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Oct. 26th, 2010

“What on earth is going on in your country?” my sister writes from Norway. “From here it looks as if there’s a gang of rich men who have decided that the only route to happiness is to take all the help away from the people who really need it, and sell all your forests!”

I have, of course, corrected her laughable misconception. I explained how the coalition is in fact a broad cross-section of society whose concern for the country’s long-term economic prosperity has led them to make some difficult decisions on all our behalf. I made it clear that cutting child benefit for the well-off was a brave and principled move, not a cynical ploy to politically outflank any opposition to the massive cuts in welfare for those who truly can’t afford it. Similarly, nothing should be read into the fact that the government are intentionally writing off a single corporate tax bill that is fully 86 per cent of the £7 billion being slashed from welfare.

I demonstrated quite clearly how those welfare cuts are driven entirely by necessity and aren’t in any way a sign that the Tory party is gunning for a variety of sinister targets that overwhelm its imagination but are a minority in real life—the eternal benefit claimant, the bogus asylum seeker, the endlessly pregnant teen estate dweller. I showed that there is certainly no question of ministers picking out extreme anomalies and pretending that they’re the norm to fit their ideological narrative:
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government (Baroness Hanham): … there will be a cap on the amount of benefit available for housing. Effectively, that will mean that some people will not be able to afford the rent that they are currently paying. We have drawn attention before in this House to the fact that there are some people in London living in accommodation that could not be afforded even by investment bankers. [Hansard]
I impressed on her that the Tories are in fact saving the country from financial ruin by applying the same policies that have led Ireland to swift and stable recovery (any references to an Irish “double-dip recession” are misleading and should be ignored). And I pointed out what a crucial role the Liberal Democrats are playing in that process, with many of their policies presumably so deeply embedded in the coalition’s plans that it is very hard to make them out at all. Indeed, there is a model for future UK governments in the way that the coalition embodies the most salient features of the two parties involved: the forensic sadism of the Tories in economically attacking the vulnerable, and the well-intentioned muddled incoherence of the Lib Dems in working out what happens next. Truly, this is the best of both worlds.

I set out how the reduction in quangos is very important for our future. The fact that almost any organisation that offered regulation or protection for the public has been abolished while any body that reflects business interests has survived could so easily be misrepresented; in fact, it benefits all of us since it allows business to flourish unhindered by meddlesome bureaucratic questions of good practice, corporate responsibility or indeed basic hygiene. This is because the Conservative party values business and is always willing to listen to it (unless of course a top businessman tells them to centralise and rationalise central government procurement just as a company would do, something to which they are ideologically opposed, in which case they sensibly turn out not to be nearly so business-minded after all).

I explained to my sister that just because the upcoming reorganisation of the NHS will be massively expensive and in many ways meaningless because most of the same work will still have to be done but by different people, while at the same time sending a lot of work the way of the private healthcare providers, does not mean that it is ideologically driven. No, it is crucially important because of the financial crisis, probably.

And I pointed out that as a Scandinavian, she should feel proud that the government keeps looking to Sweden for its inspiration, repeatedly citing it for its school reforms and public sector reduction. All right, so the “Swedish school” model didn’t actually make any difference in Sweden, and when the Swedish government reformed its public sector it didn’t sack huge numbers of its civil servants (because it wanted some motivated people onside to implement its reforms), but these are mere details; what’s surely important is to keep meaningfully saying the word “Sweden”.

Then she reminded me about the part where the government intends to sell off many British forests to private developers, at one stroke outraging not only the green lobby—never really a Conservative priority, you might be surprised to learn—but, more importantly, the Tory heartlands, the constituency so conditioned by its daily reading matter that it will read about the forthcoming clearances of the poor from our cities with equanimity, but show it a damaged hedgerow and it will weep tears of bewildered rage and start plotting coups. To deliberately provoke this central core of party supporters for the sake of a quick buck is surprisingly reckless, and I might have to rethink my previously unwavering support for the coalition in the light of it. Could it be that they deserve the label of “fucking idiots” after all?


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 26th, 2010 11:32 am (UTC)
Indeed, there is a model for future UK governments in the way that the coalition embodies the most salient features of the two parties involved: the forensic sadism of the Tories in economically attacking the vulnerable, and the well-intentioned muddled incoherence of the Lib Dems in working out what happens next. Truly, this is the best of both worlds.

Thank you. That would have made me laugh were it not so depressing.

BTW, it might interest you to know that in Sweden reforms are generally in the direction of UK policies - and advertised as such based on our huge successes! Both myself and my Swede are dumbfounded, and looking for a third nation.
Oct. 26th, 2010 11:56 am (UTC)
The sense of having wandered off to the corner shop, and returned home ten minutes later to find a gang of 50 strangers have moved into my home and strewn my belongings on the street, and who, when I go in and question their presence, simply pretend I am not there, grows daily.

I have never before had a government who made me feel like actually rebelling. Possibly shouting some rude words and shaking my fist. I can't wait for this Tony Benn thing to kick off, and I don't care who doesn't like Tony Benn, because he is right about this.
Oct. 26th, 2010 12:28 pm (UTC)
Tony Benn has been right about many things, but the sad thing is that he's still Tony Benn. The paradox is that the further he is away from power, the more correct he's likely to be. His time in high office though was a disaster of utterly wrong decisions, especially those involving technology (In those days, at least the UK government still believed in technology).

Hilary Benn is a changeling. Some sort of elf-child, snuck in at birth to see a Socialist household close up, before rebelling against it.
Oct. 26th, 2010 02:22 pm (UTC)
The point is, whatever he did or didn't when in power, he is right *now*. ;)
Oct. 26th, 2010 12:37 pm (UTC)
philip bloody green
surely the history of bureaucracy shows us that if there is one central paper-clip buyer, paper-clips will:

a. in no way be the cheapest they could be, because of organisational drift, bloat and incompetence and increased possibilities for kickbacks and graft
b. have to involve massive amounts of faff to GET a paper-clip
c. are likely to be paper-clips of inferior quality
Oct. 26th, 2010 12:40 pm (UTC)
Re: philip bloody green
although OBVIOUSLY having a bunch of civil servants providing "accurate and timely" data on paper-clip procurement, usage and cost is a wonderful way to cut down waste...
Oct. 26th, 2010 02:28 pm (UTC)
Who is there still, who has ever worked in any sort of bureaucracy, either public or private, who doesn't understand this yet? What the hell were they doing instead? PPE and straight into that ivory tower with Big Ben atop it and the ghost of Keith Joseph swinging off the bellropes?
Oct. 26th, 2010 02:34 pm (UTC)
philip green seems to think that the magic "best price" fairies will come and sort everything out, the massive useless idiothole.
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )

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