Like conflict, austerity leaves people scarred, changing them forever, and disproportionately affecting the most vulnerable. It is ultimately self defeating. Most tellingly, it is the poorest who suffer most under austerity, as in war, whilst the richest always profit. The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) claims we have yet to see a "colossal" £55billion worth of cuts, despite the government lustfully implementing £35billion worth already, and despite the working poor, public sector workers, the vulnerable and the disadvantaged acting as whipping boys for this beige elite of privileged politicos since 2010.
Despite his proven political foresight, George Osbourne has allowed himself to be drawn down the same cul-de-sac as his Tory predecessors, so busily grinding his ideological axe against the poorest, and those struggling in poverty pay, that the sparks from all this grinding are obscuring his view of what lies ahead. Osbourne cannot explain how the economic heart of the UK can continue to beat strongly enough to promote growth, whilst fiscal bloodletting continues apace, and claims that "the electorate have a real choice between competence and chaos" when in reality, the electorate have the choice of neither.
His numbers just don't add up. His motivation as a modern conservative appears to be the disposal of national debt that is at one of its lowest levels since the 1680s! He claims to want the economy rebalanced, yet his campaign of austerity has been waged purely for the purpose of shrinking the state, and fortifying embedded advantages of the privileged, the City of London, and the political elite that led us into the global financial crisis in the first place. We were told in the aftermath of the financial crash that we would no longer be so reliant upon financial services. We are now just as reliant upon them as we ever were. The spivs are fatter and richer than ever before, and the poor are being excluded from accessing mainstream financial services at an alarming rate. Those seeking work and the long term sick are hounded out of receiving the benefits to which they are entitled, and the administering of this state sponsored harassment of the disabled and the acutely ill has turned into a multi-million pound industry for already filthy rich corporations.
Pay is deliberately suppressed in an attempt to convince millionaire press barons and political donors that the undeserving poor are being punished adequately. Meanwhile, executive remuneration has rocketed, with the Tories using the figures created by that increase in wealth to distort the true picture of what is happening in the world beyond the Home Counties. Our regions have been in desperate need of capital investment for years. Here in Hull, we are on the cusp of a wind energy revolution with the Green Port Hull agreement between ABP and Siemens. The road and rail networks are simply not fit for purpose, yet the government has prevaricated on vital roadworks, and thumbed its nose at plans to electrify the mainline railway from Hull. In response, First Hull Trains secured over 90% of funding required for electrification from private consortia, yet this government have still failed to commit to the scheme, despite it being relatively cost neutral. One can only assume that they are too busy planning the next phase of London's Cross Rail project to notice.
Austerity is a false economy. By suppressing the wages of the lowest earners, we starve our high streets of the business they so desperately need to grow. If we implement initiatives like the living wage, lower paid workers will have more money to spend in local businesses, thereby driving prosperity across the nation, and creating jobs. Investing in the people and the infrastructure of the regions will serve to rebalance the economy, and help to cool the housing bubble in the capital. The opening of credit unions within the regions would steer the poor away from payday loans and illegal lending, and redistribute some of the proceeds of banking back into the communities that use them, and away from the spivs and profiteers who funnel those revenues offshore to avoid tax.
Labour must shoulder some of the blame. They have allowed the coalition to maintain the political initiative by opposing the worst excesses of this government haplessly, lacking courage, coherence, vision, and a commitment to their core principles. As a lifelong believer in the principles of the left, I find Labour uninspiring, rudderless, and ruled by the pursuit of press opinion and corporate approval.
A cursory glance at the UK economy demonstrates that Osbourne is playing fast and loose with the truth, and that there is an alternative to the path chosen by the coalition. For them, the end result of austerity, namely a decimated welfare state, and a society of privatisations and market forces are the spoils of war. Labour's media fuelled desire for fence sitting at a time when Britain needs vision and courage, represent little more than a choice to become mindless collaborators, when what we are crying out for is a stout, determined and canny resistance against the advancing forces of feckless, and counterproductive austerity cuts.