Austerity (still) won’t balance the books

Austerity not only drives the growing inequality in our society, it drives the divisiveness that demonises the migrant, the welfare claimant or the public sector worker.

Austerity not only drives the growing inequality in our society, it drives the divisiveness that demonises the migrant, the welfare claimant or the public sector worker

Austerity has hit the poorest hardest, increasing inequality and poverty. Homelessness is up under this government and nearly a million families needed to use food banks last year.

These horrific trends are set to intensify in the next parliament whatever form the government takes, with Labour signed up to Coalition spending plans in year one and promising further austerity to balance the books by 2020. It is in this grim political context that Class will be meeting on Saturday to discuss ‘What Britain Needs’.

Austerity won’t balance the books, as George Osborne is currently finding, because the books can’t be balanced on the backs of the poor – austerity will only inflict more pain.

Any serious economic analysis is not a necessary part of the austerity agenda. It is simply the cover for implementing a ruthless free market agenda that would not otherwise be possible. Part of achieving that agenda has necessitated shifting the debate from one about inequality, unaccountable and deregulated financial institutions to the alleged flaws in the public sector and the people who rely upon it.

The logic is inescapable. If you concede the ground on austerity, as Labour has, then as sure as night follows day you must capitulate too on scapegoating the poorest and least electorally potent. Any political party seeking to impose austerity on the scale envisaged will seek to justify its attacks – and that inevitably leads to the demonisation of those on austerity’s receiving end.

With no structural analysis of the UK’s economic failure and continued fragility, politicians offer no structural solutions. Instead they pander to the simple politics of hate. Tory minister Michael Fallon mis-speaks about our towns being “swamped” and “under siege”, while Labour’s frontbenchers have, even in this Parliament, described people on welfare as “shirkers” – a language echoed and magnified by the Conservatives.

But it is UKIP which articulates this agenda in its crudest form – blaming the EU, migrants, and welfare recipients with visceral divisive and dishonest attacks. Their propagandist rhetoric goes further than the other parties and so they are seen by those who have been duped by the narrative as being the more genuine. While the Conservatives and even Labour say it, UKIP really means it. They appear authentic, the others like they are simply trying to buy votes.

When David Cameron described UKIP as “a bunch of fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists” in 2006, he did not foresee that he would be talking up migration and welfare as the problem, to distract people from his dismal economic performance and the privatisation and cuts in the public sector. Cameron has unleashed a political force that more authentically articulates the concerns he espouses. His achievement in shifting the political debate post-crisis is now his Achilles heel.

New Labour tried the same tactics and it ended similarly badly. Rather than confront prejudice and ignorance it often sought to harness it for electoral gain. David Blunkett as Home Secretary talked about the UK being “swamped”, he never claimed to have mis-spoken and this week backed Fallon’s use of the term. Similarly, James Purnell ratcheted up the rhetoric on welfare claimants. All they did was shift the debate onto the Tories’ agenda.

Austerity not only drives the growing inequality in our society, it drives the divisiveness that demonises the migrant, the welfare claimant or the public sector worker. This cynical, cowardly and dishonest politics is the reason why so few have any faith in our political class.

The Class conference on Saturday will be about building a positive vision of a better society for all, shifting the political debate from one of hate and fear to one of solidarity and hope.

Mark Serwotka is general secretary of the PCS union

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33 Responses to “Austerity (still) won’t balance the books”

  1. Bernie Evans

    Wrote on my blog about Labour falling for the Tory trick that is the urgent heed for deficit reduction. It`s here:

  2. JohnRich

    Someone let the deficit deniers out again !!!!

  3. Guest

    Oh yes, those evil people who believe in fiat currency (which. er, Britain has). How dare they not be controlled more strictly by laws against free speech and reporting!

    Your plans have not closed the deficit.

  4. Leon Wolfeson

    In other news, water is wet. But sometimes you need to point out Britain is an Island to the right, it seems.

  5. Tubby_Isaacs

    ” Labour signed up to Coalition spending plans in year one and promising further austerity to balance the books by 2020″.

    I know you don’t agree with them, but it’s balancing books on current spending by 2020. Net investment (after the miserly first Parliament) was pretty good by standards of the last 30 odd years. So the policies are a bit further apart than you think. And the IFS think the timing would make a fair bit of difference, as it would have done in 2010.

