Is Time up for “The Big Lie”?

Is Time up for ‘The Big Lie’?

Jim Grundy
Big Lie
The ‘Big Lie’ theory is best summed up by the well-known phrase that if you’re going to tell a lie, tell a big one, repeat it often enough and you’ll be believed. It works and, ironically, it relies upon the basic honesty of most people to make it work.
Everybody lies. Of course we do but those lies are the small things that make life easier. You do like the meal that’s been cooked for you; yes, that new shirt, suit looks great, etc., etc. Lying is normally a harmless social lubricant, with no malice involved. And so most people think others operate on basically the same level.
But they don’t.

Over the past five years the Tories and their Lib Dem supporters have lied on an epic scale. Orwellian double-think and newspeak has nothing on them. They damn Labour for borrowing, whilst borrowing more than Labour has done, not only during the previous Labour administration but in history; boast of growth whilst overseeing the slowest economic recovery since the South Sea Bubble 300 years ago; and a rate of growth that still doesn’t match the one they inherited – and let no-one mention that the national debt Labour was bequeathed in 1997 (as a % of GDP) was larger than was passed on to the Tories in 2010.

The Tories know this perfectly well. But the credit crunch was a Tory wet dream, offering undreamed-of opportunities to implement a huge shift of wealth away from the public to a tiny ruling elite. It is no coincidence that the U.K. now has the largest number of billionaires per head of population than any other country. When the Tories ask where the money has gone – referencing ‘that’ note – the answer is clear.

From the privatisation of the Royal Mail for £1bn less than its market value – at a conservative estimate – to the handing out of NHS contracts to the private sector, the evidence of how this asset-stripping is playing out is there for all to see.

But what is in plain sight is not always what is most visible.

I give you, for your distraction, the ever-changing galaxy of scapegoats presented by our friends in the media and their Tory chums: foreigners; gay men and women; black people; asylum-seekers; refugees; gypsies; benefit scroungers; and, the current favourite – Muslims. There are many, many more, of course.

The crowding around the political centre ground left many working class people feeling abandoned, disenfranchised, bemused by what has happened and angry at the impact the undermining of their lives, homes and jobs has had upon them. UKIP, the ultra-Tories, have simply taken the next step, exploiting those fears to argue, for example, that raising the Minimum Wage would attract more lazy foreigners to the country, to take our jobs whilst living on benefits – let’s not dwell on that contradiction too long. The lie remains, only it’s even larger and even more dangerous.

Yes, only an idiot would argue that strategy hasn’t worked to an extent. A bigger idiot, though, would argue that everyone attracted by UKIP’s rhetoric is, therefore, racist, a hopeless, mindless bigot to be dismissed. Of course they’re not.

In their private lives when people go through the ups and downs of life they often grasp at small, almost insignificant issues and obsess about them. An argument about a partner not remembering to do the shopping, to put the bin out, to sort the gas bill, all these become mountainous problems because they feel themselves to still have an element of control over them – the ‘small stuff’. The underlying problems are too big, too difficult to face and are put to one side but forgetting to hang out the washing, now that sums up what’s wrong with your life…..

As in private, so it follows that the big public issues of the day can seem unfathomable, so far beyond their control that they don’t bear thinking about, let alone understanding, because there is no point. An earnest discussion of globalisation, the free movement of capital but not labour or the operation of City trading houses will leave many people completely cold. So, back to the ‘small stuff’: now, that bloke at no. 26 who’s never done a day’s work in his life, who claims benefits…., he’s the one. He is what is wrong with society. And those they read about in the press, now if we sort them….

And, returning to the theme, why would anyone tell such blatant lies about Romanians, Muslims, etc.? There must be some truth in it because they wouldn’t print such stuff if it wasn’t basically true, give or take the odd exaggeration…. Surely. Surely, people don’t tell such outrageous lies….

