Naked Politics Blogger
There lies a general assumption among voters in Britain. The Conservative party is the most trusted when dealing with the economy. However much the right wing press had an influence in getting this message across, this assumption exists. In 2015 the polls indicated the two parties were neck and neck, yet we were sorely mistaken as the astonishing outcome of a slim Tory majority was produced. Once again, the electorate felt the economy was safer in the hands of David Cameron and George Osbourne. The population bought into the idea that the debt racked up by the Labour party prior to 2010 was still so large that the best way to overcome it was to place their trust in the Tories for another five years. Through a programme of austerity, they planned to spend within their means. Rather than raising taxes on high-earners, Osbourne has enforced a series of public spending cuts, in order to reach a budget surplus. All the while trying to do this as quickly as possible.
The Tories have been given the freedom of the Treasury, but at what cost has this deficit reduction plan come? Cameron and Osbourne said again and again that they would have to make difficult decisions to bring our debt down, and after five years of coalition and almost a year of the incumbent government, the nation is in turmoil. The National Health Service is at its knees, unable to cope with the severity of the cuts it has experienced. The impending imposition of a new Junior Doctor contract, forcing one of the most vital professions in our country into brutally long working hours for a disgraceful reduction in pay, has left our hardest working profession demoralised and battered, at the mercy of one of the most incompetent politicians ever appointed in the form of Jeremy Hunt.
More appallingly, the reduction of the welfare state, with cuts to vital benefits for the lowest paid, has left areas of this supposed great country in the worst instances of poverty ever seen. I don’t want to bore you with figures but they are truly astounding. Nearly 4 million children currently reside in poverty, alongside virtually 2 million pensioners likewise. These figures threaten to rocket even further as the low-income families of 7 million children will have to deal with a four year freeze on their benefits thanks to recent pledges by the Chancellor. More than 1 million people visit food banks a year because they simply cannot afford to feed themselves. What’s more, the government attempted to make it harder for us to track poverty, relative or absolute, by removing household income as an indicator. Thankfully such a move was rebuffed after a struggle with the Lords. The unelected peers seem to be quite useful in recent months. Cuts to care services continue to leave the elderly and mentally ill in perilous conditions, whilst the inevitable disposing of tax credits will plunge more families into poverty.
Yes the deficit is reducing. Yes the economy is growing. But at what cost? At the deprivation of the working class, of low-income families, of children, of the elderly and of our doctors. Yes they spend within their means, reducing our debt, but is it worth it to produce such poor standards of life? Is such a quick reduction of the deficit so important as to have such large swarms of the population living in poverty? I think not. How about an alternative? One that is more inclusive and equal, creating growth and wealth, offering hope to all. The public sector has succumbed to austerity, debating the size rather than composition of the deficit. There needs to be a complete transformation and rebuilding of the relationship between the state, business and the working population, in order to begin creating wealth. Through the public sector, long term, committed capital via borrowing, can produce innovation, thus fuelling the economy and wealth creation. The Tories made the word ‘borrowing’ essentially a taboo, associated with Labours’ abysmal deficit build up, forcing the public to believe it could never work. As advocated by the newly elected Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the plan is to rack up a modest deficit of $10bn in the first 3 years through borrowing and spending on major infrastructure and sustainable energy projects in order to spur growth and create jobs, with the eventuality that by 2019-20 the budget will be balanced. Through this system of wealth creation, sustained by a dynamic public-private sector relationship, there exists the basis of a strong welfare state, in turn creating future innovators through education and skills for all.
The economy shouldn’t be judged on how well the top businesses are doing, or how rich the Prime Minister’s friends remain. Instead, living standards, unemployment, the tax gap and the housing crisis should be used as indicators of our success. I’m no expert economist, but a simple reading of Labour’s Economic Advisory Committee’s preachings can open your mind to the simplicities of how to grow a modern economy and create a working and equal society.
Trust was the key word here. The Conservative party was trusted with the economy as the safe option. Their management so far has not respected that trust for the masses. Come 2020, should the electorate share my view, Cameron will have lost their trust.