Wednesday, 20 October 2010

"Why don't they start with the bankers?"

The British Government has announced its programme of cuts in public spending today. Carefully crafting a wide range of substantial reductions in spending so that the average cuts per Government department come in at 19% over four years rather than Labour's planned 20%, the Con Dems betray the essential unity of the three main parties around a monetarist, free market agenda. Their little school boyish prank may make waves in the Westminster Village, a bit like waving condoms about in a Prefects' Room, but the impact on a wide range of poor and vulnerable citizens will be even worse than feared, with £7 billions more than expected off disability payments - £50 per week taken from people on Incapacity Benefit for more than 12 months - and a 50% reduction in the social housing budget. At the same time, precisely nothing is done to tackle the massive tax evasion and corporate tax exemptions that plague Britain.

So amidst the gloom, it was good to see this video (below) of Green Party leader Caroline Lucas MP railing passionately against the cuts as socially damaging and economically illiterate - worsening the crisis of the deficit rather than tackling it. Clearly angered by the Chancellor's approach, she calls for action on investment in sustainable jobs and action against tax evasion. Government led spending on a range of activities such as improving public transport and developing renewable energy would pay dividends in a multiplicity of ways - generating jobs and tax revenue, cutting the deficit, reducing our dependence on foreign energy and cutting our carbon emissions.

This type of Keynesian economic theory,on which the "Green New Deal" is based, used to be the economic orthodoxy that worked for a coherent society. By contrast, Monetarist theory adopted by right wingers in the 1970s onwards changed that - placing economic objectives above social ones and seeking to reduce government involvement in the economy and socirty as a whole. As Nigel Lawson, Thatcher's Chancellor, explained on BBC Radio 4 last night, "I wasn't much bothered about damaging solidarity and social cohesion." All he was bothered about was creating space for tax cuts for the wealthy and a chance to flog off the national assets.

As the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats contemplate the biggest sale of public assets ever, as well as cutting deep into the welfare state, the Con Dem regime is emerging as one of the most avowedly ideological governments in British history, rolling back the shrinking public sector further than Mrs Thatcher ever dared imagine.

At least, hearing Caroline Lucas' speech, there is clearly a voice in Parliament showing that there IS an alternative to an agenda that turns citizens into numbers and shuts its eyes to real human suffering. Let's hope it keeps getting louder. And heard.


  1. Satistics can be misleading: state spending has been around and even slightly higher than 47% of GDP - unsurprising given the last government's policy of quantatitve easing to mitigate the impact of the private banks collapse. But much of that money has gone to the private sector - state employees account for around 6 million people out of a workforce of around 33 million - less than 20%. There are over 4 private sector workers for every public sector worker, many of them now delivering services that used to be in state hands. The reductions under Thatcher were never significantly reversed: