Tag Archives: austerity

Update on Outraged Question Time Tory

She’s now a member of the Labour Party and for once, the Labour Party has managed to get some decent press out of something.

“No sane, logical or moral person within the UK in 2016, would ever want the conditions of inequality growing at such a pace as to break the back of society, with disastrous consequences for those with limited opportunities. The malice and contempt shown by this government in their attempts to undermine and oppress societies poorest and most vulnerable citizens is inexcusable.

“But if someone has a passion to show the country a new political direction with the commitment to social justice and high standards that Jeremy Corbyn and his colleagues represent, then now is the time to create some momentum to bring about change.” – Michelle Dorrell

On another note, while Labour is focused on the EU campaign and everyone is (more or less) happy with Corbyn’s stance – by which I mean the vocal, furious right-wing disrupters are momentarily distracted – it’s a nice, quiet period in which Labour seems to actually be getting on with its job in Opposition instead of burning its own house down.


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Cracks in the Wall

It’s interesting that despite all the polls telling us that no one knows about Corbyn’s policies, and the almost daily pledges of rebellion and revolt from Labour MPs, that he (or at least the Opposition) is making a difference in how we think of austerity. As in, now we’re thinking about it.

Tax credits are hitting home and there are a flurry of articles and screaming editorials from all the tabloids, left and right, urging a rethink. There are reports of restive Tories possibly losing their seats * and so many economists and commentators discussing the tactic of tax credit cuts.


No longer are we in the rigid hegemony of apparent common sense that austerity is the logical response the crash of 2008. Instead there is a subtle shift in language. Now the talk is of “choices”. It’s not much, but it’s a few cracks in the wall that suggest that there are other options. This is a change.

Like many, I doubt Corbyn will lead Labour to the next election. I don’t think he wants to. But in the short time he is there, he will hopefully continue to shift the conversation.

After all, the way we frame the problem determines the solutions we consider feasible. Suddenly, competing framings to Osborne’s are getting more of an airing.

*I doubt it. After all, they did win the election. And despite the squeals from people who were happy to vote for pain as long as it wasn’t theirs to bear, I think the same divisive, selfish politics could yet win another election as people continue to vote for “everyone else” to suffer. (until they are “everyone else”, of course).

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Re-Up: Austerity pits young against old

As the Budget continues to unfurl its catalogue of horrors, I thought it would be good to re-up this excellent article by Aditya Chakraborty: “This Battle will Define Us: We Must Protect our Children from Austerity.”

The landmark study of the social effects of David Cameron’s austerity was produced at the start of this year by a team of academics led by Professor John Hills at the London School of Economics. They found that the biggest victims of the spending cuts made since 2010 were children, and their parents: “Tax-benefit reforms hit families with children under five harder than any other household type. Those with a baby were especially affected.”

It was published before the General Election. Spoiler alert: We didn’t.

Sadly, it’s still relevant and all the more frightening because an unfettered Tory government is galloping ahead with its plans. Osborne is so confident that he’s challenged Labour to back the spending cap, capitalising no doubt on the disarray within Labour about whether they’re for or against poverty.

And Labour seems to have no idea what to do about it.

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It was a very good year

2012 was *the* year for becoming a British citizen, according to the Times, who report that 193,000 new citizens got their British passports that year, a nine per cent increase on the year before. They’ve crudely titled the article “The Great Passport Giveaway”.

Cute. Except, of course, that a passport is not free, and never “given” to anyone. You may be granted citizenship if you are an asylum seeker, but even that process is convoluted, painful and subject to agonising delays – if your appeal is accepted. For others, if you’re a non-EEA citizen, it takes at least six years. Six years during which, contrary to popular belief, you’re not eligible for benefits. And you have to get indefinite leave to remain first, which costs about £1,000. A year later you could apply for your passport, which costs about the same. Before that you will have paid for whatever visa you’re on, extensions, a Life in the UK test, postage, and when you get to the citizenship ceremony, the service itself. In fact, the passport involves yet another interview and you pay about £90 for the privilege. It’s certainly not an entitlement. However, when there are these sorts of bitter articles denigrating newly-minted citizens, is it any wonder that some end up feeling disconnected from the State? Integrate! You’re told, but you’re rebuffed at every turn. You have to constantly ready to “perform citizenship”, to be the best version of an idealised citizen* because you are always, always on probation. Integrate, how, if you won’t let us?

