Every day we see consequences of Osbornism, an illiterate economic policy: potholes in our roads, inadequate infrastructure, underfunded NHS, schools, prisons, police, social care, child care. Cutting public sector employment and holding down pay increases, added to the difficulties of staff already demoralised by constant government interventions. Austerity is counterproductive: it failed to reduce the deficit, delayed economic recovery, put people out of work and hence reduced the tax take. The Great British Refurb The Great British Refurb to insulate homes, make them warmer and reduce carbon emissions would have provided thousands of jobs but was scrapped. A scheme to put PV panels on school buildings that would make schools a lot of money and help save our planet was also scrapped. The Green Investment Bank was starved of funds and finally sold off. One of the most shocking consequences of Austerity – skimping on standards and fire safety precautions – is the Grenfell disaster. Now people are seeing the folly of Austerity and rebelling, not only in UK but all over Europe.
Thatcher’s policy of right to buy, selling off council houses without replacing them, ultimately led to today’s housing crisis. Developers have no incentive to produce affordable homes and they do not build enough. Council homes bought by landlords do not offer affordable rents or secure tenure. Affordable homes need to be council built. But councils are constrained by government policy of encouraging them to sell off their properties and land and restricting their ability to borrow. The way to solve the housing crisis is to enable local government to build homes at affordable rents. Homes should be for people, not primarily investments.
Real wages have been stagnant for years. Sure, employment has risen lately. But much of it is insecure, poorly paid and some people, including single mothers, have had to do more than one job. Incomes are not keeping up with rising prices . Growing numbers of people are dependent on food banks. There are worryingly high levels of personal debt as many people survive only by using credit cards. People are easily tipped into homelessness.Family homelessness in the UK has risen by more than 60% and is “likely to have been driven” by the government’s welfare reforms, the public spending watchdog has said. Rough sleeping has risen by 16% on last year
Shelter says 128,000 children are in temporary accommodation; that is nearly one in every hundred children. The UK, one of the wealthiest nations in the world, has amongst the highest rates of poverty and inequality . Young people are at a considerable disadvantage compared with previous generations, students have high levels of debt, and many have little chance of owning a home until well into their thirties. Meanwhile university education is being marketised and the NHS privatised by stealth along American lines. (How to Dismantle the NHS in 10 Easy Steps ). Clearly there is an underlying Neoliberal ideology at work.
Worse still, large swathes of Britain outside the South East have been depressed for generations. This represents a total lack of long-team strategic planning. To be fair, government has now set up some regional mayors with this responsibility.
The Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) presents Time for Change: A New Vision for the British Economy – but it is not the first such proposal. Now we face the challenge of how to ensure that everyone benefits from the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Little wonder that Brexit was a huge protest vote from an angry and divided nation. Brexit is a huge distraction from dealing with the fundamental problems Britain has faced for more than a generation. One of these is Britain’s poor showing in social mobility. Alan Milburn quit as chairman of the Social Mobility Commission after months of ‘indecision, dysfunctionality and lack of leadership’. An earlier study in 2012 found that social mobility in Britain is the worst in the Western world and the gap between rich and poor has become ingrained in children as young as three. The prospects of half of all children born in the UK can be linked almost entirely to the circumstances of their parents – compared to only 15 per cent of those in Denmark.
Brexit is making the situation even worse. Brexit is not about the interests of the people of Britain. It is about party politics in a deeply divided Tory party. It is the work of wealthy knaves and charlatans who funded a campaign to take Britain out of the EU and “restore power to the British government” meaning themselves and their friends. They did not anticipate the economic consequences of Brexit and misled the public. The government has resisted disclosing information Parliament is entitled to. It is suspected of trying to use the Great Repeal Bill to enable it to make changes without Parliamentary scrutiny . David Davis’s latest revelation that there is no proper impact assessment about how Brexit is likely to affect the different sectors of our economy and society is truly astonishing. Add the right wing press monopoly, continues to mislead the public with sensational headlines.
