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Osborne’s Stand Up Routine

October 4, 2011

Gideon stood on the platform ready for his Conservative Conference speech, half-smiling, eyes slightly glazed – the precise expression of someone trying to work out a joke that everyone else already got. To compensate, he cracked some hilarious jokes of his own. There was the one about his own cabinet colleague being fat (give me a moment to wipe the tears of laughter from my eyes) and the one about the Miliband brothers being brothers. There may have been a couple of knock-knock jokes, possibly one that started “my mother in law…” – I’m not sure. I passed out briefly with a strange mixture of rage and boredom.

Source: Reuters

We were spared jokes about the masturbating habits of teenage boys, sparking hope Gideon was trying to use fresh, crisp material. Sadly, it was about as crisp and fresh as the salad garnish in a greasy spoon in 70’s Barnsley. The speech centred on the now-too-familiar theme of blaming everyone else for the economy’s lack of recovery.

First in the firing line was, naturally, the previous government. Now, I will not pretend that the last administration covered themselves with glory on the issue. But the fact remains that the economy was beginning to recover quite robustly at the time the Tories took over and has slowed down significantly since. The IMF have revised the 2011 UK growth forecast 4 times this year already, from 2% to 1.7% to 1.5% to 1.1%. And there are still three months to go.

So, when is the cut-off? When do we exit this Twilight Zone within which the current government can take credit for any positive development, but have ostensibly no influence over anything negative? I turn to the words of Osborne’s buddy, Cabinet Minister Francis Maude. This was what he said about the newly elected Labour Government in June 1998, after they had been in power for just over a year:

After only 14 months, [the economy] is coming apart. [The Government’s] economic policies are in disarray and the public finances are unravelling… It is time for [the Government] 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

Next in Gideon’s sights were the banks. “The message from this hall is clear”, he said. “They let down their customers, they let down their shareholders, and they let down their country.” Funny thing is, only three months ago he had the perfect opportunity to deliver that message to the right hall – when he spoke at the London Mayor’s Dinner for Merchants and Bankers of the City of London. He said nothing of the sort. The tone of that speech fell only marginally short of holding hands and singing “Kumbaya”. Like every good comedian, Gideon adjusts his material depending on the venue.

Maybe the banks have been punished enough. They did, after all, make significant concessions on Project Merlin earlier this year. This was the government flagship banking policy; the compromise which explained why they would refrain from regulating banks’ conduct and bonuses more stringently. The key promise by banks was to lend more to SMEs.

So, why is it that 8 months later Osborne is talking about Credit Easing? A scheme under which the Treasury will provide loans to SMEs, at the risk of taxpayers? This potentially vast amount of money will not even show on the balance books as an increase in national debt. We are getting financial instruments of equal value in exchange, explained Philip Hammond MP on Newsnight (IOUs – possibly worthless ones since these are businesses that banks didn’t deem credit-worthy). It saddles the country with a massive, invisible liability.

And here’s the kicker – for most loans the scheme will be administered by high street banks, who will presumably take a cut without assuming any of the risk. It’s a nice “thank you” to the sector which provides over half of all Tory party funding.

Last on the hit-list were bloody foreigners – sorry, our European partners. A lot of congratulating and patting of backs – how right the Conservatives were to oppose entry to the Euro. Little mention of the fact that they were in opposition at the time and so, the decision not to enter the Euro was made by Labour. Little mention that the Euro with a powerful economy like the UK in it, may have been a very different and much more robust animal. A lot of tutting and wringing of hands. Those continental chaps really ought to sort their lives out.

The Eurozone is, according to William Hague, “a burning building with no exits”. I am no monetary expert, but taking Bill’s analogy, if the house next to mine was on fire I would grab a bucket – for both selfless and very obvious selfish reasons. I certainly would not stand in my front garden beaming with Schadenfreude, telling my neighbours they’re not putting the fire out quickly enough.

Especially if I were partially responsible. And we are. Because the thing that never gets a mention is that, maybe the Eurozone building is badly designed, but it was the finance arsonists in Osborne’s beloved City of London and Wall Street that started the fire.

