees in reverence to our glorious Chancellor, whose fiduciary masterstrokes have returned UK GDP to pre-2008 peaks. The fact that it does not take into account population growth renders it similar to a schoolboy boasting about winning a football match 10-0 when he’d quietly packed his team with year 13s without telling anyone. Also, I believe UK Gross Domestic Product includes Government borrowing, so again it’s a pretty worthless measurement of budgetary accomplishment, unless Osborne wants to boast about borrowing more in 4 years than the previous administration borrowed in 13.
One could also argue that, in seeing the Health Service reduced to developing world status, the growing prevalence and creativity of slum landlords, zero-hour exploitation, and a growing section of the population reduced to abject penury in one of the world’s wealthiest nations, the ‘end’ may not have justified the means. One may also suggest that reducing us to the status of China’s bitches, America’s bootlickers and the knowing tyrant’s arms provider of choice is not something to be proud of, nor dropping our metaphorical drawers to any and all ‘investment’. Like a febrile drug addict, we are selling off everything not nailed down and cramming every awkward household implement up our arse. Tote? Royal Mail? NHS? Sold to the highest bidder donor! Fracking? Massive vanity project railway line crucial to Britain’s future interests? More nuclear? Come on in!

I saw an article recently that proclaimed the future would see most labour undertaken by robots, leaving most of the population jobless. That future is already here! Still round 2.5 million unemployed, 500,000 vacancies. We can either get used to this, and see it as a massive positive, leaving most of the population free to pursue their passions and community work, or allow the cabal of merciless privateers to keep convincing us we need to be their slaves to get even the stale crumbs of their enormous pie.

The greatest trick the plundering larcenist banksters ever pulled was convincing the world they didn’t exist…

How did they do it? With a little help from the Fourth Estate and some little brown envelopes it seems:

So here we are, 3 years down the line from the suicidal trading of toxic derivatives and sub-prime mortgage follies, and what has been put right?

The answer is nothing. Not only has nothing been put right, but the major contributor to the financial meltdown has been set back in motion again!

There’s only so many times you can call George Osborne an unqualified moron before you actually start to believe that he may know what he’s doing. When he fails at all his own declared targets; when a mediocre fraction of growth after a near triple-dip recession is trumpeted as proof of his very clever plan; when he smirks that pudgy smirk for the umpteenth time on using the phrase “hardworking people who want to get on” without a trace of irony at his own fortuitous circumstance, perhaps he really is just sending himself up. After all, with his absolute disregard for fiscal responsibility in using taxpayers to underwrite mortgages for people who can’t afford them, he has not only played to the Tory home-owning fantasy cheap seats, but he has set landmines which will most likely detonate under the stewardship of the next inevitable Labour government. But then, playing politics with people’s livelihoods (and lives) has never been a problem for this particular brand of silver-spoon Tory: it’s like parlour games to them.

It’s amazing to behold the ideological parrots getting royally stomped into the ground with the rest of us, yet justifying this madness with some reference to justice against ‘scroungers’. It matters not how many times you repeat that benefit fraud levels account for less than 1% of total welfare, or that more benefit money is left unclaimed than is claimed fraudulently; these people are happy to repeat the Establishment fallacy while Master wipes his boots on them.

Truly successful demagoguery always relies on painting easy scapegoats that people insist could never be them, and insisting these unfortunates are leeching off the rest of the population. Thus, the simple-minded will listen to nauseating 1950s throwback phrases like ‘hardworking families’ and think “that describes me!”; because nobody with any self-esteem would identify with less-than-heroic social caricatures.

Of course, some of these less empathetic sorts will suffer their own cautionary tales of karmic justice, perhaps by losing their own job, and, in an unlikely turn, be forced into performing a strikingly similar role for nothing more than benefits. This is generally what it takes to convert any of the ignorant or arrogant: direct penury. These are the same sorts of people who wonder why they have no access to legal recourse any more, or access to non-emergency healthcare. They bury their heads in a mound of self-congratulatory sand, muttering about people deserving their misfortune, until it happens to them, of course.

