Monday, September 29, 2014

12 significant Tory-UKIP defectors



Tory MP Mark Reckless chose the eve of the Tory party conference to carry out his headline grabbing defection to UKIP. Just a month before another Tory from the extreme-right Eurosceptic fringe of the party Douglas Carswell defected to UKIP. These are just two of the latest and most high profile of a long sequence of defections from the Tories to UKIP.

In this article I'm going to look at twelve significant Tory-UKIP defectors.

Nigel Farage

The UKIP party leader Nigel Farage clearly assumes the majority of people are stupid enough to fall for his jovial pint-swilling "man of the people" act. I mean how gullible would you have to be to believe that a privately educated former Tory party activist and commodities trader in the City of London is the kind of guy to stand up against the wealthy establishment in order to defend the interests of ordinary people?

perhaps it is a little unfair to judge Farage only by his establishment background, because the left-wing firebrand Tony Benn also came from an establishment background and nobody could ever accuse him of being a Tory. Of all the many many things that Farage has said and done to actually prove that he's still a Tory at heart is the way he lionises Margaret Thatcher and declares himself and UKIP to be the heirs to Thatcherism. A man can hardly declare that he is the only politician "keeping the flame of Thatcherism alive" without looking like a Tory in a purple tie.

Stuart Wheeler

Many might imagine that Nigel Farage is the driving force behind UKIP, but he's just the charismatic front-man. The guy who is really running the show is the Eton educated UKIP party treasurer Stuart Wheeler. Wheeler made his fortune setting up the spread betting firm IG Index in the 1970s. Until 2011 he was a Tory party supporter, so much so that the £5 million donation he made to the Tories in 2001 to bankroll their General Election campaign is still the single largest political donation in British political history.

Wheeler has gone from bankrolling the Tory party to bankrolling UKIP, and he's brought a large network of other former Tory party donors with him. UKIP is bankrolled by former Tory party donors to such an extent that 90% of their donations now come from the people who used to bankroll the Tory party!

Neil Hamilton


The Tory MP for Tatton Neil Hamilton became a political joke after he was caught up in the cash for questions scandal in 1994. Despite having the fourth strongest Tory majority in the whole country Hamilton was easily defeated by the anti-corruption campaigner Martin Bell at the 1997 General Election. Subsequently Neil and his wife Christine were given numerous opportunities to keep themselves in the limelight on shows like Have I got News for You and The Weakest Link.

In 2011 Nigel Farage handed Neil Hamilton his ticket back into politics by supporting his bid to join the UKIP National Executive Committee. By 2014 Hamilton had worked his way up to deputy Chairman of the party and campaign director for the 2014 European Elections.

Back in the 1990s I found it infuriating that several TV shows allowed this guy to blatantly cash in on the corruption allegations against him, but it's even more infuriating that UKIP have welcomed him back into the world of politics with open arms.


William Legge

Eton educated William Legge (or "The 10th Earl of Dartmouth" to use his establishment title) was a Tory member of the unelected House of Lords from 1999 to 2007. In 2009 he was elected as a UKIP MEP for the South West region, which I suppose is actually better than simply being appointed to the bloated anti-democratic shambles that is the House of Lords. The point still stands that he's one of the many former Tories now wearing the purple and yellow of UKIP.

Roger Helmer

Roger Helmer is another Tory MEP to have defected to UKIP. He was originally elected a Conservative MEP in 1999, but defected to UKIP in 2012. Many people have taken offence at Helmer's bigotry (claiming that rape victims "share a part of the responsibility", comparing gay equality with bigotry and incest, claiming that homophobia is a meaningless word ...) and his climate change denialism, however I'm much more concerned about his links to a foreign right-wing corporate pressure group called the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

 
ALEC is a profoundly disturbing organisation that writes corporate friendly "model legislation" which is then turned into state law by ALEC friendly legislators. Laws written by, or heavily influenced by ALEC include the classification of environmental protest activities as "terrorism", further privatisation of the US education system, deregulation of the US energy and telecommunications markets, support for the private prison-industrial complex and the appalling "stand your ground" murderers' charter.

Helmer was appointed as an Adam Smith Scholar by ALEC in 2005 and served on the ALEC International Relations Task Force. It seems extremely odd that someone with such strong links with an organisation intent on rewriting the law in the US and abroad in order to suit corporate interests, would want to join a party that endlessly harps on about protecting British sovereignty. The only way it makes any sense is if the endlessly repeated UKIP concerns about British sovereignty are just a smokescreen to obscure an extremely right-wing pro-corporate agenda.

Janice Atkinson

Janice Atkinson sprung into the public consciousness when she decided to verbally abuse some Green Party activists and was photographed making obscene gestures at them during the 2014 European election campaign. Despite this loutish behaviour she was still elected as a UKIP MEP for the South East.

