Monday 31 December 2012

British Politics into 2013

Wishing a Happy New Year is probably perverse this year. This is the first time the people at the bottom will be attacked by a British government in a consistent manner. Thatcher, when she created mass unemployment, let people 'go on disability' so they at least could have a tolerable existence on the bottom. When she introduced the Poll Tax she had her fingers burnt to the point of her own downfall.

This government is raising benefits by 1% only, is introducing a spare bedrooms tax in effect on the poorest needing Housing Benefit, and will have local authorities charge people council tax who've never paid it. At the same time ATOS is declaring disabled and difficult-to-work people able to work, with people in limbo on appeal and fearful for their future.

What makes all this especially annoying is that the Liberal Democrats are part of this nasty attack on the least. Clearly George Osborne is loving this opportunity to have a go at benefits reform and ignore the failure of capitalism to finance itself and employ all that would seek work, but how the Liberal Democrats are involved in this when they sought votes on an entirely different basis beats me. They surely understood that there is a social contract in society that there is a certain amount of employment available, that others should seek it, but those who don't get work should at least have a tolerable if poor life.

But we learn, don't we, that the Nick Cleggs, Danny Alexanders and David Lawses of this world actually like being in government and shuffling the money around and have gone from Orange to Blue. It is impossible to imagine them now in coalition with Labour. Their apparent contribution to social justice during this time has been negligible. They have done nothing for political reform at all as the Conservatives have run rings around them.

The Liberal Democrats deserve nothing but destruction. There is nothing worse than a turncoat party, the one that turns on its own supporters. Under Ashdown and Kennedy they built themselves up as liberal, reformist and even to the left of Blair's Labour Party. They went into the General Election closer to Labour on economics and social attitudes, and the general left vote was bigger than the right vote. But what we've got is right wing government and of a particular nasty kind. Bringing Ashdown in to try to prop up the vote next time was an admission of weakness by Clegg, just as John Major brought in Heseltine: when the ship sinks, it goes down as fast no matter how many captains you put on the bridge.

If there is social protest in 2013 it won't be a suprise to me. You cannot attack a significant section of the population and expect no response. It needs leadership so that it is both persistent and peaceful. Perhaps Churches (and faith groups) instead of being obsessed about themselves and sex should recapture that which was in Faith in the City and start mouthing some resistance; the Oil Man taking over at the top of the Church of England might do no harm by speaking up for those under attack.

It would be good if the coalition collapsed in 2013. It cannot come too soon for me. Labour and some Liberal Democrats (gosh - the Liberal Democrats are at least disciplined for a party of individualists!) might try to find every means possible to bring this government down. I don't have any particular faith in Labour as such, though I think that Ed Miliband is turning out to be a decent politician and with some ethical ideas and not, himself, illiberal. He and Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls need to start cutting up the government and going after every weakness. They are likely to receive a landslide victory and helped by the frustration of the disenfranchised by some of the Lib Dems voters looking for somewhere to vote and settling on UKIP along with right wing Tories. The Tories remain toxic, the Liberal Democrats are a bunch of liars from the election onwards, and Labour simply needs to get its act together.

The idea that 'Labour got us into this mess' is rubbish. If anything, they handled the crisis well. Gordon Brown fantasised about no boom and bust, but the cause was banks creating financial products that allowed the West to go on consuming when it was China and the Far East doing the producing. A time comes when debt becomes so unmoveable when you just have to say 'all gone' as advised in that strange book called the Hebrew Bible.

In the end, Capitalism is only as good as it performs for the people. It is for people to have control, and take control. That's why we have democracies. Banks have got to be stopped from controlling us and we should control them. We should also realise that the monetarist IS-LM curves of money and real economy work when the economy is running along quite nicely: in this situation the curves are more Keynesian. Slushing money around physically into the banking system and dropping interest rates to zero, does nothing in an economy like today. What does work, now, is precisely the opposite of what this stupid and vicious government is going to do. Put most money in the hands of the poorest and the poorest will spend it - the rich just save. Put money directly into infrastructure and efficiency projects and people will be employed, and then the accelerator effect gets going. Yes, the accelerator effect is low when an economy runs well enough, but not when 'animal spirits' have become so low that a different and sluggish equlibrium is at work.

None of this persuades the Chancellor George Osborne, who is a social and political animal of the economic right. Cameron is a publicity man of the social right - why he won't implement Leveson. That these people, and like them, and a bunch of right wing nut jobs are upheld by the Liberal Democrats is the real tragedy of the moment. But the electorate does not forget. I voted for them more than most: I wanted the party to have that easy title and I wanted it to be government potential when I put its leaflets through doors. But we have been betrayed. The electorate does not forget liars nor those who cause deliberate distress. The Liberal Demcorats will reap the whirlwind and they will deserve every loss.


June Butler said...

Adrian, I'll be perverse and wish you Happy New Year anyway. You never know what the future holds. :-)

Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

You never know. I might win the prize for Dickinson's Real Deal - I've entered it for about two years now, but probability, being what it is...