The last General Election saw an unpopular Labour Government, dealing with the biggest financial crisis in modern times, still suffering from the hangover of ‘New Labour’ – just how toxic that had become – and it hit rock bottom. But the Tories didn’t win. Despite everything, they had to be propped up by the Lib Dems (when ‘propping up’ was fine – it’s a crime now, it seems.). Was this the first sign of the weakening of the ‘Big Lie’? People were clearly fed up with Labour but not enough bought into the Tory message.

Cameron and Osborne have perfected their straight faces whilst telling the biggest lies possible but still not enough people have fallen for them. And as the election has approached, the lies have gotten larger and, abandoning all pretence of reporting news, their allies in the traditional media have joined in making a huge noise about how a man eats a bacon sarnie. There can never have been a worse, more negative, down-right vicious campaign in modern British political history.

But the louder they shout, the clearer it is becoming that not enough people are listening to them. Today’s headlines [6th May 2015] go beyond hysterical. The plebs, it seems, aren’t paying enough attention.

Younger people have tended to vote differently to the older sections in society but is that gap widening? Some of the polls suggest there is a growing and significant difference between the levels of support for UKIP by age-group. Society has changed and UKIP focuses upon older people, relying on a twisted version of nostalgia to spread its appeal, so that’s understandable. But what else is going on? At the same time the amount of time spent by people reading print news media is seemingly in terminal decline, likewise the time spent watching network TV news is suffering too. By contrast, the numbers accessing their information from the internet, and social media, has grown and grown. And internet polls are now beginning to highlight different outcomes to those carried out by telephone. (But that’s all Russell Brand’s fault, isn’t it?)

There is always the issue of causation against correlation but is the increasing use of the internet with the access it provides to a bewildering array of information (yes, not all good), information that is not controlled by peddlers of the ‘Big Lie’ changing how people think? If the messages given to people by the Tories can’t rely upon their massive reinforcement by the Murdochs and Mails of this world, is it the beginning of the end for the very tool that has been so useful to them up to now?

Well, probably not. Not yet. But, to paraphrase Winston Churchill – a man who knew the power of words if nothing else – whilst this isn’t the end; it isn’t even the beginning of the end; but it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning for the growing challenge to the ‘Big Lie’.

And aren’t they terrified of that?

State finances are not like a household or a maxed out credit card

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 Prue Plumridge patiently explains to a Conservative MP the true nature of Osborneomics and their devastating impact on the UK’s economy and people.

 

Dear Mr Whittingdale

I would like to take up where we left off at Sunday’s hustings on the subject of the national debt/ deficit, since not being a quick witted politician, I was unable to reply in the way I would have liked.  Let’s start with the Tory pledge that they’d balance the books by 2015.  Clearly this has not happened and, not only is the government on course to break this promise with the deficit set to be £75 billion next year, but is also set to borrow £207 billion more than planned. George Osborne’s plans to make more cuts (whilst not saying, unsurprisingly, where these cuts will fall) will take Britain back to 1930s levels of public spending, and that’s without the planned £7 billion of unfunded tax cuts. The effect on our economy and our people don’t bear thinking about.

Now, unlike you and David Cameron, I have not studied economics.  However, I do know that people have been deceived by a lie which compares our State finances to a household budget or a maxed out credit card.  In our ignorance this is the analogy which people can most identify with, but it is simply untrue.  Furthermore Britain was neither bust nor bankrupt – this sadly was used by coalition ministers to justify their ideologically inspired cuts to public expenditure. What was a genuine private debt crisis caused by reckless banks and absolute greed became a supposed sovereign debt crisis in order to justify austerity and the sale of public assets to the private sector.

