Posted by: Pete | December 17, 2015

They call it ‘austerity’; they mean re-engineering our Society


Figure 3: Public Sector net debt, financial year Source: Office for National Statistics–Public-sector-net-debt

The Oxford Online Dictionary defines ‘austerity‘ as, “Difficult economic conditions created by government measures to reduce public expenditure”. The purpose is to eliminate the current budget deficit by reducing public expenditure. The graph on the right reveals precisely how well that is going.

So either the government is dramatically failing or they are misleading the public about their real agenda.

The cynical use of language by Da’ish to support its propaganda campaigns may not be new but its power is undiminished. And just as they hope that the west will name them as ‘Islamic State’ so they can push their flawed narrative that a conflict exists between the Islamic and non-Islamic worlds, the Tories hope that their opponents and the media will continue to adopt their ‘austerity’ narrative.

Their slick communications strategy following the global financial crash in 2008 was designed to portray Britain in crisis. A crisis caused by the Labour government and one which only the toughest of remedies would cure. This remedy, they proclaimed, was an austerity program that necessity demanded must continue for several years. By ‘austerity’ they meant ‘cuts’ in public spending.

The British public have always risen to a challenge, it’s in our nature. So when told we must take unpleasant medicine to ‘cure’ our nation of its ills, we can be relied upon to sign up and take it. By ‘we’ I mean of course the collective ‘we’. We’re more than happy to sign up as long as someone else is actually taking the medicine, and the austerity program has been designed to target those in society who are the least likely to resist. The rationale is that the welfare state is too soft on those most in need and we can no longer afford to carry them. They need to look after themselves and stop relying upon a ‘nanny’ state; they need a dose of ‘tough love’.

imagesUnfortunately for Britain, nobody was alert enough, articulate enough or popular enough to effectively challenge these assertions. The Labour party decided it was incapable of persuading the public and quietly conceded that their former colleagues had, in fact, caused the recession. When confronted with the enormous size of the UK’s post bank bailout debt, they concluded the Tories were probably right about the need for cuts. Equally unfortunately, our right-wing press, especially the most influential TBC (Tory Broadcast Corporation), were delighted to help their former public school chums and run with their narrative. That’s what chums from the same club do, isn’t it? And then of course there are the chief beneficiaries of this program, because there are always beneficiaries, the wealthiest in our society. Whilst welfare cuts were a necessity, a reduction in the top rate of tax for those earning in excess of £150k was not only affordable, it was necessary to ‘get Britain going on the road to recovery’ as was and is a multi-billion pounds high-speed rail link.

The execution of this program was not without challenges. Millions of pounds wasted on the poorly managed west coast rail tender, hopelessly incompetent city centre and business start-up initiatives, huge amounts of money paid to ‘support’ industry, and disastrous privatisations of prisons, prisoner transfers, academies and free schools without qualified teachers, public utilities and of course the NHS. David Cameron’s pre-election pledges that the NHS would be safe in their hands and there would be no reduction in tax credits were about as sincere as Nick Clegg’s infamous student loans promise. Fortunately for the Tories, good old aunty (the TBC), remained on message and described the increased hospital waiting times as management failures and rather than restore the NHS budgets, hospitals were fined for their failures to meet the new ‘targets’. We’re still waiting for the TBC to explain where the money for our Syrian bombing expedition is coming from, how a Tory MP could get away with falsely accusing a constituent of issuing a death threat, or the U-turn and true opposition to fracking in our National Parks and how this along with their cuts to alternative energy reneges on the deal they signed in Paris just a few days ago. Even the continued support of Saudi Arabia seems to elude their ‘cutting edge’ reporting.

The net result is that after two terms in office, the Tories have increased the national debt but like most political parties, they selectively present statistics to demonstrate their success as, for example, they did by supporting zero hours contracts and part-time work in order to describe unemployment as falling.

Could all this have come about because of a ‘narrative’ or clever PR?

If, instead of describing their manifesto as an austerity program, they had described it as an ideological Tory ambition to claw back the role of the state, a more open debate would have ensued. If, the Tories had been honest and explained to the public that the debate was still the same old argument between Keynesian and free market economics, the public may have taken a different view. At the very least they would have known what they were voting for or against. If the TBC had taken a lead as a truly impartial purveyor of news or the Labour party hadn’t been too afraid to stand up for its traditional values, the debate might have been better informed. A lot of ‘ifs’ and they are meaningless unless we learn from them.

The facts now speak for themselves, even if nobody is speaking for them. Labour did not cause the last recession, it was a global crisis and their stewardship of the economy was more successful than any other government before or since. Britain is economically worse off now than when this ‘austerity’ program started. We have not witnessed an austerity program, we have witnessed the re-engineering of our society. The failures of the left are as responsible as the successes of the right and there is only one way to divert from further destruction of the society our forbears fought hard to create, the left must unite behind their common cause and become an effective opposition. The TBC can no longer be relied upon to convey a balanced debate, they can’t even bring themselves to cease naming Da’ish the ‘so called Islamic State’, despite knowing that they are playing into the terrorists’ agenda, but the left can change the narrative.

Labour, stop your destructive and distracting in-fighting; Britain can’t afford for you to be off your game any longer.  Talk to the Greens, Plaid Cymru and the SNP, and find a strategy on which you can all agree. There is so much that you have in common, even more than some of your own members, so identify the common cause and fight for it. You may have to accept that some policies are not yet acceptable to the electorate and rather than making these ‘show stoppers’, offer a referendum with sufficient time to argue your case. You may or may not win, that’s democracy, but you won’t be sacrificing everything else you stand for by remaining out of government. But first of all articulate a new and better narrative, so that the whole of Britain understands what you stand for and why you aren’t fighting something called ‘austerity’, you are fighting the re-engineering of our society.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: