No No, Tories. A Plan That Works Is One Where The Outcomes Approximately Match The Aims
October 22, 2014
by Martin Odoni
The British Coalition Government has attacked so much it seems incredible that they still had any new targets left by the start of this year. They’ve attacked the unemployed, they’ve attacked the disabled, they’ve attacked women, they’ve attacked asylum seekers, they’ve attacked the European Union – all the predictable scapegoats for any administration led by the Conservative Party. But throughout this year, a new phantom ‘enemy of decent society’ has been assailed by waves of Tory hatred. That helpless enemy goes by the name of ‘reality’. Reality is now under Government attack.
The two chief perpetrators of this brutal assault on the dimensional planes of the physical Universe are Iain ‘IDS’ Duncan-Smith, the Secretary of State for Work & Pensions, and George Gideon Osborne, the Chancellor Of The Exchequer and Second Lord Of The Treasury.
IDS has been hunting with a particular zeal any and all traces of reality that might be seeping in at the edges of his vision. His most powerful strike against the blight of factual accuracy was probably in March earlier this year, when he appeared on the BBC’s Sunday Politics programme, and was presented with a graph from the Institute of Fiscal Studies, which demonstrated conclusively that child poverty in the UK has surged upwards during the current Government’s time in office, and indeed is projected to continue climbing well into the future if current policies are maintained. IDS’ response was simply, “No, no, the point is that child poverty has fallen.” He then proudly, defiantly, steadfastly, and in considerable impressive detail, failed in any way to present the slightest shred of evidence in support of this.
Argument won! That showed you who’s boss, reality!
This week, spokespeople at the Treasury, acting on behalf of our country’s beloved Chancellor and unrivalled master of economics – the aforementioned Gideon – announced that the UK’s monthly National Deficit for September 2014 was £1.6 billion higher than it was in September 2013 – £11.8 billion compared to £10.2 billion a year earlier. Once again, those insidious, cynical fact-things are trying to push their arrogant way into the public arena, see? Confound them!
But fear not, everybody, Gideon was ready and waiting for them. He heroically armed his spokespeople with a trusty statement that declared that, with this increase in the Deficit, the Deficit-reduction plan is working.
Huzzah! Facts dismissed and sent scurrying into hiding once more! Come an’ ‘ave a go if ya think yer ‘ard enuff, reality!
With Prime Minister David Cameron’s repeated declarations that, “We are paying down the National Debt”, when the National Debt is now approximately £400 billion higher than it was when he came to power – and has risen steadily and without a pause all the way through the life of this Parliament – we can see that the people near the top of Government are consistent and unified in their shared contempt for anything outside the abstract world inside what passes for their minds.
Sadly for them, the rest of us do live in the real world, and that means we are in no position to take any comfort from the abstractions that dominate their vision at all.
Although a Tory will never admit this, there are in fact many circumstances in the real world in which an increase in the National Deficit is no problem at all – the Deficit is really just the ‘slack’ in the economy taken up by the public sector, where areas of the private sector are under-performing, to make sure that enough of the country’s manufacturing/services output is ‘consumed’ to prevent a slowdown. (Money borrowed to make up the Deficit gets paid back by the Bank Of England to the creditor automatically when it is due, irrespective of how much tax revenue is coming in, simply because the money is in sterling, which the Bank Of England itself issues, and so theoretically has an unlimited supply of.)
Therefore, most of the time, whether a Deficit increase is good news or bad news depends on whether it is caused by increased investment (good) or a decline in tax revenues (bad). In this case, it looks quite firmly to be the latter, and therefore bad news, but either way, a Deficit rise for any reason is the polar opposite of what George Osborne had in mind when he set out on his Austerity plans four-and-a-half years ago. He went in, from the word ‘go’, with the very simplistic – economically illiterate even – notion that every time he cut spending, the amount of public money to spare would automatically go up. He never considered – perhaps was never aware of – the wealth-generating feedbacks that come from well-judged public investment. Therefore, wiping out the Deficit was, and is, an end in itself for the Coalition Government.
Now it was clear within just a few months of Osborne becoming Chancellor that he was never going to manage that, both from the reckless ‘hatchet-all-spending’ approach he was taking, and from the early non-results he was getting. He has reduced the Deficit by about a third, but with no more than eight months to go until the next General Election, he is clearly going to miss his target of wiping out the Deficit completely by well over sixty per cent – the rough equivalent of firing a ballistic missile from somewhere near Atlanta in the direction of Moscow, only for it to land in the outskirts of Reykjavik. And the latest figures suggest that even a miss of over sixty per cent may be optimistic, because now the Deficit is climbing again. This is probably because the ‘cheating‘ the Government has done to lower unemployment figures means that many new workers are not earning enough to pay much Income Tax, and further do not have much money to spare once they have purchased their day-to-day essentials, so cannot buy enough consumer goods to make a significant contribution to Value-Added Tax receipts either.
But whatever the exact reason, the Deficit for the last year is up, not down, and for Osborne’s people to announce that while also claiming that the Deficit-reduction plan is ‘working’ is akin to declaring that up is down, that dry is wet, and that silence is loud.
I find it tiresome when writers quote George Orwell when they feel they need to add some intellectual weight to what they have penned – it amounts to a collective cliché – but I feel that the present Conservative mindset in the UK is increasingly summed up by a word Orwell coined in the pages of Nineteen Eighty-Four. That word is Blackwhite; –
“Applied to an opponent, it means the habit of impudently claiming that black is white, in contradiction of the plain facts. Applied to a Party member, it means a loyal willingness to say that black is white when Party discipline demands this. But it means also the ability to believe that black is white, and more, to know that black is white, and to forget that one has ever believed the contrary.”
That the Tories really did forget that the Deficit has gone up as soon as they announced it seems very unlikely, but the rest of the above description seems word-perfect for their current behaviour. Declarations of blind, arrogant belief, even when presented with indisputable evidence to the contrary, require the same loyal willingness to believe whatever the party demands of them. In that regard, Iain Duncan-Smith has led the way with his endless, unsupported repetitions of, “I am doing what I believe to be right” as though that is a sufficient explanation in itself, and as if his own assumptions are more reliable than the conclusions of anyone who studies the real effects of what he does. (There’s that word real again…)
Now Osborne and his sycophants at the Treasury have joined in.
For that reason alone, the Tories absolutely must be voted out in the spring. When people believe the figments of their imaginations more than they accept what is happening around them – even when it is proven to them – then these people are capable of doing almost anything… except anything that should be done.