Austerity wasn`t in the 2010 election manifestos of either the Tories or the Lib Dems, but as soon as they clinched their deal in the Downing Street rose garden, it was imposed on the country. It was thought imperative to get rid of the huge budget deficit left by that irresponsible Labour government, which had been showering its skiving supporters with large increases in social benefits, rewarding laziness and not hard work. Or at least, that`s what we were told by a media in cahoots with their Tory allies.
Remember too, how the deficit had to be removed immediately? Living beyond one`s means was wrong, no question, time was of the essence and failure to act would mean lumbering the next generation with massive debt, and that simply was not the British way; it would not be fair.
The rest, sadly, is history. The country fell for it. There were no other arguments or alternatives; Labour was in limbo without a leader, and supporters of a Keynsian solution, blaming bankers and the recession, and proposing government spending to speed up the economic recovery, had little chance. Facts and evidence have rarely played a significant role in Tory narratives, with Lib Dems complicit in everything, as long as they could claim a share in government, but the fact is that the Tories were spinning the nation a yarn. Reducing the deficit was neither as essential nor as urgent as they claimed, especially as quantitative easing would soon re-capitalise the banks to the tune of £375bn.It gave them the excuse they wanted to make savage cuts in government spending, which meant at least 350 thousand job losses in the public sector, and huge reductions in benefits to the less fortunate; their real aim was a low wage economy for the people and a low tax regime for their allies. They wanted to shrink the state back to levels last seen in the previous century, and their stated aim now is to shrink it further, back to levels last experienced in 1948, though, of course, that`s not in the 2015 manifesto either!
What about their point of it not being fair to lumber future generations with debt? Strange how this didn`t figure at all in their thinking when they tripled the fees university students would have to pay, at a stroke ensuring that all but the richest students would start their working lives with massive, mortgage-like debts, of around £40-50K. The argument was, of course, that with their university qualifications, they would earn large salaries, and easily pay off their debts. But in their low wage economy, which reduced rather than increased social mobility, many graduates would fail to earn enough even to start paying off debts!
Similarly with rents. If the government was serious about preventing the young being hindered by debt, why has it done nothing to prevent private tenants being exploited by modern-day Rachmans, the profiteering landlords? Why has it shown, until an election looms, little interest in raising the minimum wage to levels where earners could live reasonable lives? Even the much vaunted rise in income tax exemption levels has been shown to benefit the well-off more. Lack of regulation of the loan sharks like Wonga prove yet again all the fuss and hype about debt-reduction being paramount back in 2010 was simply nonsense.
It`s hard to believe many of the electorate want to go back to having a government with 1948 levels of interference. It was Attlee`s government which provided the country with the NHS, and few want to see it privatised, any more than they want the welfare state destroyed or education for profit. Labour `s propaganda machine has a job to do.
Even after all the cruelty and callous cutting, the coalition`s so-called plan has failed, getting further off track by the month. The latest figures show how government borrowing rose to £11.8bn in September, an increase of £1.6bn compared with a year earlier, whilst the deficit has only been reduced by a third, and in fact, increased by ten per cent in the last year. Coalition borrowing in the last five years has totalled £572.5bn, compared with £442.7bn borrowed by the Labour government in its entire thirteen years in power! What matters more to the Tories than deficit reduction is having an excuse to privatise and cut, to shrink the state, with laissez-faire more important than collectivism. It`s up to Labour to put the country straight!