Tax credits and Gideon’s vindictiveness

It’s a sure sign of what depths the Conservative Party has sunk to that George Osborne now believes the best way to cut the deficit is through further welfare cuts. The last five years of a Conservative-Lib Dem coalition saw swingeing cuts to all public services, but especially the welfare bill, which is symbolic of all that Tories despise about the state. It fosters complacency, laziness, it undermines self-reliance, frugality and discipline, and more than anything else, it is bloated beyond all belief.

Although this is no doubt a convenient lie for winning elections, as it plays to the usual Thatcherite antics of turning workers and against shirkers (divide and rule, etc); but a lie it so inconveniently remains. Osborne managed very modest savings from the welfare bill in the last parliament, despite offloading a huge amount of pain and suffering onto very vulnerable people. Because he continues to believe the farce he believed when he first entered the Treasury: that there are simply millions of lay-about benefit fraudsters draining the public purse for their hedonistic lifestyles. This is a nonsense.

Firstly, half of the welfare bill goes to pensioners. Because Gideon relies on these to vote for him on polling day, he has not attacked them, and did in fact increase the money going to pensioners by £4.6 billion from 2014-2015. The only other action he took on pensions was to liberalise them, and give people control over their own pension pots (yet another example of a free-market idea which has unpleasant ramifications in the real world, as more and more people are getting swindled out of their savings by fraudsters). The rest of the welfare bill goes to things like housing benefit, job seekers allowance, and of course tax credits.

Now contrary to Gideon and company’s deeply held believe that thousands are either pretending to be disabled or are not trying hard enough to get a job: neither is true. Job seekers allowance is a relatively small portion of the welfare budget compared to the things that Osborne finds electorally useful, and the few available examples of benefit fraud are blown out of all proportion by the right-wing media. This is the reason Gideon has struggled to make savings before, and the reason that his insistence on trying again leaves me perplexed and angry.

I’m coming round to the belief that David Cameron is truly a One Nation Tory (bear with me). He is a pragmatic and unideological conservative, which is usually a recipe for good government. But his ideology (as vague as it might be) is informed by some simple, unspoken Thatcherite assumptions, which his very privileged and narrow upbringing never forced him to question. A Britain of food banks and benefit sanctions isn’t one he understands, cares about or is even really aware of; his actions are guided by the unquestioned assumption that the wealth creators will save us all. Here he is different from George Osborne, whose caesaresque manner and austere fiscal conservatism have been balanced by the needs of economic reality. In the middle of the last parliament, when it became clear that austerity wasn’t working, and was indeed a violation of common-sense economics, as well as basic morality, he essentially stopped cutting. But he never showed it. He allowed himself to be carried along by the helpful narrative that he had created: that labour’s profligacy was the problem, and he was the hero cleaning up the mess.

Osborne is a Whig: he cares for strivers, individual freedom, free markets, and striving market individuals . He is not a true conservative in any sense of the word. The intermediary institutions that conservatism was born to conserve, protect and defend mean nothing to him; which might explain the willingness with which he takes a meat cleaver to Britain’s social fabric. He doesn’t believe there is any such thing as the social fabric: his view of society is one of atomised individuals, all striving to shaft each other as part of the Greenback bogey- which to his mind is a natural law, not a social construct which evolved in the 16th century.

It doesn’t take a genius to work out that poverty, inequality and low pay are serious problems in modern Britain, but it takes a special kind of Thatcherite douche-bag to think that the solution to the state subsidising low paying corporations is to punish their workers. At least, in the words of Amber Rudd, they are being “consistent”. Because punishing disabled people for the recklessness and greed of an international banking elite never gets old.

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Dismay as candidate representing Labour values manages to enter Labour leadership contest

Although the title of this piece is satirical, what follows will certainly not be; not only because I couldn’t think of any more material, but also because the future of social democracy is not a joke.

As a self-confessed Burkean Tory I support a general desire for less state interference in our lives, for more respect of the intermediary institutions between individuals and the state, I have a general distaste for the clinical arrogance that runs through all progressive thought, and I despise the inexcusable behaviour of our rapacious economic elite.

