the brilliantly leaping gazelle

Category: Humpty Dumpty

Is George Osborne channelling the spirit of Josef Goebbels…

It’s not as outlandish a proposition as one might initially think, and by that I don’t mean that I’m accusing George Osborne of having any far right wing tendencies, just right wing tendencies. Because under the pretext of austerity, he’s pursuing the ideological agenda of the right, namely minimum state intervention, greater private sector involvement in what remains of what’s left, cutting taxes to enrich a few but to impoverish many.

Welfare cuts aren’t well, fair, which proves that George Osborne really does put the con into Conservative

It was Goebbels – Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda – who said
“The English follow the principle that when one lies, it should be a big lie, and one should stick to it. They keep up their lies, even at the risk of looking ridiculous. “ Humpty Dumpty said pretty much the same thing, that words can be given whatever meaning one chooses. If people then misunderstand you because they didn’t bother to establish what you meant, then the fault lies with them. Lie of course, being the operative word. Which brings us neatly back to Goebbels.

Because George Osborne’s use of the word recovery does not equate with any traditional definition of the word, it might do in the world in which he lives, but given he’s on a salary of £134,000, owns a 15% stake in his family wallpaper firm and stands to inherit a baronetcy, his world is far, far removed from mine. And the vast majority of people the budget will adversely affect. Recovery means, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, ”A return to a normal state of health, mind, or strength.” George Osborne must have his own meaning – one which he hasn’t felt the need to share with anyone else if he deludes himself that what he advocates is “A return to a normal state. “ If he does, he puts me in mind of the guy who goes to collect his car from a garage after a repair, only to discover that it’s now 4ft long.

Back however from the genius of Chris Morris to the brass neck of George Osborne. In his budget on Tuesday he announced, with a face that is straighter than he is, that “Because we seek a truly national recovery, today I also ask our banking sector to contribute more. But as our banking sector becomes more profitable again, I believe they can make a bigger contribution to the repair of our public finances.” That’s a monumental understatement. It deftly avoids apportioning any of the blame on the banks, who were, let us not forget, all in favour of the light touch of regulation that helped create the conditions for the state we’re all in. And while we’re on the subject, wasn’t it the very same banks and other financial services who were steadfastly against any government intervention in financial industry until they found that actually, they were in favour of the government – the taxpayer – bailing them out of the mess that they had helped to create. As Caroline Lucas MP said, addressing the crowd on a recent anti austerity march.” It wasn’t the poor who caused the economic crisis. It wasn’t people on Jobseeker’s Allowance who brought down the banks. It wasn’t people with disabilities who wasted billions speculating on risky financial markets. So that’s why we’re here to say: stop punishing the poor.”

Once again proving that George Osborne puts the con into Conservative he went on “I am today raising the rate of the bank levy to 0.21 per cent. This will raise an additional £900 million a year.” Sounds almost impressive. Until that is one realises that the Royal Bank of Scotland – of which the taxpayer owns a 79% stake in – paid bonuses amounting to £588 million last year. And that’s just one bank! Just take a moment to reflect upon that, as one considers the other cuts to public services George Osborne announced, and then think of how craven the government is to the whole banking sector. Adam Curtis made an excellent point in his short film for Charlie Brooker’s Wipe 2014, when he pointed out that hardly anybody had been charged, let alone jailed for financial scandals. Despite a steady stream of scandals, hardly anyone has had to chew a prison pillow. You can take your pick of banking scandals – there’s no shortage of them – from the Libor rate fixing scandal, the PPI mis-selling scandal, various money laundering scandals, interest rate hedging scandal, the foreign exchange rate scandal….

My point is that if any of the banks’ fined – essentially a slap on the wrist given their vast profits – were benefit claimants then they’d have faced a very different fate. Yes some high profile bank chief executives do make the press, but their humiliation is intense but short lived and they have a rather agreeable severance package and pension to console themselves with. Unlike the seemingly constant fly tipping of human nature that is the media’s obsession with benefit scroungers.

If the media was serious about exposing people sponging off the state, living it large, while the rest have to live it small, they could instead look at corporate welfare, which is estimated to cost £93 billion a year. Whereby the government decides to subsidise corporations and businesses, estimated because no one is sure. Are tax-credits a form of corporate welfare? Lets think shall we? Tax credits are only available to people who are in work and are a means by which the government tops up the wages employers pay. So in effect the taxpayer is subsidising employers who pay low wages, (and that’s only one of many examples of corporate welfare). For a more comprehensive and less contentious analysis of what it means in practice and the cost to the UK I’d urge you to have a read of Kevin Farnsworth’s – an academic who’s trawled through countless papers so I don’t have to – eye-opening article revealing the sheer scale of greed.

Speaking of greed – one that firmly imprints the boot-mark of the state upon the face of the taxpayer and pushes it right down into the mud – is there any more obscene contradiction of the ‘we all in this together’ nonsense than the fact that whilst elsewhere benefit claimants are facing swingeing cuts, one household is seeing its benefits increase? The Royal family prove that falling out of the right woman’s womb dramatically improve your life chances, because that’s all they’ve done.

My worry of exhausting your patience prevents me from mentioning the taxpayer owned remaining stake – the 79% which cost us over £45 billion – that Osborne plans to sell off, will generate a projected loss of £7.2 billion. Or that by sneakily changing the way benefits are calculated Osborne saves £40 billion a year. This country has enough money, it’s what George Osborne chooses to spend it on that’s important. So when he says the budget is a ‘contract for Britain’, is he meaning a contract full of hidden nasty surprises, rather like a ‘phone contract someone else has taken out on your behalf, that because they’re not paying for it, they’ve only skimmed it. Or the fact that the budget deficit has increased by 50% under George’s stewardship of the economy.

