FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Obituary: British Austerity (2010-2016)

UK Chancellor George Osborne announced last week that the Government is now forced to abandon its target to run a budget surplus by 2020. The project’s principal output, six years’ of austerity for the country’s people, has come to an end.[1]

Many, even on the Conservative backbenches, now question its utility. Growth in the UK stalled throughout the period, falling markedly below competitors in the global markets. The UK was positioned as the foremost adherent of this bastardised Keynesian policy which saw its own Government cannibalise its own functions in a maudlin effort to lose weight. Over the past six years spending fell 10% – similar crashes have been seen previously only in times of war or famine.

“It is frankly astonishing,” said one Tory backbencher, “that the bulldog spirit of this country could not be roused by such simple means. One wonders how we can compete in future on the global stage with such timidity.” But the Chair of his own Constituency Party countered, pointing out that the Government had failed abjectly in its provision of support to the area’s people. “Many of the people in this constituency own agribusinesses, not financial firms – this Government has quietly ignored their plight. When our workers’ homes were inundated some years back, did they care? Of course not – their only focus is London.”

For the past 6 years, with harm and humiliation dealt out to all but the rentier classes, the Labour party could not have asked for a more potent straw man to fight. “Obviously austerity is unpleasant,” says former leader Ed Miliband in his North London townhouse. “But the country faces hard choices. When our MPs voted with the Tories to increase cuts to welfare they made a determined statement to the electorate – that we stand ready to make those difficult choices, just as the Tories have been. The challenge then is convincing people to vote for our vision.”

One of the MPs who failed to vote against the Government’s final assault on welfare and recipients is John Mann[2]. A former trade union executive and leader of Labour Students, Mann’s proud liberal leanings have been evident for over a decade. A believer that treatment needs to be offered to drug users, with prison time an incentive to participate, he has been at the forefront of criticising Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. “The electorate need us to show that we are able to make the difficult decision – like I did when I abstained from voting on the Government’s spare room subsidy plans. Hardworking families can’t be asked to sacrifice anything at all for other people – they are already under too much pressure.”

The spare room subsidy is more commonly known as the “bedroom tax.[3]” It requires people in council housing which has a “spare” room, for example one used to store medical equipment, or one where a carer sleeps, to pay money back to the Government. “Look obviously it’s not ideal – but the reality is that we have to balance the budget, and there are people in houses which are too big. A Labour government would make putting people in appropriate housing a priority.” Another parcel of state subsidy which Mann’s abstention supported the dismantling of was child tax credits. After a vote in the upper house sent the bill back for revision Mann said “I am grateful that the unelected House of Lords was there to make a difficult decision.”

Even as Mann wages his gentle crusade in the name of human dignity, there are some in the Labour party not entirely focused on the 2020 election. Jeremy Corbyn, elected in a landslide last year by a much-enlarged membership, insists that by talking about broader social issues, and the interconnectedness of austerity and other forms of state control, the electorate could be brought back to Labour. He even goes so far as to suggest that the party might be able to avoid being drawn into these discussions about austerity, citing only his own blowout success in the Labour leadership election as proof.

Unfortunately Corbyn was not able to speak for this piece. His office is besieged by angry Labour MPs who claim that his total irrelevance caused Brexit . Had he been a different person, capable of speaking to the interests of Labour MPs and not just the hundreds of thousands of new party members who joined in support of him, he might have had a future, they say.

There is rage in the constituency of Angela Eagle, whose fortitude and steely-eyed leadership abilities were displayed most recently in her tearful interview where she announced she was abandoning her shadow cabinet post at a time of national crisis until she and her colleagues got a leader they liked. Her constituency party is furious at her purported challenge to Jeremy Corbyn, who enjoys the support of the vast majority of constituency parties. She has ignored them, further demonstrating her leadership with repeated requests in the national media for Corbyn to resign before she has to put her head above the parapet and challenge him formally.

Outside a ramshackle building near her constituency office in Liverpool, a city renowned for its far left movements which Labour carefully expunged in the ‘80s to win elections in the ‘90s, a man sits by a low wall with a cup, asking for money. He says he used to come here when it was a community centre, but the money was cut about five years ago and it closed shortly after. It’s no great surprise, apparently – Liverpool has suffered under a succession of Governments whose inability to think about post-industrial problems has been masked by their unwillingness to talk about them at all.