I became a citizen in that “bumper crop” of 2012. It was a surprisingly emotional process, and finally, I felt like I was home. I have another home. But I have a life here too. But what was different was the feeling that over 11 years, I have earned my right to belong. Like so many before and after me, I’ve paid my dues, I’ve participated. I’ve loved and lost here. I’ve laid down roots. But this is apparently bad. What was interesting in the comments within the article, from Keith Vaz, is that immigration is considered an unalloyed bad – with no upsides. We’re now moving past quibbles about what sort of migration works for Britian – or doesn’t – to a universal message that it’s the root of every problem:

“Keith Vaz, chairman of the Commons home affairs select committee, said: “This is an extraordinary figure. To be responsible for a quarter of all new passports issued to migrants in the EU flies in the face of suggestions that settlement and migration is under control.”

Is that surprising, when every problem is refracted through the lens of migration? Didn’t build enough houses? Migration. Can’t get your kid into a school? migration. Austerity ripping the welfare net to shreds and pulling the carpet out from under your feet? Migration. And what distorts the debate is that the tolerant majority aren’t as exercised as the rabidly anti-migration minority. For them it is the only issue, the one that gives all others their salience – the touchstone for every ill visited upon Britain. So they shout the loudest. And yet, research shows that the public at large has nuanced views on this. But no one appeals to this tolerant streak. If Keith Vaz is speaking for Labour, then what of the Tories and UKIP? This is a happy consensus, a craven alliance of the cowardly. Because rather than aim their big guns at the real culprits (banks, anyone? ideologically-driven economic policies such as austerity? lack of planning?) for the individual problems I’ve mentioned, they offer small politics that appeal to the lowest common denominator. This dearth of information and compassion has far-reaching effects. We’re prepared to let people die in the Mediterranean to reduce the “pull factor” to the UK. When Mark Reckless says that migrants should be piled into boats at Dover and sent away, even UKIP balked. But I’m sure many agreed. He wouldn’t have felt confident in saying so otherwise.]

*incidentally, some migrants are brilliant. Some are awful. Some are mediocre. Because, you know, HUMANS. And hey, Britain, so are you. So are you.

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On Invisible Power structures

David Cameron announced that the “red warning lights” are on for the global economy. Bob Geldof amassed an array of stars to re-record Band Aid for Ebola. Apart from the fact that both of these things are linked by the fact that they annoy me greatly, they are also connected by a (naive?) disregard for structural power.

So…Cameron, who warns that “a dangerous backdrop of instability and uncertainty presents a real risk to the UK recovery,” adding that “the eurozone slowdown is already having an impact on British exports and manufacturing.” These things have not happened by accident. Without donning my tin foil hat and Wonder Woman bracelets, I think it’s safe to say that he fails to address the fact that we can’t go back to business as usual because capitalism (at least the way we’ve practised it) is broken. Instead of a real analysis, we get that odd car dashboard metaphor (so awkward when politicians grasp for “genuine” turns of phrase to appear normal) that warns of impending doom but proffers little in the way of a proper analysis of it. Perhaps because a proper analysis would show that welfare and immigrants aren’t the problem, and austerity is not the answer. Also worth mentioning that this is an elaborate exercise in crafting a fig leaf to put over the hiccoughing recovery, given the deep cynicism and unbelievable brass neck it takes to declare that we might be on the verge of a second global financial crisis (second!) when Cameron and every minister in the Coalition government has spent the last five years denying that the first one never happened but instead it was all Labour’s fault, that they crashed the car.

And.. Geldof. I think everything I feel about Band Aid is explained perfectly over on Al Jazeera and the Washington Post, but suffice to say that well-meaning a gesture though it may be, and generous the government’s offer to double whatever is raised certainly is, this sort of charity endeavour (celebrities give their time, you give your money) overlooks structural problems. Like the failures of neoliberal economics (sort of like the above) and the under-resourcing of the very agencies that are trying to help. We shouldn’t have to rely on this sort of endeavour to get the cash where it is needed. The UN and WHO  have repeatedly appealed for funds. That’s before we get to the problems of governance that left health systems in these countries a shambles to begin with. We can sticky plaster all we want, but there’s some hard graft to be done when the crisis is over. And yes, Africans do know it’s Christmas, for goodness sake. (Could they not have at least written a less patronising and more intelligent song? Or just amplified the work that Africans are already doing?)

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