‘THE recovery has stalled!’, ‘Osborne is destroying Britain!’, and probably soon: ‘the fiscal world is about to end!’ – These quotations could be taken from any left-leaning newspaper columnist, populist pundit or indeed any Labour shadow minister. The surprising variety of possible sources for what has been described does not alter one major fact about it, however: it’s all total rubbish.
As any economics teacher will tell you, one quarter of negative growth does not equal a recession. So any mention of the fabled ‘triple dip’ is four months premature. This hasn’t stopped weasel wordsmiths, though, who point out that catastrophe is ‘on the horizon’, or some other threatening image designed to bat away claims of factual inaccuracy while heavily implying a plainly wrong scenario. But even if we were in a recession, there are good signs. Unemployment is down by 37,000 people to 2.49 million, and still falling. This is coupled with the highest employment levels in our history, as well as the deficit falling ‘by over a quarter in the last two years’ – according to Danny Alexander speaking during a debate with Andrew Neil on the Daily Politics on the 25th of this month, he also mentioned the ‘most jobs created in the private sector since 1989’, in 2012. This is supplemented with growing confidence in the UK due to the Olympic boost and France’s millionaire tax exiles.
The opposition fiscal policies all bear the mark of one, rather discredited, man; Ed Balls, who looks disconcertingly happy at any sniff of bad economic news, essentially rubbing his hands whenever the ‘ordinary people’ he supposedly loves suffer; if only to give him a stick with which to beat the government. He seems to be becoming less plausible by the day, with public confidence and the support of his leader being in short supply. His own position is looking less than secure, with threats that he is to be replaced by David Miliband in the near future. If so, there will be recriminations and the inevitable backbiting of frontbench fallouts.
The figure of a minus 0.3% contraction in the economy has been bandied around a lot, and has come to symbolise the ‘decline’ of the coalition, with many people; including Boris Johnson and Nick Clegg making comments to that effect. Both are political opportunists desperate to avoid fallout from the perceived unpopular policies. Boris is an eager Prime Minister in waiting, and he would not like to be portrayed as a fan of these government decisions. Clegg, however, is a pathetic shadow of his former self. He used to symbolise a change in the make-up of the political system, but following the death of ‘Cleggmania’ in late 2010, he has been a hanger-on to the Tories. His latest attack on them is a spiteful attempt to retain some of his image of a free thinker, who had a reputation for political independence. It is like a wounded dog biting the hand that feeds it. Independence, which does not truly exist in modern politics, is supplanted by shallow ambition and the petty sniping of a tired opposition who in reality cannot come up with anything of their own.
Labour cannot go on pretending that under their leadership there would have been anything massively different than the current fiscal situation. They are playing the game of opposition politics; opposing everything they feel is unpopular, desperate that this will make them look better. They may score populist points on this one, but they lose a lot of credibility with their constant harping on about things they themselves would have enacted. It is rank hypocrisy to think that it took months for Gordon Brown to even acknowledge the possibility of cuts to spending if he formed the next government, and now Ed Balls’ Treasury adviser Stella Creasy had forced him by sheer weight of popular and critical admiration to accept the ‘Zero Rate Base’ policy, essentially meaning that two Labour shadow ministers are advocating not only cutting the state, but starting from the bottom up, probably cutting more than Osborne and co.. This is not a bad thing, on the contrary I think it is very sensible, but to criticise government cuts and then argue for them at the same time is purely ridiculous.
But the silent onslaught of nonsensical idiocy continues to shock and entertain. Labour’s policies have never truly been set out, and beside the vague anti-cuts bloc to which they have aligned themselves, taking in the cheerful vandals of ‘UK Uncut’ and the ideological disunity of misanthropic ‘hacktivists’ Anonymous. This muddle of the myriad organisations that unite under this sagging banner is redolent in their disunity and tension. After all, we can be totally sure that the hardcore violent anarchists this movement has identified with would be kicking in shop windows whoever is in government. It is sad that Balls and his team actually think they can get away with it. We are not as stupid as politicians think we are, not all of us are swayed by tub-thumping inanity, and eventually someone is going to demand a proper answer to the questions facing the country. Iain Dale wrote powerfully on his falling out of love for politics, citing Question Time and This Week as examples of combative but useless sludge, full of anger; but providing no clear answers and solutions. He has been diligently covering the issues for years. I am sixteen, and I can already see very clearly what he means.
The patronising will go on, and opposition parties will continue to treat us like fools. The ones who ought to have a coherent policy on the country’s finances should come up with one, and fast. The ones who cannot be expected to have any co-ordinated policies at all; like the disorganised and shambolic Green Party, should either put up (and submit a proper blueprint for their own ideas on how to fix the crises we see approaching), or shut up and not to trouble the big boys, who are really trying to sort everything out.