So are we happy, having suffered a cataclysmic financial meltdown, to go into a fourth year having put in place nothing to prevent it all happening again, in fact our Chancellor happily stoking up another catastrophe by bribing people with home loans underwritten by us?

Not being able to see the woods for the trees was always one of my favourite idioms, mainly for the visual picture it evoked, of a baffled person staggering around, pounding their fists on bark, little realising that these trees surrounding them actually encompass the area they are looking for. The symbolic meaning of the phrase is of course that a person can be too close or emotionally involved in a problem to see the potential solution.

This applies equally well to any scenario, not just a problem but a police investigation, for instance. A police officer whose sister had just died from a drug overdose would probably be incapable of deploying reasoned judgment when it came to a drug bust. A naïve drug mule could wind up being gunned down by said officer. Without any further investigation or background knowledge, some witnesses may assume the officer used his weapon to simply retaliate at some trivial verbal abuse, say. So many misunderstandings and consequences could result from senior officers not doing their homework on the context, and these could potentially be broadcast as unquestioned truth. This is one obvious example of conclusions leapt to before considering all external factors in order to give the ‘bigger picture’.

You can’t open a newspaper now without seeing the latest depraved anecdotes about Jimmy Savile. Although still just allegations, the fact that over 400 lines of enquiry are being opened, and with nothing to gain from a dead man, most now assume that Savile was a pretty despicable sexual predator. Though in some newspapers, particularly, it seems, News International titles, you would not know who was actually most guilty in the sordid business, Savile or the BBC.

Many are curious at the timing of the Savile allegations’ announcements, coming as they do when his victims can no longer see him be held accountable for his crimes. Cynics may argue that it is more than a coincidence that an incompetent Government obsessed with privatising everything not nailed down suddenly have a massive club to beat a public institution with. After all, nobody would ever not be outraged at paedophilia. The Tories have loathed the BBC ever since Margaret Thatcher first kicked off the Neoliberal rampage and crushed the Miners’ strike through brutal means. They see a combination of the two things they hate most: a public service with a left-wing slant, though recently they actually seem to have been towing the Government line a little too much for some people’s liking.

This story means a lot to the Government, who are desperate for anything to take reporting of their incompetence and cruelty off the front pages, and, as it is one of their nemeses, all the better. That is not to say there are not some tough questions for the BBC to answer: just how a man many admit openly flaunted his criminal behaviour for so long was able to stand unchallenged. But then that brings me onto my second pertinent point.

People cry foul at the nurses and journalists and executives who bore witness, but did not speak out before it became a culture. Some have argued that until the late 90s, children were not given such a voice. Adults were always assumed to be responsible, and children to be prone to lying or exaggeration. This is true of course. There was a hugely different culture in the 1970s than today with regards to men’s behaviour around children. But what about the concept of whistleblowing? What nurse or lower level employee could hope to speak out against a national icon and survive with their job intact? The myth of Savile became more important than the behaviour of Savile, and it had ballooned too much for most to risk discrediting him.

Which brings me to my final concluding point: that of this Coalition trying to force through plans which will mean some employees having to pay to go to an employment tribunal for unfair dismissal. Which means even fewer people will ever feel confident speaking out against a powerful person within their organisation, for fear of losing their livelihood in the process.

This is the woodland from above. The Tory-led Coalition demonises the BBC for political advantage, whilst ignoring the bigger picture: that their policies will create a culture even further entrenched in cowed silence. Victims of these travesties deserve better, but the Government would rather cut down all the trees in the woods than admit it is their acid rain scorching the earth.

It was interesting to hear all the hypocrisy at the Conservative conference, and the complete lack of shame or irony at some of the statements and lies spat like rabid right-wing mongrels threatened with being neutered.