Before Janice Atkinson defected to UKIP in 2011 she was a failed Tory. She was a press officer for the Tory party during their disastrous 2005 General Election campaign and in 2010 she was a failed Tory parliamentary candidate in the West Yorkshire constituency of Batley and Spen. It was the failure of politicians like Janice Atkinson to win back seats that were lost to Labour in 1997 that prevented the Tories from forming a majority government in 2010.

Even though she is clearly an obnoxious individual, it is difficult not to admire her opportunism. She was clearly failing to get anywhere within the Tory party, so she made the decision to jump ship and get herself on the gravy train of European parliamentary expenses with UKIP instead.

Bill Etheridge

Bill Etheridge is another of the crop of Tory party failures to have joined UKIP before the 2014 European elections. Prospective Tory party councilors Bill and his wife Star resigned from the party after having been suspended for posting pictures of themselves holding golliwog dolls on social media.

Nigel Farage was given reason to regret welcoming Etheridge into the UKIP fold when he decided to advise a UKIP youth conference that they should try to imitate the speaking style of Adolf Hitler!

Bill Etheridge is clearly a man with an appalling lack of self-awareness. After the Daily Telegraph reported his Hitler comments, he had the cheek to criticise their coverage as "tasteless" and "disgusting" as if advising the UKIP youth to strut around like a bunch of little Hitlers is perfectly acceptable.

Another indicator of his appalling lack of self-awareness is a sneering Facebook attack on the Tory party for their feeble "vote UKIP get Labour" propaganda campaign. His riposte is that "if you vote UKIP, you get UKIP". It seems that he has completely forgotten his political past, otherwise he might have said "Vote UKIP, get Tory rejects like me".

Nathan Gill

Yet another embarrassing addition to the UKIP fold as a result of the 2014 European elections is the former Tory party activist Nathan Gill. Shortly after he was elected as the UKIP MEP for Wales it was revealed that until 2008 he had run a home care company in Hull that had mainly employed Polish and Phillipino immigrants on poverty wages, many of them living in bunkhouse accommodation. Gill didn't close his immigrant reliant business because of any new found opposition to immigration, the business went bankrupt with debts of £116,000.

The appalling hypocrisy of going from an employer who pays such low wages that they are forced to rely upon dozens and dozens of immigrant workers living in bunkhouse accomodation, to standing as a candidate for an anti-immigration party is undeniable.

Aside from the fact that he seems to be a perfectly inappropriate candidate for an anti-immigration party, another question must surely be why UKIP couldn't find any better candidates in the whole of Wales than a man with no real business experience apart from driving his company into bankruptcy, despite cutting costs by exploiting cheap foreign labour?
Amjad Bashir

Amjad Bashir is yet another long-term Tory party activist turned UKIP MEP. He explained that his main reasons for joining UKIP are to remove the UK from the EU, his opposition to gay equality and his desire to dramatically cut down on immigration.

The hypocrisy and self-interest of a Pakistani born immigrant joining UKIP and making statements like "we now have to seriously restrict immigration" is appalling. He's one of the beneficiaries of immigration into the UK from the former colonies, now he wants to kick away the ladder to stop others coming and benefiting in the same way that he has.
Douglas Carswell

Despite his propensity for expenses scamming (flipping his second home, getting the taxpayer to pay for all manner of expensive furniture and subsidise his food bills) and his climate change denialism, Charterhouse educated Douglas Carswell was a darling of the Tory party, attracting glowing praise from the Telegraph, the Spectator and the Tory blogger Guido Fawkes. Despite all of the praise, Carswell's main political achievement within the Tory party seems to have been the ridiculous campaign to politicise the police by introducing elected PCCs, a policy which resulted in the lowest electoral turnouts since universal suffrage!

In August 2014 Carswell defected to UKIP claiming that David Cameron was not doing enough to deliver change. 
Mark Reckless

Of all of the new crop of Tory MPs in 2010 Mark Reckless was one of the least notable. In fact, hardly anyone had even heard of him until he decided to follow Douglas Carswell's lead and defect to UKIP. His decision to announce his defection at the UKIP conference, and just a couple of days before the Tory party conference seemed premeditated to create the maximum possible publicity.

Before he defected to UKIP a few of the only notable things he did were joining five other Tories to vote against the tripling of "aspiration taxes" for university students, excusing the fact that he missed a parliamentary vote by claiming that he was too drunk and laying into Douglas Carswell for defecting to UKIP!

David Silvester





The eleven other people mentioned in this article have all defected from the Tory party and achieved important positions within UKIP (party leader, deputy chairman, MEP, party treasurer, candidate MPs ...) however it is important not to forget the dozens and dozens of Tory party councilors to have defected to UKIP too.

