Wednesday 3 August 2016

George Osborne's toxic austerity agenda

For years I've been banging on about how Tory austerity is a highly destructive, economically illiterate and historically unjustifiable con job. At times it felt like me, and the few other people talking economic sense were shouting in the wilderness because all of our efforts were completely undermined by the Blairite faction of the Labour Party constantly agreeing with the insane Tory economic fairy story that it's possible to cut our way to growth and prosperity.

Ed Miliband made a catastrophic mistake in appointing the inept Blairite Ed Balls as his shadow chancellor.  Balls' economic policy wasn't to present a clear and coherent alternative to ideologically driven Tory austerity, it was to try to agree them into submission. Anyone with any political sense at all could see the 2015 General Election disaster unfolding. Austerity-lite was clearly one of the weakest and least inspiring campaign strategies ever devised. The idea of millions of traditional Labour voters getting enthused about a watered down version of Tory economic madness was as unrealistic as expecting Tory voters to switch to ersatz austerity when they could have the real thing by voting Tory.

Since his election as Labour Party leader in 2015 Jeremy Corbyn has been a breath of fresh air. Instead of making the fundamental political error of agreeing with your political opponents' dodgy premise and trying to weakly imitate their policies, Corbyn has taken the revolutionary stance of actually opposing the Tory ideological agenda.

At last there is someone challenging Tory austerity, yet the Blairite faction of the Labour Party are desperate to assist the Tories again by constantly attacking their own party leader rather than concentrating on criticism of the catastrophically failed Tory austerity agenda.

The failure of austerity

If the success of Tory austerity is measured in sensible economic terms it's clearly been a complete failure. In 2010 George Osborne promised that austerity would eliminate the deficit by 2015 but didn't even manage to halve it. In 2015 Osborne promised that austerity would eliminate the deficit by 2020. In 2016 the Tories are admitting that elimination of the deficit by 2020 is going to be impossible.

The Tories are openly admitting that it's going to take way more than 10 years for austerity to achieve what they initially promised that it would do in five!

Aside from the abject failure to eliminate the budget deficit, austerity has produced all manner of appalling social and economic results.

How much of an out-of-touch fantasy land would people have to occupy in order to make out that this record is such a "success" that George Osborne deserves to join the likes of Stephen Hawking, David Attenborough, James Lovelock and Ian McKellen in the exclusive list of Companions of Honour?

A bit of economic history

In 1945 the post-war UK economy was in ruins and the national debt stood at an incredible 250% of GDP. That year Clement Attlee's Labour government were elected and set in motion the most ambitious programme of government spending in British history. They established the NHS and the beloved principle that health care should be free at the point of need, they built hundreds of thousands of new houses per year, they rebuilt the UK's war shattered infrastructure, they massively improved pensions and the welfare state, they introduced Legal Aid so that ordinary people could access the legal system and they nationalised several core industries and services so that they could be run for the good of the country rather than the profit of a tiny minority.

These reforms resulted in the longest period of economic stability, sustained debt reduction and increased prosperity (across all sectors of society) in British history. By the time Margaret Thatcher and her band of ideological fanatics tore up the post war consensus in 1979 the national debt had fallen from 250% of GDP to just 43%.

The post-war period is a shining example of the fact that strategic investment is the way to reduce debts and increase prosperity, and the post financial crisis Tory austerity agenda is proof that "let's cut our way to growth" is a load of toxic economically illiterate nonsense.

The real Tory agenda

It's impossible that Tory politicians have failed to notice that George Osborne's austerity agenda failed on pretty much every economic indicator going. It's also highly unlikely that they don't know about the way the UK invested it's way to growth and prosperity in the post-war period. Yet they still stubbornly refuse to admit that austerity is a load of ideologically driven claptrap that has done immeasurable harm to the UK economy.

The reason they refuse to admit that George Osborne's austerity agenda has been a disaster is that for a select few it hasn't been a disaster at all. 

While all other public sector workers have been subjected to below inflation 1% pay freezes for years on end and the working poor have experienced savage cuts to their in-work benefits the Tories and the rest of the Westminster establishment club got an 11% pay rise. And while ordinary workers were suffering the longest sustained decline in real wages since records began, the tiny super-rich minority literally doubled their wealth.

The Tories don't see austerity as a failure because they, and the multi-millionaire donors who bankroll the Tory party have done very nicely out of it indeed (at the expense of everyone else).


The Tory austerity agenda was never really about tackling the government debt or stimulating economic growth. Had that been the case they would surely have followed the successful post-war example and tried to invest our way to growth and prosperity. The real agenda was to feed the public a load of economic fairy stories in order to justify policies that resulted in a massive upwards redistribution of wealth.

It's an incredible feat of propaganda that the Tories managed to delude millions of people into believing that austerity was about fixing the debt, rather than transferring wealth from poor and ordinary people to their super-rich backers, but it worked.

Disappointingly there are still an awful lot of people out there who still stubbornly refuse to admit that they've been conned despite the absolute mountain of evidence that David Cameron, George Osborne and their chums in the right-wing press pulled off one of the greatest con jobs ever on the British electorate.

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