10/10/2010 6 Comments
I started this blog back in May. Prior to that, although I enjoyed reading other people’s blogs, I had never seriously considered bothering to do one myself.
Then one day, something came along which was so utterly stupid I felt like I needed to tell the world. The country’s finances were in a big mess, we were about to go through a general election and no party standing for election had told us what they were going to cut in order to sort this out.
In all of this the thing which really got my goat, the thing which frustrated me into setting up a free WordPress account and typing – actually typing, was the Conservative policy on raising the inheritance tax threshold. In the circumstances probably the most mind-numbingly stupid thing that could conceivably have been conceived.
You can read that first post here but to summarise it, the ONS had published very clear figures showing the state of the nation’s finances. The IFS had published a very clear paper showing that each of the three main parties required significant, unidentified spending cuts in order to make their sums add up and despite this, the Conservative party were advocating a tax cut which would only benefit very rich people and, in order to pursue their agenda of lower public spending would have to be funded by even more cuts elsewhere.
The IFS’s paper showed that the Conservative Party, in their manifesto, had identified a mere 17.7% of the spending cuts they would actually need to make to in order for their figures to balance. This was well known, clearly calculated and in the public domain.
Now, before I continue, I want to make something absolutely clear. I did not hack into a top secret government server to get this information. I did not take it off a laptop I found on a train, I just downloaded some reports from the websites of the two most bloody obvious places to look for it.
Fast-forward to Thursday last week and that evening’s episode of Question Time on which, representing the Conservative Party, was Baroness Warsi.
“Why didn’t you tell the public you were going to cut Child Benefit?” she was asked.
Pop Quiz, assholes. Was her answer:
- Well, we had no idea how bad the financial mess that Labour left behind would be.
- We didn’t want to tell anyone before the election in case they didn’t vote for us but it’s too late for that now! We won! Ha Ha!
Sadly, she went with a). This is very strange though because everyone else did know very accurately how bad the financial mess was and furthermore, I seem to recall a certain political party making it the major point of their election campaign.
If Baroness Warsi says she didn’t realise our finances were a big mess then I conclude that either:
- She is not taking her job very seriously.
- Her pants are on fire.
Judging by the audience’s reaction they were opting for answer b).
Later, Baroness Warsi got onto the subject of Big Society. Big Society is the coalition’s spoon full of sugar to help the cuts go down and if you don’t think too hard about it, it has a lot going for it. The idea is that the state will motivate society into taking responsibility for their own lives and get involved in building and improving the community. Such will be the Utopia that we create that no one will even remember spending cuts. It does have a fairly big down side though – no one will actually bother to do it.
Warsi was asked what the Big Society initiative would actually achieve. She recounted a charming tale of some people who had once cleaned up a car park. The next step for Big Society, she said, would be reforming our educational system, our police force and our health service.
That does seem like rather a big next step. Just because the average group of people possesses the skills to clean up a car park does not mean that the average group of people knows how to set up and run a school or a hospital. In fact, I would go as far as to say these things are in no way related.
If you didn’t see the episode and think I am misrepresenting things, I urge you to have a look at it on iPlayer. This bizarre extrapolation really was done.
When Labour came to power in 1997 they enjoyed a long “Honeymoon” period. Judging by Baroness Warsi’s performance, the coalition’s is over as quickly as it began. I actually don’t believe the government could possibly be as incompetent as you’d believe from watching her but they do seem to put her on TV a lot so their judgment at least is fairly awful.
Her claim regarding the economy, essentially ‘we didn’t know what we were getting in to’, is frankly no better than Bob Crow using the fact that tube drivers have to work underground a lot of the time as one of the reasons that they should be paid more. Call me a cynic but I’m pretty sure they knew that when they applied for the job and probably they thought the hugely inflated salary, minimal working hours and generous holiday allowance made up for it. Or maybe they really didn’t already know this when they applied for the job of tube driver on the London Underground.
In truth the state of the nation’s finances were well known by everybody. Any party seeking election knew exactly what they were taking on and as such the elected government should be able to stand behind their policies, not hide behind a lie.
The claim that these cuts weren’t expected and are just the result of not realising that our economy is weak, is frankly insulting because it is so easily shown to be false. The current government will no doubt have more, as yet, unidentified cuts ahead. If they have even the tiniest amount of respect for their electorate then they will learn to be accountable for their policies. If they think their electorate is a bunch of idiots then we have this excuse to look forward to for the next four and a half years.
This all sounds hugely depressing but I assure you – it’s not all bad. Somewhere, wherever it may be, we have a clean car park.