But it won’t all be plain-sailing for the wealthy. Gideon issued a grave warning to the rich who evade tax: “We will find you”. Well, he wouldn’t have to look far. One of the biggest evaders – Sir Philip Green, who hides his huge profits from Topshop and the Arcadia Group under his wife’s mattress in Monaco – was hired by this government as an advisor.

There were more anecdotes, skits, jokes and one-liners to come. Like the idea that introducing a fee for suing one’s employer for unfair dismissal will make it easier for businesses to hire people.  That’s right; not easier to dismiss people, but to hire them. Also an increase of the time after which significant employment rights kick in from one to two years. Because, presumably, one year is not enough to assess whether someone is good at their job. A mention of “the right of the unemployed to get a job and not be priced out of the labour market” – no doubt an overture to an attack on the minimum wage. A review of public sector employees who get paid to be part-time union reps, which is, you understand, in no way a revenge beating to the unions for being difficult over pensions.

And after all that, the biggest cracker of all (sadly, too late in the year to be a contender for an Edinburgh Comedy Award): about the Tories being the party of employment rights because – wait for it —– they introduced The Chimney Sweepers Act 136 years ago. I don’t wish to be unkind to Osborne’s researchers and speech-writers. It is entirely possible that this was the most recent piece of legislation of benefit to working people introduced by a conservative government. Or the only one.

And the rotten cherry on top of this rancid comedy trifle? A plea to the Bank of England, please, to print more money, please, please. Quantitative Easing. The very same measure which, when suggested by Alistair Darling (at a time, I might add, when inflation was much lower), was branded by Osborne himself as “the last resort of desperate governments when all other policies have failed.”

And so it is. Because the truth is that this Coalition is failing in the only task for which it had a true electoral mandate – not the dismantling of the NHS, not student fees, not tax breaks for the wealthy, not the selling of forests, not the closing of libraries – but to oversee an economic recovery. And the reason it is failing is truly, very simple.

When they came into power, they made a decision to overplay massively the extent of the problem in order to advance an ideologically-driven agenda. To use fear, not hope, as the primary tool of Government. Frightened people do not oppose or object; they are easier to manage. Frightened people work 12 hours a day, watch Eastenders, go to sleep and, in their prayers, thank God that they have an underpaid job. Frightened people work in servitude until they have paid back all the debt into which they have been forced, and then drop dead.

Unfortunately the plan back-fired. They were so effective in their tactics, that they scared the entire economy into stagnation. They have caused such a crisis of confidence that demand is flailing. The transfer of public debt to private household and company debt (which I first identified in March) is not happening. Individuals are just not spending and so businesses are not getting the orders. Cameron and co. have scared the country into another recession.

And so, when Ian Duncan Smith and others equate the task ahead to “slowly turning around a tanker”, I get nervous about the idiot in the cargo-hold, with the big corkscrew.

No wonder Gideon doesn’t get the joke. He is the punchline.

Source: Reuters

16 Comments leave one →
  1. October 4, 2011 8:18 pm

    Absolutely superb – spot on.

  2. Phil permalink
    October 4, 2011 9:58 pm

    Another superb blog, this is what we’ve been missing through the summer … it’s good to see the ‘ill fitting mask of competency’ is finally falling and they are exposed for what they a bunch of bumbling halfwits still praying to the great god Thatcher

  3. sean permalink
    October 4, 2011 10:34 pm

    Well done Alex glad to see you back and as usual spot on.

  4. Lisa permalink
    October 4, 2011 10:37 pm

    Hit the nail on the head there! Great work.

  5. October 5, 2011 12:40 am

    Articulate and accurate. I love your blogs, Alex. x

  6. October 5, 2011 7:59 am

    I love your blog, you should add instructions for the RSS feed feature so I can get automatic notifications of new blogs. If you can help me set it up please email me! Ii will bookmark you for now. Again Excellent Blog!

  7. Clear Voice permalink
    October 5, 2011 8:13 am

    Well said. Terrifying isn’t it? Has anyone else noticed Gideon’s resemblance to Noddy? Or the way DC avoided answering Jon Snow’s question about financial hardship?