Although I wouldn’t vote for Labour, I am amazed at how Jeremy Corbyn’s nomination for his party’s leadership race was received with such dismay. Its fair enough if you don’t agree with his policies- although many of his ideas have badly needed airing for many years- but to wish him out of the contest altogether? What possible justification could you have for not even letting him stand? How could such an idiotic, undemocratic sentiment possibly find support in a democratic country, much less a political party obsessed with democracy?

Numerous insufferable Blairites have taken to the air, decrying that the Labour Party isn’t “taking itself seriously”. My response to this is that any political party claiming to be left-wing, which has remoulded its ideological DNA in order to remain electorally viable, rather than fulfilling their true reason for existence- standing up to power and giving the lie to free market fundamentalism- and then struggled to put a socialist candidate into the leadership contest, has not only long since stopped taking itself seriously, but almost lost its soul.

It’s good for the Labour Party, and good for Britain that Jeremy Corbyn has made it into the leadership race; it’s good that his courageous views will be given the hearing they so badly need in a political climate where any deviation from Thatcherism is either scowled upon or regarded as delightfully quaint.

Let’s not forget that this economic doctrine has truly failed to prove itself on a moral or even economic level; as such it is the prevailing school of thought throughout the world.

GPs, Putin’s paddy and Inequality

Today’s Independent leads with the news that tens of GP’s surgeries all over the country have been closing recently, forcing 160,000 patients to register at another practice. This must be rather disappointing news for Dave C, whose already slightly spurious claim that he will somehow create a “seven-day NHS” now seems totally implausible. Shame, because when he previously pulled a cool £ 8 billion out of the back of his sofa during the election campaign, he had everyone convinced.

Putin seems to be throwing the most extraordinary tantrum, by banning what seems like a rather misinformed list of the top echelons of British government (Nick Clegg was included – (I bet he’s chuffed!) – from ever going to Russia. This reminds me of our immigration debate: there are very few people simply lining up to get in; it’s not that great a holiday destination, as beautiful as some parts of Russia undoubtedly are. Why Putin thinks this will be taken as a serious rebuke for Europe’s apparent mistreatment of him, rather than as a laughable, irrelevant gesture that secures his image as an unreasonable petty-tyrant, who can say.

Finally, the Independent seems to have belatedly woken up to the fact that Britain is a vastly unequal country, where wealth is not shared fairly amongst the populace, and that the situation is getting worse; I base these comments on a series of articles (“COFFEE SHOPS AND FAST FOOD CHAINS FAIL TO PAY LIVING WAGE”; Yasmin Alibhai-Brown’s latest enlightened crusade: “GOD KNOWS I’VE TRIED TO UNDERSTAND THE RICH, BUT I JUST CAN’T” and “INEQUALITY HARMS GROWTH – BUT THE CHANCELLOR IS GOING TO DELIVER MORE OF IT”. As justifiable as these comments are, and as timeless, they sound strange coming from a paper who recently backed a continuation of the Conservative-Lid Dem coalition to win the general election, probably on the advice of its non-dom oligarch owner, Evgeny Lebedev. If this newspaper really cared so much about social justice, why did it back a government which seems intent on getting rid of what little remains, and writing half-arsed, neo-fascistic policies on the back of a fag packet?

It seems like every day another ill-thought through and ideologically inconsistent policy gets flushed through the pipework. The increasingly authoritarian policies of this government are at odds with its “self-reliance” rhetoric. The community can push people around and listen to their phone calls, but members of the community can’t enjoy mutual financial security? This is the rankest form of Toryism, without any of the kind-of-redeeming features of pre-Thatcher paternalism. In this brave new world of a “snooper’s charter”; twinned with a law to restrain the government, should it ever feel the insuppressible need to raise taxes, from engaging in such lawlessness; the hypocrisies of the Conservative Party have been inflated to idiotic proportions.