Only 23 percent of those eligible to vote elected these clowns to run the country, and yet we’ve ended up with two whey-faced Etonian buffoons — David Cameron and George Osborne, who are both clever only to the extent that they can conjure up the illusion of intelligence — driving the UK over a cliff.
Recently blasted by Conservative MP Noreen Dorries as “two arrogant posh boys who show no remorse, no contrition and no passion to want to understand the lives of others,” and by other Tory MPs as being full of “sneering condescension,” lacking a core set of beliefs, and lazy, they have weathered two years of Frankenstein-like rule with their coalition partners, managing, somehow, to get away with blaming Labour, the Euro, students, the poor, the unemployed and the disabled for all our economic problems, but their illusion of competence, and the success of their cynical manipulation of the British people appears to be coming to an end.
Cameron has seemed particularly out of touch lately, on the one hand calling for children to “stand up when their parents or teacher walks in the room” like a Victorian patriarchal bully, and on the other sending out a message that he is a “new man” by apparently starting work late on some days so that he can drive his own presumably cowed and saluting children to school, which, of course, only adds to the conviction that, as a Prime Minister, he is indeed lazy.
It has also not helped that he couldn’t remember where he had allegedly eaten a pasty, when the most ridiculous aspect of the budget became news a few weeks ago, and George Osborne’s credibility was called into question as, up and down the country, people tried to work out whether there was a sliding scale of VAT to be paid on pasties when they were hot, cold or somewhere in between, and everyone found it no more convincing that Osborne — and Ed Miliband and Ed Balls, it must be said — all went on a fast food frenzy, making Gregg’s customers wary of visiting their local high street, in case their nearest branch was stuffed full of unconvincing politicians.
Behind the jokes, however, George Osborne has been driving the perception that the Tories are an uncaring party of the rich, which, in turn, has finally dented their popularity. Arguably, it was cutting the 50 percent tax rate in the budget (which even the Spectator argued against) that played the biggest role in the change of perceptions, although the stealth tax on pensioners, ending “a century-old tax break introduced by Winston Churchill,” which meant pensioners started paying tax at a higher income level than workers, may actually have been more significant.
What is clear, however, is that Osborne will face renewed criticism after it was announced on Wednesday that, as Will Hutton explained in the Guardian, “Britain has experienced a double-dip recession just two years after the biggest decline in output since the early 1930s,” and that economists believe that output will not return to 2008 levels until 2014. Hutton called that “a six-year recession not equalled since the 1870s,” and added, “What is happening is a disgrace,” and while I don’t share any of these economists’ optimism that there will be an end date to this misery without the removal of the Tories, and something more than just “austerity, austerity, austerity,” I do note that Hutton was unstinting in his criticism, entitling his column, “George Osborne, the kamikaze chancellor,” and stating that history will be “unforgiving” about his chancellorship.
As Hutton proceeded to explain:
The British economy in May 2010, when he began his term, had just gone through a near-death experience. Its banking system had only 18 months earlier nearly collapsed. The stock of bank lending was, incredibly, worth five times more than Britain’s annual output. Moreover, enormous parts of the economy — from high street to property — had become dependent on a never-ending rise in consumption and property prices, which now had to come to an end. Any economists worth their salt knew that the aftermath of such a shock could lead to years of recession and stagnation if not handled carefully.
Osborne, however, with his coalition colleagues, “decided that the prime aim of government policy had to be eliminating the structural public sector deficit in just one parliament.” Hutton added, “Caution was thrown to the wind,” and opined that the result “has been as inevitable as it is desperately sad,” and is also “totally unnecessary.”
As he also explained, Britain “has a very strong public balance sheet,” and “[t]he stock of our national debt, accumulated over decades, is modest compared with other countries and our own past.” In addition, the rate of interest is lower that at any point since the 1890s, and the debt is “exceptionally long term and does not need to be refinanced with any sense of panic.” He added that Britain was “supremely well placed to take a measured approach to budget deficit reduction,” and provide the examples of the 1976 IMF crisis and 1992 ERM crisis, which had taken up to eight years.
In a killer analysis, he added:
Only an innocent or a fool would insist on it being done in four years, with four-fifths of the burden assumed by spending cuts. It was clear that a vicious circle could be created in which the severity of the programme would so puncture the growth in demand that the weakened banks would stay weakened – and business confidence would remain flat. Britain would be deadlocked in stagnation.
However, that dreaded economic death spiral — milder than the one that is killing Greece, but completely and unnecessarily self-imposed — is being ignored by almost everyone in power. As Hutton points out, the Office for Budget Responsibility’s forecast of “a return to growth next year, driven by a surge in investment and exports,” looks “absurd,” and “the idea that business investment will jump 40% by 2015/16, the biggest since 1945, is risible.”
As Hutton concludes, aptly, “A collective madness seems to have descended on our policymakers.” Averse to risk, and unable to understand that mitigating risk is part of the job of government, as is risk-taking itself — through investing in innovation, for example — the government is, instead, doing nothing. He points out that business secretary Vince Cable “has ideas about promoting lending on the infrastructure to innovative small business, or even curbing short-termism in the financial markets,” adding that a recent leaked letter from Cable to David Cameron “pleaded for some sense of economic vision and direction over and above deficit reduction,” but as he concludes, “There is none.”
The last paragraph of the article is worth repeating its entirety, as it so perfectly captures how those responsive for this particular economic death spiral — George Osborne and David Cameron — are incapable of seeing it for what it is, and use bad news to further reinforce their deluded policies:
At bottom Cameron, like Osborne, has a primitive view of what makes capitalism tick. He does not understand the complexity of the inter-relationships between business, business risk, innovation and the state. He buys wholeheartedly the mantra that what mainly obstructs business is red tape, public sector debt and labour market regulation. Like two druids, Cameron and Osborne are offering blood sacrifices to re-create the boom — and failure does not make them question what they are doing, but rather reaffirms their belief in the sacrifice. Of course events in Europe hardly help matters — but cannot alone explain the profundity of Britain’s plight. This stagnation is firmly made at home.
That image of Cameron and Osborne as Druids offering blood sacrifices “to re-create a boom” will live with me, but what is needed is much more than the odd laugh at Druids — or pasties. The incompetence and arrogance of Cameron and Osborne is actually very dangerous, and needs to be brought to an end before 2015 when, to stretch the analogy, the orgy of blood-letting may have fatally wounded our chances of any kind of recovery at all.