    Poor people are buying less food, whilst at the Conservative Party conference they sell Hermes scarves and cashmere sweaters and Harvey Nicholls merchandise as if nothing at all had happened. I hear violins next the burning building.

    Soon they’ll be telling us to eat cake.

  8. Shotgun permalink
    October 5, 2011 9:52 am

    Glad you are back Alex.. I’ve been missing these🙂
    I’m old enough to have been a 1980 school leaver and this is straightforward unrelenting tory dogma. Time to dust of the Billy Bragg and get something done about this ridiculous nonsense.🙂

    If you weren’t old enough to work through the ’80’s, prepare yourself for some hard times.
    This is not going to be much fun.

  9. nick james permalink
    October 5, 2011 10:10 am

    I hope you had a good summer but I’ve missed your voice. If only there was a single politician, of any party, with the balls and ability to emulate you. Top marks once again.

  10. October 5, 2011 10:11 am

    I won’t be watching the speech and I am just as disinterested in the Milliband Bros too.
    Westminster is the hand maiden of Corporate fascism this is not a left right thing but a very rich and the rest of us thing.
    A wonderful blog, so lets put some bullets in the gun of society to seek representation of our Interests the current system of government has been failing for over 40 years to do that from Dennis Healy Onwards the Garote of debt has been poised to ruin the rights and security of individual citizens.

    http://www.positvemoney.org.uk

    has some suggested answers moving bank accounts to a mutual or one of the Nationalised ( in all but name) banks would also be a positive step.

    We are being served the same poison as our American cousins and les not forget Greece, Portugal Spain and Ireland too.

  11. Dennis @brit_newsman permalink
    October 5, 2011 10:56 am

    Bingo! You’ve hit the nail on the head. Alex… a fantastic blog.

  12. October 5, 2011 11:34 am

    I thought the classic was “This is a recession created by debt. You can’t get out of a debt recession by creating more debt!” No kidding Sherlock.

    Has anybody asked the question – can we afford this money game? Seems to me its getting awfully expensive.

  13. October 5, 2011 12:28 pm

    I left school in 1981 after the local Steelworks closed (a Labour decision) – took me and a lot of other leavers several years to get any kind of career plan going; but the ‘tories (sic) hadn’t destroyed the welfare catch-netting by then. I worry about those who are young, poor and don;t have any kind of family support.

  14. Kris permalink
    October 6, 2011 8:36 pm

    Hooray sturdyblog is back! We missed you over the summer.

  15. Eddie Johnn permalink
    October 8, 2011 11:25 am

    I wish I was clever…I could have been anything….maybe thats why I dont understand all this debt.
    Or maybe I am one of the few on the planet that wonder when it is going to dawn on these clever people that all this money never existed and it never will. Shuffling the deck and dealing out another winning hand was all very good until the joker turned up.
    Or is there another scam bigger than anything Harry Houdini could have ever imagined.
    Have you ever stopped to consider that the whole idea is to get all the money from the little people ( me ) and create the gap between rich and poor so wide that the haves and not haves will be forever esconced in two different worlds where the have nots are the prols who’s only use is to serve the rich and the celebrity.
    It is getting that way. We cant afford life saving drugs for the old yet Formula 1 has another race next week. Rooney kicks the crap out of an opposing player yet the media will still hold him as a hero on a sqillion quid a year.
    Nothing is news unless it is a celebrity or a sports person anymore.
    amerion like so many loves celebrity and even had Arnold Schwarzenegger here as some sort of hero yet California’s indebtedness has nearly tripled during the seven years he has been governor. But never mind he will be back.
    As for Osbourne and his “all in it together” yeeah we are all in it but I wont be jetting off to a skiing holiday next year.

  16. October 12, 2011 11:31 pm

    Great post, Osborne is a total part and your pics make him look like the prat he is. And you’re spot on with confidence, that’s the thing the Tories don’t get. They still don’t get it. Capitalism operates on debt and confidence. An economy can keep going with huge amounts of debt, but without confidence…

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