As Chancellor of the Exchequer for seven years, or finance minister to most people, George Osborne was probably the worst one that I can remember. He took an economy showing signs of fragile recovery, and drove it into a ditch. When it became apparent after about two years that this was not working, he shifted his austerity policies to pretty much what the Labour Party had promised in the 2010 general election. Austerity lite, we might call it.
Osborne missed almost every target he set himself, and in 2015, when the budget deficit was meant to be gone, he had only managed to half it. If he hadn’t wasted two years with his ultra-austerity policies, he would have been closer to his goal. By the time he was relieved of his duties by Theresa May, the new post referendum prime minister, the national debt had almost doubled, reaching 87% of GDP.
Hardly a good record is it? I don’t think Osborne really understands economics but he is pretty good at politics. He forced Gordon Brown the then newly appointed Labour prime minister to bottle calling an early general election in 2007, with a policy announcement on inheritance tax. He made some wrong calls like the ‘granny tax’ and ‘pasty tax’ but by and large he played the politics well.
Osborne managed to shift the blame for the 2008 financial crisis from the bankers and onto the Labour government of the time, and by extension, to welfare claimants. Nasty and cynical yes, but very effective politics too. Quite why Labour let him get away with this is a mystery, but get away with it he did. Osborne has said recently that Labour didn’t cause the financial crisis, but he did manage to give this impression whilst in government.
A feature of Osborne’s spell as Chancellor was his rhetorical political sloganizing, a kind of say something catchy as many times as possible, and eventually people will think you are actually doing something about an issue. ‘The march of the makers’ and the 'Northern Powerhouse’ spring immediately to mind. Did British manufacturing suddenly rise phoenix-like from the ashes of the financial crisis? No, of course it didn’t. Has there been anything concrete done to build a Northern Powerhouse? No, there hasn’t. But people it seems are willing to swallow the rhetoric and believe something is happening.
Since resigning from Parliament, Osborne has secured several well paid jobs, but his most high profile one is as editor of the London Evening Standard. He uses the paper as a vehicle for his anti-Brexit stance and his personal loathing of the prime minister (it was reported that he said he wouldn’t rest until Theresa May was chopped up in pieces and buried in his freezer). In a series of news reports and editorial comment pieces since he became editor, Osborne’s paper has laid into the government’s shambolic handling of the negotiations with the EU.
Yesterday’s editorial was a classic. Going further than I think any other media outlet in reporting German newspaper reports about Theresa May’s dinner last week with the EU Commission, describing her as “begging for help,” “anxious”, “tormented”, “despondent and discouraged” (this was denied by the Commission), the Evening Standard heaped yet more mockery onto her. Osborne must have good sources as the paper revealed that Theresa May had said ‘if the EU didn’t help her to get a deal, her government would fall, and they would have to deal with Boris Johnson as prime minister.’
The editorial concludes:
‘So a campaign that promised voters a restoration of sovereignty has ended up in a Brexit negotiation where Brussels gets to choose the British government. Brilliant.’
I can’t say that I’m an Osborne fan, but I do have to admit that I admire the way he is sticking the boot into this government who are needlessly and recklessly gambling with the nation’s future. It is very entertaining too.
Re "Osborne managed to shift the blame for the 2008 financial crisis from the bankers and onto the Labour government of the time, and by extension, to welfare claimants. Nasty and cynical yes, but very effective politics too. Quite why Labour let him get away with this is a mystery, but get away with it he did.":ReplyDelete
Osborne probably had quite a lot of help in laying the blame on sick and disabled people. American 'disability denial factories' proprietor Unum (formerly Unum Provident) has been 'advising' successive UK Governments on 'welfare reform' since at least 1992.
Re "Quite why Labour let him get away with this is a mystery": Labour had brought in Atos to do the disability benefits assessments and had a major role in claimant cull politics as I'd call it, laying down structures by which Cameron/Osborne government was able to tighten the thumb screws even more. In 2007 Labour DWP Secretary John Hutton said using manipulative 'second person' language relating to the circumstances of claimants far removed in circumstances from the mainstream, "After just two years on Incapacity Benefit, you are more likely to retire or die than get another job."
In early 2008, investment banker and Labour's welfare reform guru [as the unennobled Tory Minister in waiting] David Freud informed Daily Telegraph readers misleadingly that Incapacity Benefit tests were conducted by the claimant's own GP when in fact they were conducted by a private company on behalf of the DWP.
The BBC later reported on this,
Kate Green, chief executive of the Child Poverty Action Group, said the most recent official figure for incapacity benefit fraud suggests it is below 0.5%.
She said: ""Ministers will surely be alarmed that the man charged with major reform of the welfare system and family security rights gets basic facts wrong about benefits that he could find out in a second with a Google.
"His suitability must be under question for the task Work and Pensions Secretary James Purnell has set him."
Claimants were assessed by independent doctors - rather than their own GP - after 28 weeks, she added.
However much harder Atos-administered 'Work Capability Assessment' testing for Employment & Support Allowance became in October 2008 than the Personal Capacity Assessment [sic] for Incapacity Benefit that it replaced, in July 2007 a social work blogger reported to Community Care magazine readers,
"So the DWP has come up with a modern equivalent of the medieval witch trial (float and you're a witch, drown and your're not) — starve to death and you are mentally ill; buty food and you're fit for work."
And what could Yvette Cooper possibly have said to denounce Osborne's blinkers? It was she as Labour DWP Secretary that authorised the harsher 'Work Capability Assessment' Mk2 that was not piloted until after Cameron/Osborne/Clegg took over.
So 'austerity' and smear story oriented attacks on sickness and disability benefit claimants have not been exclusively Tory, but have been a continuum by right wingers.