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Austerity and the UK and elsewhere June 11, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, European Politics.

Heather Stewart in the Observer at the weekend had some good analysis in a piece entitled ‘Austerity isn’t ‘good housekeeping’: it’s dogmatic, risky and unjust’.

She notes that:

It’s a measure of the triumph of the pro-austerity argument in Britain that George Osborne presented his latest round of cuts in the Commons last week – a down payment on the £25bn he plans to make over the next three years – as a “culture of good housekeeping” in government. Austerity as common sense.

And this has effects, which she points to:

…there are already warning signs that parts of the public services are creaking. He cited a sharp increase in waiting times at hospital accident and emergency departments, and rising violent assaults in prisons as staff numbers are cut, as examples.


..the belt-tightening is likely to be profoundly unfair. Osborne has repeatedly said his cuts plan will involve a £12bn reduction in the welfare bill. Since pensioners are protected, and out-of-work benefits are a relatively small part of the £250bn social security budget, much of the burden is likely to fall on low-wage workers and their children – through reductions in tax credits or housing benefit, for example

And there’s the problem that it doesn’t work:

…more austerity is risky at a time when recovery appears to be fragile against a background of the bubbling eurozone crisis.
The argument that sucking demand out of the economy through public spending cuts could jeopardise growth may have been trounced in pre-election debates – but that doesn’t mean it isn’t right.

All this is true. It is causing problems – ones that are deep rooted and will persist across years and potentially decades. It is deeply unfair. It is in and of itself counterproductive and the Tory victory does nothing to alter that fact (and one can point to the fact that

And yet, and yet, part of me reads all this and goes… well of course it’s dogmatic! This is the Tories, after all. What did people expect? This isn’t a glitch as they see it, it’s a feature. Elsewhere in the Guardian there’s been some comment on the idea that the Tories aren’t the epitome of evil or are wrong all the time. Perhaps not. But it’s somewhat irrelevant and more to the point it betrays a misunderstanding as to the nature of their political project.

Often people, particularly liberal minded people, and some on the left, seem to think that all the political labels and categories are merely badges for what is essentially good intentions – that we’re all in this together, as it were, and everyone wants pretty much the same destination.

The reality is, of course, anything but that. One doesn’t have to see the Tories as the epitome of evil to see that the fundamental strands that infuse and inflect their philosophies as being wrong, reactionary and so forth. Just to be clear this doesn’t mean that on an individual basis all are like that, there are some counter-intuitive strands as well extant in that body of thought. But functionally it means that their approach to society is one which most progressives – one would hope – would realise as being entirely in opposition to our own project.

Perhaps David Cameron is a more liberal minded person than many/most in his party, perhaps the manifesto was a tilt to the right in order to consolidate party unity at a time when coalition with the LDs was still a feasible outcome, and in the knowledge that such a coalition would abrade some of the sharper edges. Perhaps so. And yet this is the party that in the actual coalition of the last five years implemented, by way of example, grievous measures in social welfare in relation to provision of benefit and so on, oversaw measures that explicitly supported those who were better off, I needn’t go on, surely?

An untrammelled Tory party is a genuinely disturbing entity. And it is untrammelled and governing on, as was made clear in a recent Guardian Politics podcast, the most right wing programme in two decades.

These things matter. These things are intrinsic to the Tory party.

Stewart is closer to the mark in the following:

So the cuts are larger than Osborne and his colleagues let on; they may threaten the quality of cherished public services, place an unfair burden on those who can least bear it, exacerbating inequality – and jeopardise the very economic growth which is ultimately the best way of tackling the deficit.
Labour’s proto-leaders are right to try to learn the lessons of the campaign and seize back the language of “aspiration”. But they must not abandon the central insight that austerity is not a necessity, but a political choice.

A pity the Labour Party was unable to make that case in the last five years. But as ever they cede ground to the right and then are amazed when the right captures yet more and runs with it.


1. CL - June 11, 2015

Keynesianism is dead,-and has been for some time.

“In France and Italy, the transition since the 1970s away from the postwar “Golden Age” of Keynesianism has been managed entirely through the EU. François Mitterand’s famous U-turn in 1984, when the French president abandoned his radical Keynesian policies and accepted the laws of the market, was justified in terms of putting France “at the heart of Europe.”…
Britain’s “transition from a postwar social democracy to market neoliberalism occurred after a struggle between the British labor movement and Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government”


2. richotto - June 11, 2015

Theres a lot of overstatement on the magnitude of the Labour defeat and the alleged reasons behind it. They were up against more ferocious media hostility than ever given the coarser standards these days in organs such as the Telegraph. The Peter Obourne resignation was an ominous sign. Even the BBC could be included. The last question time audience treatment of Milliband was dubious. For instance 25% of the audience was Liberal Democrat supporters but they were an overwhlemingly pro Tory rump at that stage. The massive concentration on the SNP was of course designed to sink Labour.
There was a 3.5% rise in Labour support in England and Wales despite the above. To avoid or downplay the inequality and unfairness issue would have been an even worse option. Credibility would have been lost in the whole of the UK as it was in Scotland before Millibands time.
One point about Keynes and so on though. He advocated a deficit only of up to 5% in bad times to be compensated by a corresponding surplus when the good times came back. The problem is that it is too easy to abuse his name and credability in advocating much larger deficits that never turn into surpluses. Politicions on the left want an easy short term option and use bogus economic arguments quite often and thats where the distrust breeds.


EWI - June 13, 2015

Politicions on the left want an easy short term option and use bogus economic arguments quite often and thats where the distrust breeds.

‘Distrust’? From whom, one may well ask. And right-wing politicians have never had a problem with running up deficits, despite their rhetoric to the contrary (which is really always code for ‘shred social democracy’).

A look at the budget surpluses or otherwise run up by oast US Presudents will show the hollowness of the ‘deficit’ arguments. And itt runs counter to the assertions of the media and commentators.


3. Austerity and the UK and elsewhere | The Cedar Lounge Revolution | digger666 - June 13, 2015

[…] via Austerity and the UK and elsewhere | The Cedar Lounge Revolution. […]


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