As the economist David Blanchflower commented about the oft repeated lie about maxed out credit cards ‘Cameron is an economic simpleton who shows no understanding of basic accounting’. Furthermore the idea that future generations will pay for so called Labour government profligacy is yet another of those lies which the coalition has used to deceive the people of this country.    George Osborne’s statement in 2010 that ‘we have taken our country back from the brink of bankruptcy’ and that spending cuts were vital to avoid ending up like Greece was another of those misleading statements. We have full monetary sovereignty i.e. control over our own currency (unlike Greece) and we are the sixth biggest economy in the world whilst Greece the 32nd[1].  When Chuka Umunna asked Lord Turnbull who was testifying to the Treasury Select Committee in October 2010 whether he thought that the UK had been on the brink of bankruptcy he replied quite simply ‘No I don’t.’[2]

As Johann Hari wrote in the Independent ‘If we are bust today, as George Osborne has claimed, then we have almost always been bust. We were bust when we pioneered the Industrial Revolution.  We were bust when we ruled a quarter of the world. We were bust when we beat the Nazis.  We were bust when we built the NHS.’[3]

You pointed out quite rightly that my own party is planning to reduce the deficit and balance the books, albeit more slowly.  I cannot pretend that I approve of such a move but as a member of a democratic party I am entitled to disagree with it. However, my support for Labour is given on the basis that it wants to create a fairer and more socially just society – something the Tories have been working to dismantle over the last five years. It has created myths and lies about the state of our economy in 2010 and pointed the finger at every one other than those who are the real authors of our economic collapse, in order to justify disabling the welfare state, selling off our public assets, not to mention privatising our NHS.

George Osborne in 2010 said ‘reducing the deficit is a necessary precondition for sustained economic growth’.  This is the biggest deception of all. Deficit reduction, book balancing and surpluses simply remove money from the economy and make the situation worse.  Patently you have never studied Keynes or the conditions which led to the Great Depression in the 1920s. The economists Ann Pettifor and Victoria Chick studied data from 1918 to 2009 and concluded that the evidence runs counter to conventional economic wisdom and such policies have not improved the public finances – instead they increase rather than reduce the level of public debt associated with prevailing economic conditions[4]. In terms of people they destroy lives.  Indeed Keynes wrote in 1937 that ‘The boom not the slump, is the right time for austerity at the Treasury’.  Austerity can never be a solution but then this has been an ideological choice by the Tories rather than a necessity. I should point out that on seven occasions in US history when the government balanced the budget it was followed by recession/depression.

Mr Whittingdale – it doesn’t have to be like this.  There are alternative economic models which, over decades, have been airbrushed out of the mainstream in favour of this destructive neoliberal dogma which has brought many people to their knees whilst enriching a few. We are paying now for the dominance of the ideas of Hayek and Friedman which posit that the individual can best determine his needs and that free markets will always find their equilibrium, not to mention trickle down wealth.    Keynes’ ideas obviously spring to mind along with John Kenneth Galbraith and his son James, Wynne Godley, Mary Mellor, Bill Mitchell and Warren Mosler.  The thing seems to be that we have lost sight of the idea that money should be a public resource and not for private gain. The debt based society of the past decades is crushing us, indeed enslaving us.

We should see our monetary system as a public utility which is employed to finance the production and exchange of goods and services, not an opportunity for greedy speculation. It is our monetary system and it should be used to achieve the full potential of society and improve the lives of our citizens.

To finish where I started whilst there are always limits in terms of, for example, environment and resources there can be no such thing as an economic limit due solely to our society being ‘out of money’.  Government deficits do not take away from savings; government revenues are not constrained i.e it does not need to tax or borrow in order to spend – indeed logically government must spend first before it can tax or borrow; our children will get to consume what they produce and it has nothing to do with the deficit; tax is a mechanism to balance budgets and distribute wealth more fairly; and finally as the issuer of its own currency governments cannot be forced to go bankrupt[5]. The push for privatisation of public sector services and decimation of our social security system, on the basis that we can’t afford it, has been ideological and simply a way to destroy the foundations of a fair society and generate more profits for the private sector, as you most certainly know.

