It is rare I listen to a political speech these days, even rarer that it should be one of a Conservative politician but I am in the unique position of staring down the barrel of a gun I pointed at myself some years ago when I promised that “if that fucker Osborne ever gets any real power I’m leaving the country.” There is now the very real possibility that my time may come in less than nine months when this objectionable twerp who was in the year above me at school becomes Chancellor of the Exchequer following what can only be called the foregone conclusion of the next election.

According to Gideon “Call me George” Osborne there is going to be some belt-tightening and apparently “we are all in it together.” Well we are unless we are earning less than £18k or stand to inherit anywhere between £300k to £999,999. The first figure is fair enough, it is wholeheartedly wrong for those at the lower end of the spectrum to be targeted, though any of them with any memory will be cautious about believing that the Tories will always give them exemption from any cost-cutting measures. The inheritance tax issue is rather more baffling. Firstly those for whom it will benefit are highly unlikely to be swing voters in the norm, this is something for the most wealthy alone, but secondly it is a glimpse into a clear sign that this is not a new Conservative party but the same old ‘nasty party’ in younger clothing, however much wool it may contain. The rise in the threshold of inheritance tax will cost £3.1bn, which when you consider that the saving attributed to the entire public sector pay freeze will net only £7bn puts this crass policy into some perspective. We in the public sector will run at a loss getting progressively worse off in real terms for the duration of the next parliament in order that Lord and Lady Ponsonby-Smythe can use the full whack of Daddy, the 13th Earl of Ffarquar’s estate to pay for the refurbishment of the East Wing at Chateau Chinless.

Osborne’s speech would have you believe that it is the Tories who will safeguard 100,000 frontline public sector jobs as a result of the pay freeze, and by inference that the Labour policies will put these jobs in jeopardy. However if you read closer, he is not saying that, he is saying that the saving gained by freezing the pay of public sector workers is in effect equivalent to 100,000 workers, ie their salaries. This is an important distinction, for were Osborne to become the next chancellor he would have the wherewithal to control the budget for the public sector but he would not have any say-so in how this budget is spent in individual institutions and neither would his ministerial colleagues. Therefore any change in budgets could still mean exactly the same number of redundancies if institutions choose not to see their staff as their primary asset, as has already been seen across large sections of the education sector. Even Howard Davies the director of the LSE who was relatively effusive about Osborne’s speech said that the saving of public sector jobs was “unachievable”.

Another example of the Tories lupine rather than ovine qualities comes in the form of the “married or bust” proposals that they wish to introduce. We are to believe that if you are married you are far more likely to stay together than if you are not and that therefore ‘for the children’ these measures must be brought in. Since around 49% of co-habiting couples are not married it is clear there will be a great deal of losers from this, many of whom will have less Conservative or conservative ideals. Would that another party might turn this into a vote winner for themselves but such is the C(c)onservative hegemony there will be little capital made of it. Again there was little flesh on the bone as to how much this would cost, one presumes the money saved by drastically reducing the benefits of the single families would be sunk into propping up the couples. If you could prove that your chosen sexual preference gender found you utterly repugnant would you be able to take the government to the European Court of Human Rights for discrimination against the ugly?

When it comes to pensions we are all going to have to work longer, this does not I’m sure come as much of a surprise to most people and the raising of the age to 66 is merely a hastening of a policy already brought in by Labour. What is not addressed is the great deal of difficulty faced by many people in finding employment in later life. Courts have recently stated that companies do have a right to refuse to let someone work past 60 in the public sector though they should be encouraged to allow them to work on. If it is mandatory that people wait until 66 to be able to claim their state pension then it is in fact merely shifting the burden from pension to state benefit for a large number of these people at the lower end of the scale. Those for whom it has less effect are likely those who can afford to do without the state pension anyway. Interestingly the savings from raising retirement age are apparently in fact to reintroduce the earnings link to pensions, which will raise pensions and therefore cost more. All very laudable one may think but you cannot use your one-shot pistol twice, either this measure is to pay for an increase in expenditure or it is designed to save expenditure it cannot be both, except in the eyes of vote-avaricious politicians. One must also take into consideration the pledge on not levying national insurance on new businesses for the first 100 employees. This is a further erosion of the pension tributary and since these 100 employees will not be ‘opting out’ of the state pension this money will have to be subsidised by the government at some stage.

Osborne also looked to show that Westminster was tightening its belt by saying MPs pay would be cut by 5% – which is all very well when you consider that the average MP is on vastly more than most of the population. It is the other plans though that merit further investigation, the Tories plan to cut the number of MPs by 10% though he did not give details as to how this reduction would be achieved. In an age already of a democratic deficit the idea of making more people electorally redundant seems a typically regressive move. Traditionally Tory strongholds have been in areas large in land mass and low in population, it is unlikely that the 10% will be drawn from these areas but more likely that the constituency boundaries will be redrawn to pull together smaller metropolitan constituencies together, thus marginalising the Labour and Liberal electorate.

Osborne, or rather his advisers, have been quite clever, they have made a rather odious conservative man look like he is being prudent and fiscally aware without actually giving a great deal of substance and depth to the proposals. It has been described as a “bookkeeper’s speech and not a policy speech.” Many ideas were floated that were designed to catch the headlines and obtain applause from the party faithful but there was scant framework as to how any of these ideas would be funded.

Economic experts reacted cautiously to Osborne’s speech Irwin Stelzer pointed out the anomaly of the Tories not wanting interest rates to go up and further but retaining the contradictory point of wanting people to save more. It is also clear that there is a further paradox in claiming that public sector pensions would be capped at £50k whilst at the same time assuring that previously made commitments will be honoured. Since we have bailed out the banks would the directors of financial institutions be subject to the same caps, as they are effectively now no more than civil servants?

The Conservative hegemony has gone so far that now all parties are vying for who can be the greatest public spending butchers. So for me the question I would most like answered is why is public spending such a bad thing? After all even those with the most basic knowledge of economics such as myself see that it is not expenditure that leads to bankruptcy it is the discrepancy between expenditure and income that does so. What is not being asked is what are we spending our money on that may be seen as unnecessary, or if nothing be forthcoming in that column, which is highly unlikely since any such thing is rather subjective, how can we raise income to account for what we must spend? Have we got to a stage now where even the Fourth Estate have given up questioning the actual validity of the policies and are merely scratching around for the methods by which the parties intend to pay for them. One presumes were any of them to be honest and actually have the money they like to claim they do that the current media would feel it had nothing to do.

In a time when the banks are being financed by the public purse with no indication of what the public may expect in return, whilst top level bankers accrue massive pension pots and bonuses and banks record profits the like of which seem to be in line with the total income of small countries; in a world where Britain tags along with illegal American warmongering committing vast sums of public money and people to countries in which we have no business save for the financial powers of the few; in a world where natural resources such as gas, electricity and oil are being provided at exorbitant rates despite the wholesale cost having dropped exponentially and the companies in question post profits that are rivaled perhaps only by the banks; in a world where company directors can expect huge payouts when sacked due to lack of competency and golden parachute pension provisions regardless of the efficacy of their work it is surely time to revisit this capitalist model and realise that something is very wrong at the very root of it and the only method of stopping this boom and bust roller coaster is not to eat a little less before you get on, or just hold tighter but to get off the ride entirely.

Song Of The Day ~ Bombay Bicycle Club – The Hill