Which brings us neatly back to Goebbels:

“The English follow the principle that when one lies, it should be a big lie, and one should stick to it. They keep up their lies, even at the risk of looking ridiculous. “

Iain Duncan Smith. Is there no start to his talent? Or his he the political equivalent of East 17?

Really? Is there no start to his talent? Or maybe it’s just me who thinks that Iain Duncan Smith puts the ‘me’ into mediocre? Actually, he does have talent, just not according to any accepted dictionary definition of the word, that is. Talent implies some degree of natural aptitude, skill or flair for a specific activity. Either that or being a highly attractive member of the opposite sex. He demonstrates none of the former, whilst I hope his wife considers him to be one of the latter.

To most of the rest of us who are not concerned by his personal attractiveness, it is his ideological attractiveness – or lack of – that is more pressing. IDS – or IBS as I sometimes refer to him as he gives me the sh*ts – is a Marmite politician. You either love him or hate him; your standpoint governed by whether or not you or anybody you know is a lucky beneficiary of his reform of the welfare system.

Now the first thing to point out about welfare reform is that it isn’t well, fair. (That topic is deserving of a post all its own, which it’ll get next week.). And that the second thing to point out about welfare reform is that it isn’t. Well not reform as defined by pretty much every English language dictionary. As defined by the Oxford English Dictionary, reform is to “make changes in (something, especially an institution or practice) in order to improve it.” (my italics).

One cannot help but think of George Orwell’s essay ‘Politics and the English Language’ especially the sentence “It (the English Language) becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are 
foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.”, when one thinks of his definition of reform. Or, if one is feeling a lot more charitable than his welfare reform is, one might deduce that Iain Duncan Smith is taking as his precedent that well known social campaigner Lewis Caroll and his political tract ‘Alice through the Looking Glass ’, “ ‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’”

How else might one explain the decision of Iain Duncan Smith to redefine what is meant by child poverty. Despite calls from all of the U.K’s children commissioners to protect children from welfare cuts, his decision to plough forward with this idea is a good case of changing the facts to suit his purpose. I can’t be the only one to notice the irony in cutting the welfare budget to benefit future generations so they are not saddled with debt if it means exacerbating the hardship suffered by this younger generation.

In many ways Iain Duncan Smith reminds me of an ex boyfriend who’s been invited by the groom to the wedding of his ex. (You may or may not remember that at one point Iain Duncan Smith was once leader of the Conservative Party.) So imagine this scenario; David Cameron in an act to show he’s the lucky guy who gets the girl, he cultivates and maintains a friendship with Iain Duncan Smith. This is in order to constantly highlight to Iain Duncan Smith that the fiancée – the Conservative Party – much prefers him. That’s why he invites him to the wedding, to maximize his humiliation but he’s not alone in his misfortune. – Cameron also pulled the same stunt with William Hague. He also asks Iain Duncan Smith to oversee the catering, which he does by treating the poorly paid workers abominably in the hope that it will endear him to the newlyweds.

Or I could point out that Iain Duncan Smith is the political equivalent of East 17. East 17 recently held a gig in Dublin where only thirty people turned up. Iain Duncan Smith held a speaking event in Liverpool that attracted 67 people. Or of course I could have chosen to mention the fact that he had his official credit card cancelled by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) for claiming expenses he wasn’t entitled to. I could have drawn a nice little comparison between the treatments his department routinely hands out to the treatment he received. However, IPSA released a statement a couple of days later saying that the error had been entirely theirs. Which is somewhat ironic given the amount of errors that are to be found in the overall benefits budget.

Speaking of benefits this brings me nicely on to ‘Betsygate’ the wholly unintentional oversight whereby Iain Duncan Smith employed his wife Betsy as his secretary at a cost of £18,000. Despite her not doing constituency work, fortunately, an investigation cleared him of any deliberate wrongdoing. So that’s all good then.

Actually I was wrong. Iain Duncan Smith does have talents. Most notably for landing on his feet, by a) having lied about his university qualifications and then b) marrying into money resulting in the happy coincidence that c) he lives in a £2million house set in three acres on his father-in laws estate where d) he is the father to four children despite telling benefit claimants they should only have two children or risk sanctions. Essentially he is exactly the sort of person he quite happily demonizes.

And also he unites people. Admittedly against him but I suspect he see’s this as a vindication, not a condemnation, of what he’s doing. A wide cross section of think tanks, countless charities, trade unions and no end of advocacy groups and many thousands of people who’ve benefitted from his reform, who are cross with his ideological goal of shredding society’s safety net.

I had a vague idea of using the quote attributed to Winston Churchill that he is reputed to have made about Clement Atlee, “He was a modest man who had much to be modest about.” in relation to Iain Duncan Smith. But them I came to my senses. After the general election in 1945 Labour were swept to victory with a promise they reform. Actual reform, that is.

In the space of six years and with a crippling national debt accrued during WW2 – we only stopped paying the Americans back for their loans in 2006 – they created the National Health Service, laid the foundations for the welfare state and bought into public ownership the railways, the steel, electricity, gas and coal industry. So much so, that by 1951 20% of the U.K. economy was in public hands.

And they enhanced rights for workers. And women. (This was in 1945 after all!) And children. They set up legal aid. They made free secondary education a right. In fact they doubled spending on Education. I could go on but the point is that the sheer scale of their ambition is matched only by how much of it they achieved.

Iain Duncan Smith is to Clement Atlee what fast food is to haute cuisine.

Next week…how welfare reform isn’t well, fair…