The emphasis on the national debt, deficit reduction and book balancing, hides the real issues that should be of concern to all – the trillions of pounds of private debt and the worst trade balance in history. But I notice Mr Osborne says nothing of that – he is relying on debt based consumption and a housing bubble to keep the economy afloat.

Yours sincerely

 

[1] Summer of Unrest: The Debt Delusion Medhi Hasan

[2] Summer of Unrest: The Debt Delusion Medhi Hasan

[3] The Paradox of Thrift: Johann Hari

[4] The Economic Consequences of Mr Osborne: Ann Pettifor and Victoria Chick

[5] The Seven Deadly Innocent Frauds: Warren Mosler

It is the Tories who have a 30% strategy

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It is the Tories who have a 30% strategy by Michael Burke

First posted on Socialist Economic Bulletin 20.05.14

Ed Miliband is accused of having a ‘35% strategy’, meaning that he is banking on doing only just enough to win an overall majority at the next general election.  Polling models suggest that 35% would be enough for Labour to achieve an overall majority in Parliamentary seats.  This is because the Tory vote is increasingly concentrated, while Labour’s is far more widely spread geographically.
Since Labour’s electoral strategy has not been divulged to SEB, it is idle to speculate on it, although this has not prevented others from doing so.  Instead, it is possible to demonstrate that the Tory policy is based on an electoral strategy that is focused on an even narrower section of the electorate.  It is the Tories who have a 30% electoral strategy.

The map below (which the present author first saw published by Ian Wright MP) shows the cumulative effect in English constituencies of cuts under the Coalition government during this parliament.  The Tory Party is a fringe grouping in Scotland and is headed in that direction in Wales.  Despite repeated attempts it has also failed to resurrect Conservative Unionism in Ireland.

Chart 1. Cumulative effect on change in spending power 2010/11 to 2015/16

The areas in beige have been barely affected by government cuts (although these are averages, there will be many people living in those areas who are badly affected by austerity).  The areas in green have experienced no net cuts at all.

By contrast, areas coloured in red have seen a fall in living standards of between 15% and 20%.  Those areas coloured deepest red have seen falls of greater than 20% and take in all the large cities, including London.

The economic map almost precisely coincides with the electoral map of Britain.  The Economist and others are keen to argue that this is a North-South divide in British politics.  To that end, they are obliged to perform some logical contortions.  In order to make the main divide in British politics North versus South, The Economist excludes the Midlands from the North and excludes London from the South!

In reality, the Tory Party has been forced out of Ireland, Scotland, the cities, Wales and the North in succession.  It is retreating to its birth place and stronghold in the English shires.

The economic response of the Coalition government led by the Tories is to protect and promote those Tory heartlands, as shown in Chart 1 above.  SEB has previously shown how a minority of society, the owners of capital and the rich, are benefitting from the ‘recovery’ in which most people’s living standards continue to fall.

Perhaps the most flagrant policy in this regard is Osborne’s ‘Help to Buy Scheme’.  The entire policy of increasing demand for housing while doing nothing to increase supply inevitably leads to higher prices.  A number of commentators and economists from the Right have attacked the scheme as an absurd policy, designed solely to boost property prices rather than housing availability.  It is a ‘help to get re-elected’ scheme.  The resulting property price bubble is concentrated in London and the South-East, and even here there is growing resentment at the unaffordability of housing, not a feel-good factor.

Politically and economically, the Tories are pursuing a core vote strategy.  This may not amount to much more than 30% at the next general election, and will certainly be less than the 36.9% they received in 2010.
As a result, support for the LibDems has collapsed as this does not at all coincide with the interests of their electoral base, higher-paid workers, professional classes and small business owners.

Labour’s winning electoral strategy should be equally clear and substantially broader.  In terms of political geography it should embrace the democratic demands for greater national rights within the British state, as well as finally ending the British presence in Ireland.  It needs to have a programme of economic regeneration for the North and the big cities.  It should adopt a very large scale programme of council house building with London at its centre-piece.  Socially, it needs to be a champion of equality and democracy, tackling the huge inequalities faced by women and tackling the endemic racism of British society, which cannot be done while promising to be tough on immigration.

