Following IFS report on George Osborne’s so-called emergency budget.
When David Cameron was elected leader of the Conservative Party on 6th December 2005 he famously declared that he stood for ‘change’ and ‘compassionate conservatism’. The reality has, as the IFS reported today, proved to be far different.
Cameron is tediously fond of the word ‘change’; he used it frequently during his campaign for the Tory leadership and even more during the General Election 2010. He still overuses the word now, even though he is Prime Minister. Psychologists may suggest that his overuse of the word demonstrates a pathological need to prove something he knows is categorically untrue. His government is pursuing very old, archetypically Tory policies; smaller government, cuts to public services, removing investment from state education, breaking up the NHS and the Welfare State. There is nothing different about Cameron’s brand of conservatism and there is a distinct lack of compassion. In fact it represents a moral vacuum.
What has changed – if indeed it can be called a change – is the scale and severity of this government’s attack on the poorest in society. It is unparalleled in modern times; even Margaret Thatcher would have blanched at some of the policies this government is pursuing. During the leadership debates Cameron tried to suggest that Gordon Brown was using scare-tactics to manipulate the electorate – this has become appallingly ironic. His government is trying to frighten the public with gargantuan, meaningless deficit figures to con them into supporting cuts that are brutal and destructive.
No one is denying that cuts have to be made, but the burden of these cuts should not be placed on those who are least able to cope with them. Furthermore, the vast majority of British people were not responsible for the deficit – it was the banks, the fabulously wealthy (who avoid paying their taxes) and the financial sector; the very people this government is protecting and some of whom are Conservative Party donors. The deficit could be settled more easily by tackling these guilty parties and until the government admits this it has little credibility.
To call this ‘compassionate conservatism’ is not only a lie; it is a joke and one in very bad taste. David Cameron obviously believes that if you’re going to lie, do it in such an outrageous fashion that some people are bound to believe you. This is actually ‘cynical conservatism’, George Osborne’s constant braying of “We’re all in this together!” is alarmingly reminiscent of the generals of the Great War ordering soldiers to charge into shell-fire from the safety of gourmet dinner-tables in plush hotels. It is an insult to the public’s intelligence to make such a claim and drastically apparent that the rich-men of the Tory front-bench are not suffering one iota from the cuts, nor will they. They will not be made unemployed, they will not lose their homes, their children will still be privately educated and they will still receive private healthcare. So what sacrifice are they making?
What this government seems to have forgotten is although they are trying to roll back politics to the Victorian era, we are not living in Victorian Britain. The public can gain access to information and the vast majority of us can read (even if their attacks on education may threaten that). Just because the Tories claim that the deficit was caused by Labour overspending on public services doesn’t make it so; it’s just another falsehood. We all know it was caused by the international banking crisis – it was on the news. Retroactively claiming it was caused by Labour investing too much money in the NHS and so forth is just ridiculous. Not only that, most of the public do actually like public services, the clue is in the name. Some of us even remember the mess the Tories left public services in after 18 years of their rule.
This is the reason why this IFS report is so welcome. It has confirmed what most of us already knew; George Osborne’s budget is a regressive budget. His budget will hurt the poorest people in society while protecting the wealthiest, and one only had to look at his face when he delivered it; he was cynically enjoying every minute. It was if he getting some sort of sadistic sexual pleasure out of the cruelty of it – and now the mask is off. He may say the IFS’s analysis is wrong, but in the immortal words of one individual who helped bring down a Conservative government, “He would say that, wouldn’t he?”