Among them, we were told of the ‘politics of resentment’. According to George Osborne, this was the term for those who demanded increased taxes on the wealthy, because of course nobody should expect the super-rich to help pay for a crisis their kind created. Perhaps some ignorant people may accept this spurious defence of a farcical Government’s vested interests, but the palpable irony practically brought the building down when Osborne then evoked a hypothetical shift-worker who resented his neighbour’s apparently easy idle existence on benefits. But of course, this was not the ‘resentment’ he was referring to. Osborne was talking of the kind of resentment that he wishes existed; the Victorian-era forced deference to our ‘social betters’. This is the kind of resentment that keeps him warm at night, as he imagines people born without his outrageous privilege wishing that they were him. Despite his laughable employment background, his ascent to the Treasury owing only to his public school ties to the Prime Minister, Osborne consoles himself that, as inept as he is in his position, his inherited wealth somehow elevates him above those less fortunate, and gives him power to decide their fates.

He also boasted of ‘shrinking the State more than any before’, as if this was going to excite anyone outside of the raving Thatcherite Right. Besides that shameful attempt at hubris, recent evidence underlines that this is actually the biggest Government; in ministers, civil servants and advisors, since the turn of the 20th Century. When Osborne claims to be ‘shrinking the State’, what he means is he is removing aid and benefits from the needy, while swelling the ranks of his own cronies.

Even ignoring the outright lies and spin David Cameron deployed when defending the deplorable NHS reforms, he had the nerve to deploy his deceased disabled son, when claiming that his Government had made people view the disabled as ordinary people more than ever before. I’m not sure which planet he has been living on, but you don’t have to look far to see that his Government’s hateful rhetoric has actually increased abuse and attacks on, and suicides of, the disabled, whilst his advocated welfare reform is depriving the disabled of even a dignified existence.

Also, I would be remiss not to remind us of the difference between the words ‘privilege’ and ‘benefits’, for our Prime Minister seems to have forgotten. Cameron, in what must have seemed like a good idea at the time, claimed his Party does not stand for the ‘privileged’, rather he wishes to spread privilege around! Keeping in mind that privilege is defined as exclusionist: by its very nature it sets you apart from the majority, spreading it around is clearly impossible. Privilege is also quite similar to a word beloved of the Tory Right: entitlement. Bitterly do we laugh when we hear a Government raised on privilege chastising those with a ‘sense of entitlement’. Because of course, privilege and entitlement are almost interchangeable terms. So why do the privileged hate a ‘sense of entitlement’, when it is so similar to their own attitudes? There is only one reason: these people they term ‘the entitled’ are not one of them. They are poor. They claim this ‘entitlement’ from the collective, whereas the Government’s privilege came from their own parents. What it boils down to then is that those born into great wealth actually resent contributing anything to keep the poor from destitution.

‘Benefits’ meanwhile, are actually what can be spread around. See the difference, Dave?

Aspiration is a word the Tories slather over. They have always claimed it defines them as a Party: that they stand for ‘the strivers’. But of course everyone has aspirations. Some aspire to raise a family. Others strive to control others, or build their own business, or reach peaks of excellence in a discipline. Others are happy just aspiring to become a better person. All of these are good targets and should be welcomed and encouraged by a diverse and tolerant society. But, of course, this was not what Cameron meant. He used aspiration as an acceptable word to disguise his true intent: money grubbing.

In a country where food banks are exploding, our Prime Minister wants to encourage people to step over each other to grab a larger slice of a limited pie. In a world of shrinking resources and expanding populations, the Conservative’s response is to hand you a knife and tell you to get stabbing. They are of course not merely instructing, but forcing this option on many, because the alternative is inadequate benefits to cover the costs of shelter, food and heat. Stab or be kicked into the gutter. Of course, for those with nothing, there is no choice of utilising the ‘entrepreneurial spirit’ so beloved of the Right, so they must work for peanuts for a company who soon will wish to trade away their job security for magic beans.

For a Party that promotes aspiration, their speeches dripped with the politics of fear, and I, for one, want no part of the kind of twisted society they envisage imposing on all of us.