Above all now, it needs to reverse the policy of austerity which is lowering the living standards of the overwhelming majority and will continue to do so.  The Tory policy, of government spending cuts and inducements to the private sector to invest has not worked.  A policy of government-led investment is required, combined with other policies that will directly lift standards.  The Tory party is pursuing a narrow electoral strategy to shore up its support.  Labour can offer something better.

The single most devastating reason NOT to vote Tory or Lib Dem at the next election

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First posted by Tom Pride on 23.06.14

(not satire – it’s the Tories and the Lib Dems!)

The NHS has been severely damaged by the coalition government over the last 4 years.

But don’t just take my word for that.

Dr Mark Porter, the head of the BMA, thinks so too. That’s not just some lefty anti-government think-tank – that’s the British Medical Association, which represents 153,000 doctors, GPs and other medical specialists and staff across the country.

Dr Porter gave a devastating speech today to the BMA Annual Representatives Meeting in which he astonishingly said the coalition government must “face up to the damage that they have done” to the NHS.

In his dramatic speech, Dr Porter specifically listed the ways that the NHS has been damaged over the last 4 years by the Tories and the Liberal Democrats:

  • The coalition government have imposed policies that “force us to do the absolute opposite of what our patients need”.
  • The coalition government have made cuts to frontline services in the NHS that “eat away at the fabric of care and destroy innovation”.
  • The coalition government have “imposed in England a new NHS without evidence, without mandate and without support”.
  • The coalition government have spent “at least £1.6 billion” implementing their top-down reforms to the NHS which continue to “consume the energies of thousands of NHS staff who never even wanted it, just to stop it unravelling”.
  • Since the coalition government passed their NHS reforms, there has been “a bumper year for the multinationals”- especially for their “armies of lawyers and accountants who find the curative so lucrative”.
  • The coalition government – through their “misguided legislation” – have been “doing the exact opposite” of “working to make it better for patients”.
  • NHS commissioning managers “are being driven to distraction by the madness of the market”.
  • The coalition government’s agenda on the NHS is “to override any investment, suppress any incentive, erode any service, in the single interest of bleeding every penny it can out of the system”.
  • The coalition government have spent billions on “fragmenting care by forcing the NHS to open up to private bidders” and on “droves of management consultants with their pointless flipcharts”.
  • The coalition government have wasted money on “untested policies, not hard-working public servants”.
  • There has been a chronic lack of investment in “emergency medicine, in general practice, in public health, in mental health, across the NHS”.
  • The coalition government’s “blanket refusal to invest” is “economic illiteracy”.
  • There have been “four years of waste and cuts and missed opportunities”.

And finally this gem:

  • The only single cause for celebration about the coalition government’s reforms of the NHS is “that most of it doesn’t apply in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland”.

So there you have it – straight from the horse’s mouth.

The Tories and the Lib Dems have done their best to destroy the NHS in England over the last 4 years.

So if you know anyone who still needs a reason not to vote for either of the coalition parties at the next election?

Tell them to take their pick from any of the above.

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You can see the full transcript of Dr Porter’s speech here:

BMA Chair of Council Dr Mark Porter’s Speech

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Related articles by Tom Pride:

The two surprising NHS surveys the government hopes you don’t see

Daily Telegraph uses death of baby and outright lies to smear NHS

Meet the Telegraph journalist on a one woman campaign to smear the NHS

Thinktank proposing monthly fee for NHS is funded by private healthcare companies

UK today: 40% of cancer patients can’t afford to heat their home properly

UKIP deputy leader calls for end of NHS

Shirley Williams’ bare-faced lies to her Lib Dem colleagues on the NHS

Meet the NHS patient representative who seems to have a problem with women