AUDIO BLOG – The Biggest Lie in British Politics
I wanted to post something by way of Addendum to Johann Hari’s excellent article The Biggest Lie in British Politics; a damning consolidation of information that has been floating around in blogs and articles. It challenges the government’s single narrative of cuts being necessary, because this is the direst fiscal position in which the country has ever found itself.
What Mr Hari says is vital and I encourage everyone to read his article. I wish to add something, however, to avoid any doubts. George Osborne knows this is a lie. It has been pointed out to him unequivocally and he accepts it. Yet he continues to propagate it. I want to ensure that anyone reading this blog knows that this is not a mistake on the part of the government and not subject to debate. I wish to do so in Osborne’s own words to make sure there is no room for misunderstanding.
During his very first press conference on 17 May 2010, George Osborne said:
These are the Global Finance figures. Use the slider to see how they all move in tandem.
George Osborne makes a similar claim, with regard to National Debt this time, in a Press Release on the Conservative Party website with regard to the National Debt:
“Responding to the release of ONS figures showing the true scale of UK national debt, Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne said: ‘It’s official – Britain now has the highest national debt in the developed world.'”
A few months later on 4 November 2010, giving evidence in front of the HoC Treasury Committee, George Osborne is challenged by John Mann on these assertions and concedes:
So we can all agree that at this point the government has been put on notice, as it were. They know this is a warped and misleading line. They continue to scare-monger at full pace. A small smattering of examples, concentrating on cabinet members:
“Let us compare that with what Labour left behind: a trillion pounds of debt for the first time ever, the largest deficit in the G20 and in our peacetime history, and the deepest and longest recession in the G20.” Sir George Young, Leader of the House of Commons 27 January 2011 – Hansard link
“In the difficult economic circumstances that the coalition inherited, with all parts of society having to make sacrifices, repairing the covenant will not be easy or straightforward. The previous Government left us not only a record national debt that is increasing day in, day out because of the deficit, but a hole in the defence budget itself.” Dr Liam Fox, Secretary of State for Defence 3 March 2011 – Hansard Link
“Today, however, there has been not a word of apology from the Opposition for getting us into that enormous financial mess that meant that this country had the highest deficit of any country in the western world-of any OECD top 20 country. Do they recognise that as a fact?” Grant Shapps, Minister for Housing and Local Government 9 February 2011 – Hansard link
“There are some tough decisions, but for what reason do hon. Members believe that we must take those decisions? It might have something to do with the fact that the previous Labour Government left us with the biggest deficit in our peacetime history and we must pick up the pieces.” Chris Grayling, Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions 9 March 2011 – Hansard link
“It sounds as though some on the Opposition Benches would like to wash away the past few years and drown out their bitter legacy: record national debt; unsustainable public spending; and a crushing burden on ordinary families.” Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government 28 March 2011 – Hansard link
“My Lords, very difficult choices have to be made at a time when we have been left with the biggest deficit in our peacetime history.” Lord Sassoon, Commercial Secretary to the Treasury 28 February 2011 – Hansard link
“In conclusion, we want to treat motorists fairly, but we must also act responsibly by ensuring that we tackle our record national debt and the financial deficit, which will not be easy.” Justine Greening, Economic Secretary to the Treasury 7 February 2011 – Hansard link
Finally the amendment to a motion that “the Government inherited the largest deficit in UK peacetime history” was tabled on 16 March 2011. It was signed, among others, by David Cameron, Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister, George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer and Vince Cable, Business Secretary – Hansard link
George Osborne himself, repeated the lie addressing the Conservative Party Spring Forum on 5 March 2011:
He repeated the lie on the Andrew Marr show ten days ago, on 20 March 2011:
So, the question is, what reason would the government have for repeating this lie? It is not, after all, the smartest move in terms of restoring confidence in markets, both domestic and international. Answer: it allows them to push ahead with an ideologically led assault on our public services. It also means that they can answer any difficult questions by reference to the lie. A textual analysis of Prime Minister’s Questions from the last month reveals that, when questioned on any economical issue, David Cameron has used the words “inherited”, “left to us” and “bequeathed”, with reference to the lie, an astonishing 112 (one hundred and twelve) times.
So, as every economic indicator is moving in the opposite-than-desired direction, where does this lie stop? I think the government has the answer. This is what Cabinet Minister, Francis Maude had to say to the newly elected Labour government in June 1998:
“We always said that Labour cannot be trusted with the economy. After only 14 months, it is coming apart. Its economic policies are in disarray and the public finances are unravelling… It is time for Labour to take responsibility for its actions and stop blaming everyone else. This is the Government’s strategy. These are their choices and decisions. As the economy flags, it will be the Government’s fault. It will be a downturn made in Downing street.” Hansard link
Is that fair enough Mr Maude?