Friday, 17 April 2015

Tories set the (wrong) agenda

George Monbiot puts it very neatly:

The dominant Tory frame. . . is that the all-important issue is the deficit.  The financial crisis, it claims, was caused not by the banks but by irresponsible  government spending for which the only cure  is austerity. (Guardian, 15th April)

Monbiot may be going a bit far when he claims  that: "In reality the deficit should rank somewhere in the low hundreds on the list of political priorities." I would tend to put it somewhere  in the lower end of the "top ten," after:-

  1. low productivity;
  2. the balance of (external) payments deficit;
  3. growing inequality;
  4. unaffordable housing;
  5. destitution and misery of those on the bottom rungs of our society.
Apart from housing, these key issues are not receiving much attention in what passes for election debate.  Instead, each party offers us a daily "sugar plum" which is soon forgotten as we go on to the next minor treat.

The primacy of the deficit is so well entrenched that  even Labour dares not speak up for the poor who suffer most from this over-emphasised obsession.  And even on housing Ed Miliband last night refused to rule out discontinuing  the "right to buy," one of the most damaging legacies of the Thatcher era which, astoundingly, the Tories propose now to extend to those in housing association tenancies.

Another part of the Tory frame which Labour are too timid to challenge is the revival of the Victorian concept of the deserving and undeserving poor, through "dog whistle" references to "hard working families."  Twice last night, Miliband borrowed this Tory mantra is defining the people he hoped to represent.

Being retired, I am not hard working and, being single and living (quite contentedly) alone, I am not a family either.  But I am a citizen worthy of representation, and I'd like there to be party which appealed for my vote on the grounds it would try to create a fairer society in Britain  for everybody, young or old, fit or disabled, responsible or feckless; was  honest about the true state of affairs and the limits on its capacity to alter them; pledged to defend our human rights and civil liberties; and extended its vision to include working towards a fairer world and a sustainable future.

That party ought to be the Liberal Democrats.  Sadly we too have bought into the Tory frame. 


  1. This must surely be the most uninspiring election campaign in history. Bereft of ideas, short of personalities - simply a series of bribes to a disenchanted electorate. Materialism rules. Idealism is dead. The two main parties are still on course to gain 70% of the total vote. Labour is paying an American, Axelrod, £300,000 to plan their campaign. God knows how much the Tories are paying dog-whistle Crosby, another American. So much for the potential of the PPE Oxford recruits.
    The Liberal Democrats rely on Alexander and hide Cable from the electorate. Cameron's Big Society is a joke. Despair and disillusion reign.

    1. It's hard to disagree, Stuart. Even worse, most of the debate is about the wrong issue, the (internal) deficit, and the Tories' fatuous "long term economic plan" which is only needed because their short and or medium economic plans are abject failures.

  2. The financial crisis, it claims, was caused not by the banks but by irresponsible government spending for which the only cure is austerity

    Um, no. Nobody claims that.

    The financial crisis was caused by financial instrument; but its effects were made substantially worse by the fact that irresponsible government spending meant the national debt was so high that there was no room for the government to increase spending when the crash hit.

    Countries which had been running surpluses in the run-up to the crash, rather than deficits, such as Australia and Canada, had more room for manoeuvre and so were able to bounce back from the crash more quickly.

    It is therefore reasonable to think that, if the UK had been running a more austere spending regime prior to 2007, that would not have stopped the crash but it would have meant that its effects on the economy could have been substantially reduced.

    In other words, nobody blames the Labour government for causing the rain. But it is fair to blame them for spending the money while the sun was shining, instead of saving it up to fix the roof.

    1. You seem to ignore:"Facts like the deficit before the global financial crisis was only within a typical forecast error of its sustainable level. Facts like the debt to GDP ratio before the Great Recession was below the level Labour inherited."

      See professor Wren-lewis's blog MAINLY MACRO for 3rd May