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The Dawn of A New Age of Plutocracy

May 3, 2011

Number 10 must have been wishing that nobody was listening to Radio 4 this morning. Or, at least, that nobody was paying attention.

On a dreary Virgin train up to Manchester, using my phone as a radio, I listened to the Today programme. This was followed by The Jam Generation Takes Power – a relatively light-hearted exploration by Anne McElvoy of the effect of growing up in the 80s on today’s politicians.

Our Chancellor chose to speak about Geoffrey Howe’s 1981 Austerity Budget as a key moment. This is what he had to say:

Could the man really be this dense? Could he really see 1981 as the beginning of “two decades of prosperity”?

The period to which Gideon refers includes not one, but two recessions – one of them the longest since the Great Depression. It includes the Falklands War, two long periods of unemployment above 3 million, the creation of ghost-towns in the Northeast, Northwest, Midlands and Wales. It includes Black Monday, Black Wednesday, an enormous sell-off of public assets, the poll tax riots and the single biggest concentration of mortgage repossessions, filings for insolvencies and personal bankruptcies since records began. Millions of people’s lives were left in ruins, in some cases irreparably.

The point, however, is this: The 80s and 90s were, in fact, two very good decades for a select few. People with ready cash made a killing in the property market, buying repossessed homes. Private corporations bought public utilities and railways for peanuts. George Soros made a very cool $1 billion out of the devaluing of Sterling on Black Wednesday.

And so, Osborne reveals something quite fundamental with his statement. It is not pure incompetence or stupidity that is driving this government’s economic policy. It is also the fact that its aims are plutocratic in nature. They stem from a radically alternative experience of two whole decades.

He wants to emulate Howe (or at least emulate his perception of Howe) – a brave Chancellor making difficult decisions which will mark the start of two decades of prosperity. Prosperity, that is, for Cameron, Osborne, Clegg and the rest of the millionaires in the cabinet; for their rich families; for their Bullingdon Club and public school buddies. Not prosperity for you and me.

To paraphrase Dickens, it will be the best of times and the worst of times. Depending on how much capital you have tucked away to begin with.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. rogerglewis permalink
    May 3, 2011 5:57 pm

    It is a very depressing notion indeed? When the need of the country is to focus on sustainability and a strong real economy, by concentrating on more of the same Funny money banking and globalisation and perpetuating the myth of manufactured wants and ignoring the needs of society at large Osbourne Cameron and Clegg are showing themselves to be Bankrupt of a Big Idea and indifferent to the Big Society.
    What a terribly depressing start to my evening.

  2. Tony permalink
    May 4, 2011 11:12 am

    Is it normal to feel so queasy when looking at a buffoon like Osborne? Or Tory ‘politicians’ in general?

  3. Barry permalink
    May 4, 2011 1:58 pm

    Globalisation and a dependance on spivs, speculators and greedy bankers has failed and those who have a vested interest are using our money to prop up a failing system. Effectively building failure into our economy for the long term. The banks have way too much power and influence upon governments across the world and are able to bring the UK economy to the brink of collapse and then dictate to this very chancellor how he should “punish” them (calls for a Robin Hood Tax have fell upon the same deaf ears)… This is fundamentally unfair and we need to force a change in thinking…

  4. nick james permalink
    May 4, 2011 6:51 pm

    Thank you for a sensationally brilliant blog. Honest, brave and man enough to admit both when you’re wrong and your own shortcomings. Don’t stop!

    PS You’re bookmarked and will be checked out daily so no notifications necessary.

  5. May 15, 2011 7:47 am

    I totally agree and I put this to the canvassers for the Tory party at election time last year. The problem is that the Tories haven’t changed it is just that the electorate sadly, have very short memories!
    Enjoy your blog immensely – hits the nail on the head every time.

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