It is also the largest city in England which voted to remain in the EU. Historically against the grain, it finds itself ignored not just by the Tories, who considered abandoning it entirely in the 1980s,[4] but by a Labour party which is too lazy and complicit to consider the issues of the people who live here. Austerity is dead now, although its chief architect – George Osborne – looks set to keep his post as chancellor, thanks largely to Labour’s machinations against their leader serving as a distraction for the media. Perhaps austerity will just continue endlessly over the graves of Corbyn and McDonnell, with the tacit support of John Mann and Angela Eagle. Rentier apparatchiks for hard choices: Vote Labour.

Notes.

[1]http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-36684452

[2] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/these-are-the-184-labour-mps-who-didn-t-vote-against-the-tories-welfare-bill-10404831.html John Mann didn’t vote against the Government in June 2015

[3] http://m.england.shelter.org.uk/get_advice/housing_benefit_and_local_housing_allowance/changes_to_housing_benefit/bedroom_tax Bedroom Tax explainer at Shelter, a housing charity

[4] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/margaret-thatcher/8983758/1981-files-Margaret-Thatcher-secretly-advised-to-abandon-Liverpool-by-advisers.html Thatcher advised to abandon Liverpool, Telegraph 2011

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
July 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Atwood
Peace or Armageddon: Take Your Pick
Paul Street
No Liberal Rallies Yet for the Children of Yemen
Nick Pemberton
The Bipartisan War on Central and South American Women
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Are You Putin Me On?
Andrew Levine
Sovereignty: What Is It Good For? 
Brian Cloughley
The Trump/NATO Debacle and the Profit Motive
David Rosen
Trump’s Supreme Pick Escalates America’s War on Sex 
Melvin Goodman
Montenegro and the “Manchurian Candidate”
Salvador Rangel
“These Are Not Our Kids”: The Racial Capitalism of Caging Children at the Border
Matthew Stevenson
Going Home Again to Trump’s America
Louis Proyect
Jeremy Corbyn, Bernie Sanders and the Dilemmas of the Left
Patrick Cockburn
Iraqi Protests: “Bad Government, Bad Roads, Bad Weather, Bad People”
Robert Fantina
Has It Really Come to This?
Russell Mokhiber
Kristin Lawless on the Corporate Takeover of the American Kitchen
John W. Whitehead
It’s All Fake: Reality TV That Masquerades as American Politics
Patrick Bobilin
In Your Period Piece, I Would be the Help
Ramzy Baroud
The Massacre of Inn Din: How Rohingya Are Lynched and Held Responsible
Robert Fisk
How Weapons Made in Bosnia Fueled Syria’s Bleak Civil War
Gary Leupp
Trump’s Helsinki Press Conference and Public Disgrace
Josh Hoxie
Our Missing $10 Trillion
Martha Rosenberg
Pharma “Screening” Is a Ploy to Seize More Patients
Basav Sen
Brett Kavanaugh Would be a Disaster for the Climate
David Lau
The Origins of Local AFT 4400: a Profile of Julie Olsen Edwards
Rohullah Naderi
The Elusive Pursuit of Peace by Afghanistan
Binoy Kampmark
Shaking Establishments: The Ocasio-Cortez Effect
John Laforge
18 Protesters Cut Into German Air Base to Protest US Nuclear Weapons Deployment
Christopher Brauchli
Trump and the Swedish Question
Chia-Chia Wang
Local Police Shouldn’t Collaborate With ICE
Paul Lyons
YouTube’s Content ID – A Case Study
Jill Richardson
Soon You Won’t be Able to Use Food Stamps at Farmers’ Markets, But That’s Not the Half of It
Kevin MacKay
Climate Change is Proving Worse Than We Imagined, So Why Aren’t We Confronting its Root Cause?
Thomas Knapp
Elections: More than Half of Americans Believe Fairy Tales are Real
Ralph Nader
Warner Slack—Doctor for the People Forever
Lee Ballinger
Soccer, Baseball and Immigration
Louis Yako
Celebrating the Wounds of Exile with Poetry
Ron Jacobs
Working Class Fiction—Not Just Surplus Value
Perry Hoberman
You Can’t Vote Out Fascism… You Have to Drive It From Power!
Robert Koehler
Guns and Racism, on the Rocks
Nyla Ali Khan
Kashmir: Implementation with Integrity and Will to Resolve
Justin Anderson
Elon Musk vs. the Media
Graham Peebles
A Time of Hope for Ethiopia
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Homophobia in the Service of Anti-Trumpism is Still Homophobic (Even When it’s the New York Times)
Martin Billheimer
Childhood, Ferocious Sleep
David Yearsley
The Glories of the Grammophone
Tom Clark
Gameplanning the Patriotic Retributive Attack on Montenegro
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail