Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Comprehensive Smoke and Mirrors

Amid the comment and analysis and of course the frantic partisan flagwaving over on politicalbetting,com, I'm indebted to this evening's London Standard for this piece from its City Editor Anthony Hilton;

Less a mild critique than a total demolition of an entire economic policy and it's hard to fault Hilton's reasoning. The last three years of Coalition economics have seen us in effect getting nowhere fast. The reformist zeal of the early days of Coalition when the entire economic, social, cultural and political relationship between the State and the individual was going to be challenged turned out to be a chimera.

We still have a bloated State and how can today's announcement be termed a Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) when Govenrment has more sacred cows than the average Indian village. Big areas of expenditure such as the NHS, Education and the politically-sensitive Overseas Aid Budget are untouched while the Police and the Armed Forces (traditional Tory favourites) are spared the worst. We are now as incapable of having a rational debate about the Armed Forces as we are about taxation  even though as Danny Alexander pointed out the other day "we have more horses than tanks". Modern military force in a fiscally-constrained environment can't be about expensive pomp and cirumstance but has to be about what we need and where we need it.

Likewise, we can't touch spending on schools but we can slash the spending on the school buildings so the lovely schools will be unable to educate children as they'll be falling down around their ears.

Osborne's politicking is political opportunism and cowardice of the first order - he is as interested in staying in Government as the Liberal Democrats supposedly are. He has failed to take on the State leviathan and even his modest proposals for 2015-16 look feeble in comparison to the country's growing debt. Even the much-vaunted target of reducing the deficit in half by 2015 looks out of reach.

Local Government, which is less able to fight back or defend its corner, will bear the brunt so that means care for the vulnerable, the handicapped and the elderly will suffer as will the maintenance of public buildings and education.

Finally, we have this ludicrous idea that in order to claim benefits not only do you have to wait seven days after losing your job (presumably celebrating your new found life of State-funded leisure) but you have to attend English classes if your spoken English isn't up to some unspecified standard.

So, let me get this straight - if you've worked hard and paid your taxes then, for no fault of your own, you lose your job you will be forced, if your English isn't up to some standard, be forced to attend language classes in order to get benefits.

I realise of course that Osborne is pandering to the bigotry of some UKIP supporters but I really hope Liberal Democrat MPs will fight this absurdity.

For the first time I question the value of the Liberal Democrats remaining in the Coalition - yes, David Cameron is a true liberal conservative but Osborne and those who think like him are cut from a very different and much darker cloth. The Coalition's economic policies have failed in so many respects but this clumsy piece of politicking tells us all we need to know about the so-called modern Conservative.

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