Project Osborne


Update: George Osborne’s response to the loss of the AAA rating from Moody, is that he is just going to keep on doing what he has been doing.. in spite of the flat-lining economy, the increasing deficit and a potential triple-dip recession.  All of which adds substance to the suggestion that Osborne has another agenda.

Since it seems that the Tribune magazine website is still not working, I have taken the liberty of posting Ian Aitken’s excellent piece from the latest edition. Tribune is always an excellent source of left-wing thinking and cannot be more highly recommended.

‘Led into the Darkness by Tory guiding light Osborne’

by Ian Aitken

One of the most extraordinary features of present-day British politics is just how few of its citizens appear to realize how awful – indeed, how evil – their present Government really is.  Amazingly, this almost wilful blindness seems to apply as much to Labour voters as to Tories and Liberal Democrats.

Yet it becomes increasingly obvious with every day that passes that the true aim of George Osborne – who remains the ideological guiding light of the Tory wing of the coalition Government – is the destruction of the entire post-war settlement which emerged from the achievements of the 1945 Labour Government. Osborne is hell-bent on dismantling the welfare state in its entirety, and he doesn’t seem to care what else he has to destroy to achieve his aim.

What makes it even more outrageous is that Clement Attlee and his colleagues had a massive parliamentary majority behind them when they took office, and therefore an unchallengeable popular mandate for what they intended to do.  David Cameron and company have no majority, and therefore no mandate.  They did not win the 2010 election, and such majority as the Government possesses relies on the votes of Lib Dem MPs, not one of whom ran on an Osborne programme when they were elected.

I have no doubt that Osborne knows full well that this will be a one-term Government, and that he will be a one-term Chancellor.  So he clearly intends to complete the job of wrecking the welfare state before the inevitable defeat in 2015.  And he probably calculates that, provided he wields the axe with sufficient brutality, it will be almost impossible for any succeeding government to put Humpty together again.

That, I believe, is why Osborne appears to be so indifferent to the catastrophic impact his policies are having on the British economy.  It is blindingly obvious that his programme of savage cuts in state spending is contributing to the depth of the crisis, and even threatens to plunge the economy into a triple-dip recession.  Now even the International Monetary Fund is telling him to ease up on the austerity.  Yet he pays no attention whatever.

I am convinced that this is because, in his eyes, the spending cuts aren’t just instruments of a failed economic policy but a positive good in themselves.  They aren’t unfortunate measures forced on him by the need to cut the deficit (as he constantly tells us), but a specific means to creating a free market, stand-on-your-own-two-feet, devil-take-the-hindmost society of a kind that we have not seen in this country since the early years of Queen Victoria.

Margaret Thatcher began this process by deliberately creating the unemployment which enabled her to destroy the power of the trade unions.  Thanks to her, Osborne has been able to do his even more destructive work without having to worry about militant action by organized labour.  The pity of it is that he has hardly had to worry about the militancy of the labour movement as a whole – including, I fear, the Parliamentary Labour Party.

Can Osborne pull it off in the time left to him?  As things stand, he probably can.  But if the rag-tag army of the opposition parties – including not only the Greens but also a large swathe of the Lib Dems – can get themselves organized and into action, it is possible to slow the process so radically that Project Osborn could be derailed.  I can think of  nothing that matters more right now – certainly not horsemeat in burgers or (say) gay marriage.

So what is holding us back?  I fear that a major factor is the mood of cynicism which has engulfed the voting public ever since the scandal of MPs’ expenses.  Strangely, the ‘they’re all in it for themselves” culture that now holds sway on the doorstep has become the active ally of Project Osborne.  Too few people believe politicians who express the kind of innocently idealistic aims that formed the basis of Attlee’s great victory in 1945.

But this may be Ed Miliband’s opportunity.  Perhaps his lack of charisma could prove a positive advantage, just as it did for Attlee.  No one could accuse Clem of being in it for himself.  Nor, I think, could they accuse Ed.

22 February 2013 Tribune p5