    But I agree austere.

  6. GhostofJimMorrison

    In English please, Wolfman.

  7. Guest


    – Dave, Lord/Blagger

  8. Guest

    It won’t, though. Austerity shrinks the economy, and putting things back where they were (which it isn’t) would not counter the negative effects of austerity.

    So we’ll end up with a major deficit, and further cuts on an ongoing basis, chasing a chimera.

  9. Tubby_Isaacs

    Economy can grow with austerity, as US is (since done in 2013, sensibly delayed) if strong enough. Shrinks it to where it could be, but usually does that at the cost of more debt.

    Put whatever value you like on the total debt and the size of the economy- I’d put a lower value on the total debt than all three main parties do. But it’s not entirely silly that many people put a higher value on lower total debt than me. Its recent rise is unprecedented in peacetime.

  10. Tubby_Isaacs

    There are plenty of examples of austerity bringing about smaller deficits. Estonia is the most obvious. Massively shrunk the economy,as anyone would predict.

    And I absolutely don’t put it forward as a model. Just saying your two points don’t necessarily go together- smaller growth and still major budget deficits from austerity.

  11. sarntcrip


  12. The_Average_Joe_UK

    Load of lefty mumbo jumbo. You lot know f-all about economics. FACTS

    After a labour government higher debt
    After a labour government more unemployment
    Mid june 97 there were 185000 households where no one worked, by 2003 that had grown to 330,000, all the time Labour were spraying money up the wall.

    After a labour government more bureacracy

    Someone has to clean up the mess…. and yet you socialists carry on.

    Spraying money into an economy in the vain hope that the people YOU hate (us capitalists) start companies or grow companies doesn’t work, inefficient government spending is swallowed up in consumption not investment. Thats why you lot always screw it up.

    You need to create the conditions for investment and all of your policies destroy that. You’ll never learn, because your ideology is stronger than your ability for rational thought.

  13. Guest

    …The deficit went from very small to very very small.

    Any kind of reduction which is *statistically significant*…

  14. Guest

    That’s not austerity.

    Austerity, as seen in Italy and Germany, shrinks the economy even when there is a primary surplus!

  15. Guest

    Keep spewing that only your far right can do rational thought, as you destroy investment, as the facts show.

    Your resistance to spending and having a recovery is obvious, you prefer declining wages and the high deficit we have, you blame others for your hate, you rejoice as companies fail and can’t understand that government spending can be high-return in many areas.

    You keep fighting the invisible socialists, as you rail against the NHS and schools, as you attack Britain. As you try and push the Bank’s crisis off onto Labour, when we are going to have more debt and less hours worked per-person at the next election than when Labour were last in power.

    You are condemning pensioners and the disabled, of course, since long-term disabled (18+ month) was down to single-digit thousands by mid-2000, as you carefully pick your dates to show what you want them to show.

    Keep saying that you know “less than f-all” about economics, as you try and double-down of failure, as you cackle over falling wages and your rising corporate welfare.

  16. The_Average_Joe_UK

    Running interference, a cut a paste special from a Tory stooge.

  17. Guest

    “Running interference, a cut a paste special from a Tory stooge.”

    Thank you for disclosing your policies and employment here for everyone to see, Dave/LB.

  18. Keith M

    Well said Guest.

  19. Travis Zly

    1.3 million staff in the NHS. It’s not about health care. It’s all about Union clientelism. Cost to British taxpayers, 100 billion Pounds per year. And now (massively well-paid) NHS doctors are demanding another 30 billon Pounds to “save the NHS from collapse”. Midwives on 39 000 Pounds per year strike for more pay. The NHS is only about votes and jobs for Labour cronies – deaths of patients in Mid Staffs and other NHS trusts are simply collateral damage in the struggle to maintain union privilege.

  20. Guest

    Well it’s pretty clearly documented economic facts.

    America didn’t grow some things as fast, pretty much, but they’d already had higher spending in the crucial recovery period. When America is to your economic left…

  21. Guest

    Blah blah the concept of workers talking to each other can’t be allowed.

