There’s plenty of virtual ink being used across the blogosphere to describe the enormity of what the Coalition announced in yesterday’s Spending Review, and I’m a bit loath to add to it. None of it is likely to match the eloquence of this superb piece by Johann Hari in the Independent.
He gets to the heart of the matter here:
It can’t be coincidental that this is being done to us by three men – Cameron, Osborne, and Nick Clegg – who have never worried about a bill in their lives. On a basic level, they do not understand the effects of these decisions on real people. Remember, Cameron said before the election: “The papers keep writing that [my wife, Samantha] comes from a very blue-blooded background”, but “she is actually very unconventional. She went to a day school.” Osborne is a beneficiary of a £4m trust fund he did nothing whatsoever to earn and which is stashed offshore to avoid tax. Clegg actually thought the state pension was £30 a week, a level that would kill pensioners.
These attitudes have real consequences. We’re not in this together. Who isn’t in it with us? Them, their friends, and their families. They were asked to pay nothing more in this CSR. On the contrary: they are being let off left, right and centre. To pluck a random example, one of the richest corporations in Britain, Vodafone, had an outstanding tax bill of £6bn – but Osborne simply cancelled it this year. If he had made them pay, he could have prevented nearly all the cuts to all the welfare recipients in Britain. You try refusing to pay your taxes next time, and see if George Osborne shows the same generosity to you as he does to the super-rich.
There is one stark symbol of how unjust the response to this economic disaster caused by bankers is. They have just paid themselves £7bn in bonuses – much of it our money – to reward themselves for failure. That’s the same sum Osborne took from the benefits of the British poor yesterday, who did nothing to cause this crash. And he has the chutzpah to brag about “fairness.”
Britain just became a colder and crueller country. And for what? To pantingly follow a disproven ideology over a cliff. On the eve of the general election, Cameron told us: “There’ll be no cuts to frontline services,” “we’re not talking about swingeing cuts,” and “all cuts will be fair”. Is it possible to call him anything but a liar and an ideologue today?
You can enjoy a long rest, Baroness Thatcher – your successors have embarked on a mephedrone-charged imitation that exceeds your most fantastical dreams.
And of course there’s a whole second wave of cuts – the ones that will really hit the vulnerable – when the huge cuts to local government funding take effect.
But there is a hugely important secondary issue here about the role of the Liberal Democrats. It’s not just that they’ve acquiesced fully and totally in this – Nick Clegg has described them as “fair”. Because there is a coalition, it’s that much easier for the Tories to make sonorous statements about the national interest. It’s pure ideology, of course, but the coalition gives the cover needed to promulgate the lie that we’re all in this together. Can anyone imagine Osborne being so brazen, so aggressive, so cruel without a cadre of middle-aged empty-headed men in yellow ties nodding like the dog in the Churchill car commercials?
The CSR is the Tories’ triumph. This is what Tories are in politics for, and it’s what they do. It’s also the Liberal Democrats’ moment of abject shame.