Sunday 20 March 2016


Steve Bell in the Guardian

I knew I wanted to create a blog this weekend to capture and share my thoughts on Wednesday's budget - but I could never have anticipated how the turn of events were to make it so difficult. Some things were predictable, at least up to a point. George Osborne has had seven years as chancellor of the exchequer to orchestrate the neo-liberal economic and political goals that he and Cameron have taken to heart. Lower taxation, cut back the public sector, open up opportunities to maximise profit through private enterprise - and thereby, so the argument goes, increase the nation's wealth and so benefit as many people as possible in our society. Broadly, that is what he claimed to be doing on Wednesday.

But these last seven years have seen the failure of this Tory vision. The rigours of austerity did not lead to the elimination of the national deficit by 2015 within the five years of the parliament. The continued pain of austerity will not lead to a surplus, as Osborne claims, by 2020.There is now such a gap between the policies recommended by an increasing majority of  economists and the declared

intentions of these Tory politicians still clinging to a more and more discredited economic theory. How do they get away with this disparity between what they say and how things are and will be?

Chutzpah. Spin. Etonian self-belief. Mastery in the arts of stealth government - saying one thing and doing another (Osborne stoked the economy by a dangerous boost to the housing market before the last election.) Lying about history (The bankers were the primary cause of the financial crisis of 2008, not the spending of the Brown Labour government) Labelling the Labour opposition as a body unfit to run an economy, incapable of governing a modern state. Using media influence and behind-doors pressure on media outlets such as the BBC. The dark arts of manipulating public opinion and turning a democratic state in the direction you have determined.

But every now and again, the mask slips - and sometimes the whole costume is torn off to reveal the nastiness that passes for a body underneath. I set up this blog with the intention of unrobing the emperors. Osborne has just performed the act for me.

Wednesday's budget revealed that Osborne's biggest single revenue-raising measure over the next five years would be cutting disability benefits known as personal independence payments (PIPs) by £1.3 billion. Disabled people who need assistance with going to the toilet and dressing were set to get lower entitlements of PIP and there would be knock-on effects on a range of linked benefits and even on the allowance paid to the carers of such disabled people.

By Friday the headline in the Guardian read: 'Tory rebellion grows over disability cuts'. The chancellor had said in his  budget the disability budget would rise overall by more than £1 billion. He was not telling the truth. His own budget red book says that there would  be cuts of £4.4 billion in welfare for disabled people over the course of the parliament. Can you understand why I have written about the 'politics of the gutter' in previous blogs? Even fellow Tories had had enough of this assault on the civilised values of a state that likes to think of itself as a model for an advanced and caring society. By Saturday - yesterday - the headline read: 'Osborne forced into humbling budget retreat'.

Osborne miscalculated on Wednesday. He showed his true uncaring nature and it was too much for fellow Tories who are more compassionate. And Iain Duncan Smith - IDS - has now stepped forward as the leader of this group of Tory rebels. IDS - the hate figure of the radical cartoonist. IDS - the work and pensions secretary. I saw a fifteen second clip of Jeremy Corbyn saying something on the lines of  'He has had seven years to show a conscience and not done so. Why should I now believe that he has found one?' Why indeed. 

Steve Bell's Guardian cartoon the day before the budget as the disability cuts are leaked

Duncan Smith's shock resignation raises a host of  questions. He claims that Osborne's cuts to welfare were 'morally indefensible'. The Tory leadership call him a hypocrite.  Socialists such as myself would call him that too - and worse. Is it about Brexit? Did he seize an opportunity to inflict maximum damage on the campaign led by Cameron and Osborne to keep Britain in the European union? We will see.

The one thought I would ask any reader of this blog to consider is this:

Would you trust people like Osborne and Duncan Smith if they were selling you a second-hand car?  And if not, what kind of mess are we in when we look up  and find they have been running the country for seven years and they still have four more years left to inflict their damage.                  

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