    Gotta keep slashing the NHS care budget, even as we spend far less than the Western average on healthcare

    You do indeed view the deaths as collateral damage, your blaming unions – workers – for your political Jihad against ANY care being provided without payment…so, what kind of investment in private healthcare do you have? After all, you can control those workers by fear…

    …as you justify no rises for over a decade, and artificially increased deductions. No surprise what you’d do to anyone who was foolish enough to work for you.

  22. Travis Zly

    What do you mean by “care being provided without payment”? You just prove that you are not only ideologically brainwashed, but that you are also economically illiterate. The taxpayers are paying through their noses for a health model that is outdated and totally inefficient.
    My nephew worked in an NHS hospital part-time to help pay for his engineering degree. He was posted to the department that lent out wheelchairs to patients. There was a staff of three people.
    I said to him, “There must have been a lot of patients needing wheelchairs.” He replied, “Nah, about three a day.” I asked him, “What did you do all day?” He answered, “I don’t know, but it was really boring.”
    Public servants don’t know what “work” is. They never get fired for not doing their jobs, retire earlier than the rest of society, and get guaranteed pensions, paid for by the workers in the private sector.

  23. Guest

    Ah yes, I must be like you, as you say the provision of healthcare to the poor is “outdated and totally inefficient”, based on an anecdote of cronyism.

    Keep screaming hate at the teachers and nurses, who are under the same employment rules as everyone else, have seen a far higher % fired than the private sector…

    Then you go on the usual frothing rant about some okay pensions being left, and scream that must be burnt down, no retirement for the 99%, blah blah.

    It’s the usual anti-British guff from you. Go back to Monaco!

  24. GWB1983

    Austerity the greatest lie ever told and sold to a gullible Britain, the whole policy is designed to steal all our rights and welfare (NHS & Benefits) from us; by the time people wake up it will be far too late and don’t look to Labour for help they are just like the others.

  25. Travis Zly

    Give it a break. I worked as a teacher in a comprehensive for a number of years. I can give you a first-hand account of a totally dysfunctional education system. I also suffer from a chronic life-threatening illness and have recovered from cancer, all of it treated in private hospitals. I have also got first-hand experience of the NHS cancelling my long-standing appointments with specialists in order to improve their patient statistics. I am a British voter who has been let down by the system that I have paid tax and NIS into for years: why is my opinion any less worthy than yours?

  26. Cole

    You sound like a Tory. Most of us have good experiences with the NHS , which is why it’s so popular.

  27. Cole

    Boring nonsense. Yawn. Right wingers are so predictable with their cliched arguments.

  28. Cole

    I love these right whingers who go on about Estonia. Remind me how many people live there.

  29. The_Average_Joe_UK

    No the cliché is labour trolls who dismiss inconvenient truths as right wing clichéd arguments. Tell you what why don’t you go through these and tell which are lies, which are clichéd arguments?

    Labour always screw the economy. But 97-2010 was worse you set us on a trajectory that will take years to fix. As labourites dont do economics they wont accept any of this. In 1997, UK public debt was 44.1% of GDP. When he left in 2010, it was 148.1%.

    There is always more unemployment after a labour government (please google it)

    Mid staffs

    Failure in Wales

    The Rotherham Sex scandal

    Explosion in expensive and wasteful Quango’s

    politicisation of the third sector

    The devastating impact of Labour’s raid on pensions: The tax grab has cost workers £118bn since 1997. (Office for Budget Responsibility).

    Up to 50 thousand ‘excess’ deaths were recorded at hospitals during the last Labour Goverment. (Research by Sir Brian Jarman of Imperial College).

    Council Tax doubled under Labour – 105% increase in England, 146% Wales. (The Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy: 26/03/09).

    In 2012/13 Labour councils employed nearly 23,000 people on zero-hour contracts.

    When Labour came to power in 1997, spending on NHS managers was less than £190m. By 2010 this had increased by 450% to over £1bn per year.

    Labour wasted £11bn of taxpayers money on a failed IT project which was eventually scrapped by the NHS in 2013.

    Labour lumbered the NHS with vast PFI repayments – £50 billion worth of loans which are costing £300 billion in repayments.

    It was the Labour Party who awarded the DWP Medical Services Contract to ATOS on the 15th March 2005.