I ask myself: What is the motivation of these people, including rich funders who have promoted Brexit, made false promises, hurt our European friends, instigated anti-migrant abuse and grossly misled the public with propaganda chants like “take back power” and lies such as “Brexit is the will of the people”? Of course the answer is obvious: it is simply power lust; not desire to serve the best interests of the people who will suffer most from Britain leaving the European Union, for all its faults that we should be fighting to remedy.
We are a deeply divided Nation. Young and old; affluent and poor; people of different racial origins, South East and other regions; Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, different educational values. Many of us are very depressed. To be successful, the nation needs to provide not only excellent academic education, but technological and practical education for all the talents we need including English language education where necessary. Instead of fuelling conflict, we should be rejoicing in our multi-cultural society and valuing difference and seeking and reaching consensus.
We now know the result of the referendum was essentially a protest vote. People were asked to make a decision vital for the nation with little idea of the economic consequences for them and their families. David Davies, Brexit Minister, admits that there is no comprehensive impact assessment. This is gross irresponsibility and incompetence.
The so-called decision to leave is not democratic: the previous and current government were not elected under proportional representation. PR has been resisted by the main parties for decades for party-political reasons. The government would not have a working majority but for the support of the DUP. A binary referendum was inappropriate for such a complex issue. A two thirds majority is generally required for constitutional change. Brexit is not “the will of the people”. It was the will of just over half those who voted. And whilst 33,551,983 voted 31,048,010 either were not on the register or did not vote Courageous MPs now need to say: “There is no mandate for Brexit and I do not believe it is in UK’s best interests“. People did not vote to be poorer for at least a decade. Nor did they vote to have such a divided nation. They were misled by untruths commonly known as lies, understandably did not trust what information they were given, and could not have had the information they have now. Brexit is not the will of the people and we can and must stop it.
Crucially as Will Hutton explains in his article As corporate goliaths grow ever larger, Britain looks increasingly exposed. we shall be in a very weak global position if we leave the European Union. We shall be a middle sized country on its own.
Globalisation has become a universe of monopoly, oligopoly and shadow cartels. Prices are not fixed in smoke-filled rooms: the market leader in whatever global industry sets a reference price that everybody follows tacitly – or faces dire consequences.
This is a far cry from the imagined world of Brexiters, where supranational authorities and regulations, especially EU regulations, are “shackles”. All Britain has to do is champion free trade outside the sclerotic EU under WTO rules and it will be blessed with a new age of growth and prosperity. In reality, competition and anti-monopoly authorities are no match for the behemoths and the WTO is systematically gamed and undermined by the two economic superpowers. The WTO is weak and getting weaker.
International trade is not a game of cricket between equally matched teams, only disturbed by Brussels Eurocrats, as Jacob Rees-Mogg, Boris Johnson et al imagine, waiting for a Britain, energised by leaving the EU, to further stimulate it. It is a dog-eat-dog world in which the choice for a medium-size country is to make common cause with one of the three economic blocs capable of challenging the new monopolists and cartels – China, the US or the EU – or roll over and be plundered. Britain alone has no chance of challenging the West Coast tech giants over their policies on anything from tax to data or challenge any of the analogue goliaths over their stance, say, on diesel emissions or plastic packaging.
You don’t have to be a Marxist to worry about where today’s capitalism is heading – both the Bank of England and the Economist magazine share the concerns. But it is curious that Labour’s allegedly leftwing leadership is so quiet. Far from a capitalist plot, EU membership is one of Britain’s few available defences. Trade unions understand this well: it is time for Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell to find their voice. Leaving the EU can and must be stopped (my edits).
What can you do? Take this simple political act: engage in a dialogue with your MP, say what your concerns are, what you think, what you want. It may be best to do this in a group which can make more impact than a single person. So get a group together and meet your MP. This might be welcome to her or him as it would be time effective. You can brief yourselves well first by researching the internet.
My top suggestions are:
For economic and social reform: New Economics Foundation, Institute for Public Policy Research, Education Forward, Resolution Foundation, Rowntree Foundation, Shelter, Sutton Foundation, Global Justice Now and Client Earth.
For reforming democracy: Unlock Democracy, Electoral Reform Society, Citizens Assembly Project, Compass – The Progressive Alliance , Make Votes Matter, Counting Women In, 5050 Parliament, Women’s Equality Party and Voice4 Change.