    Labour started the privatisation of the NHS. They brought in the 2006 NHS Act that introduced competition into the NHS.

    Labour introduced competition into the NHS: Competition Act 1998, Enterprise Act 2002 & Public Sector Procurement Regulations 2006.

    Youth unemployment rose by more than 40% during Labour’s 13 years in office.

    British manufacturing grew by 28% between 1980 and 1997. Then, under Labour, it shrank by 6%: falling from 20% of GDP to just 11%.

    Labour left a deficit of £156 billion, PFI liability of £301 billion, EU Rebate loss £9.3 billion, Sold the Gold loss £6 billion.

    The last Labour government spent so much money on Labour cronies that it had a 5% structural deficit at the height of the boom.

    Only 6,330 council houses were completed from 1998 to 2010 under Labour, compared with 17,710 in 1990 alone – Lady Thatcher’s final year as PM.

    Tony Blair gave away a chunk of the UK’s EU rebate estimated now to have cost the UK £9.3 billion between 2007-2013. He got NOTHING in return

    In 2010 Gordon Brown branded Rochdale voter Gillian Duffy “a bigoted woman” for daring to voice her concern about uncontrolled immigration.

    Labour are now complaining about gambling. But they were the ones who wanted to build Super Casinos in some of the poorest areas in Britain and carpeted our high streets with betting shops.

    Labour closed more mines in 5 years than Thatcher did in 11 years.. 211 mines closed under Wilson 1965-70.. 154 under Thatcher 1979-90.

    Under Labour zero hour contracts increased by 74% between 2004 – 2009.

    Since Labour liberalised the law in 2000 to allow postal voting on demand, the number of postal voting fraud in Labour areas has soared.

    Labour signed the Lisbon Treaty which gave away powers to the EU and reduced UK sovereignty and the power of our Westminster Parliament.

    Labour were responsible for the rise in payday lenders. Now they are campaigning against them.

    Labour presided over the slowest growth in 50 years and produced the fastest decline in British manufacturing since manufacturing began.

    Labour destroyed our border controls then with the help of the BBC denounced anybody who voiced concerns about mass immigration as racists.

    Labour councils are the biggest users of zero contracts.

    The last Labour government doubled the rate of income tax on the lowest paid.

    Labour claims to be the party of the working man, but they have absolutely destroyed the working class through mass immigration.

    Labour MPs to remember: Denis MacShane (jailed), David Chaytor (jailed), Eric Illsley (jailed), Elliot Morley (jailed), Jim Devine (jailed).

    Blair invaded Iraq and Brown invaded the Treasury, both actions crippled us.

    Labour opposes democracy in Britain by denying the British people a referendum on EU membership.

    Labour Party Manifesto Pledge 2001: ‘We will not introduce top-up fees’.

    One of the reasons for high energy prices is EU driven ‘Green Taxes’ brought in by the last Labour government.

    It was Labour under Blair who handed control of British food regulation to the EU, (Regulation EC no 178/2002).

    The Labour Party paid only £14,000 in tax last year on total income of £33.3 million. (The Spectator, 30/07/2014).

    If Ed Miliband can easily stab his own brother in the back, imagine what he will do to us if he ever becomes Prime Minister.

  30. Travis Zly

    I vote UKIP. Cronyism, corruption and mismanagement by LibLabCon have rendered the UK a basket case. The unions and the establishment are the beneficiaries of theft from the workers. The only defence they can mount for pillaging the resources of the UK, is that they are not racists or fascists. Pathetic excuses for crimes against the people don’t wash anymore.

  31. Tubby_Isaacs

    Yes, I agree. I’d have Obama in charge here just for what he did on fiscal policy, holding his nerve in an election year.

    But they did do a fairly serious fiscal squeeze in 2013. Add in a load of hard right governors in states to that. I think it’s austeriry.

  32. Tubby_Isaacs

    Austerity= tightening by tax rises or spending cuts.
    America did that. It was well timed.

  33. Tubby_Isaacs

    I specifically said I didn’t support its actions. And I’m not a right winger, if you mean me,

    As you say, it’s tiny and as such had no knock in the world economy, as a bigger country like others would.

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