Until 2013 David Silvester was a Tory councilor in Henley-on-Thames, but then he decided to defect to UKIP. He hit the headlines in 2014 when he decided to blame the Somerset Floods on the introduction of gay equality legislation (in my view one of the very few decent things the Tory led government has actually done).

UKIP initially tried to defend Silvester's absurd comments by saying they were just his own personal opinion, however Nigel Farage went on to say that it was "incredibly damaging" when "defectors" from the Conservative Party join Ukip and say "appalling and outrageous things". If Farage is really so concerned about defectors from the Tory party damaging the reputation of his party, one has to wonder why he continues to allow extremists from the far-right fringe of the Tory party to flood into his party through the door that he is holding open for them?


Conclusion

If UKIP is 90% bankrolled by former Tory donors and is full of ex-Tory politicians and activists, what grounds does anyone have to suspect that they're not just a Tory splinter group?


 Another Angry Voice  is a not-for-profit page which generates absolutely no revenue from advertising and accepts no money from corporate or political interests. The only sources of income for  Another Angry Voice  are small donations from people who see some value in my work. If you appreciate my efforts and you could afford to make a donation, it would be massively appreciated.


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Saturday, September 27, 2014

The decline in political participation and the rise of the non-traditional parties


The last five decades has seen a spectacular decline in public political participation. Membership of the three Westminster establishment parties has fallen from almost 10% of the electorate in the mid 1960s to less than 0.8% in 2013. This fall in political participation has resulted in the UK falling from one of the countries with the highest rates of political participation in Europe, to the one with the lowest of all.

As membership of the three Westminster parties has dwindled to a miniscule fraction of the millions they had in the 1960s, several smaller parties (The Green Party, UKIP and the Scottish National Party) have experienced dramatic increases in their membership over the last decade.

In this article I'm going to examine the decline in popular political participation and the rise of "non-traditional" parties, move on to examine how the Westminster establishment parties have maintained their vice-like grip on political power despite the fact that the tide is clearly turning against them, then conclude by offering some suggestions as to what we can do about the problem.
                       

The decline in political participation

In the mid-1960s the trade union movement included over ten million people, the Labour party had over 750,000 members, the Tory party boasted over two million members, and even the Liberals had well over 200,000 members.  By 2013 the number of trade union members had fallen to seven million, Tory party membership had plummeted by well over 90% to 134,000, Labour party membership had fallen to 190,000 and the Liberal Democrats had just 43,000 members.

This massive decline in direct political participation has coincided with a large increase in voter apathy. In the mid 1960s fewer than 25% of the electorate refused to vote in General Elections, in the last three General Elections (2001, 2005, 2010) between 35% and 41% of the electorate didn't bother.

There are numerous different potential explanations for the decline in political participation and the rise in voter apathy, but my personal view is that the public have become ever more tired of the three establishment parties, but because the archaic non-proportional voting system 
("safe seats" and "wasted votes") used in Westminster elections has allowed the establishment parties to keep their unbroken monopoly on the levers of power, more and more people have become completely disillusioned with politics in general. 

Since the mid 1990s the three establishment parties have all adhered to almost identical brands of the same right-wing economic orthodoxy (privatisation, financial deregulation, tax cuts for the rich, regressive taxation for the rest, attacks on labour rights and the right to protest and turning a blind-eye to corporate tax-dodging), making the parties ever more indistinguishable from each other. This homogenisation of the three main political parties has made voting look even more like a waste of time, even to the minority who are lucky enough to live in marginal constituencies where their votes are not completely wasted anyway.


One of the strongest illustrations of the uniformity of the three Westminster establishment parties is the way they stood side-by-side to fight against Scottish independence, using the same fearmongering tactics and making the same promises that they had no intention of delivering.


The rise of the non-traditional parties
         
Since the turn of the Millennium four non-traditional political parties have experience huge increases in their party membership, however one of them, the BNP, suffered an equally rapid decline from their high-water mark of 12,600 members in 2009. The other three, have continued their rise in popularity for well over a decade now.

UKIP

The rise of UKIP from a small single-issue fringe party of Thatcherite extremists to a party with over 30,000 members and the most seats in the European Parliament of any UK party is as impressive as it is alarming. What makes their rise in popularity so alarming is that a great number of UKIP supporters seem to be completely unaware of what the party stands for, or how the party is funded.

Of course the name tells us that they are an anti-EU party, but the abandonment of their entire 2010 manifesto before the 2014 European Election and their dogged silence on issues like TTIP make it difficult for supporters and critics alike to properly scrutinse their underlying political objectives. For all the effort they've spent trying to make political capital out of child grooming cases to win by-elections, they've done little to publicise and explain what their actual economic policies might be.

One strong indicator that many UKIP voters don't really understand what they're voting for is the fact that 73% of UKIP voters support renationalisation of the rail network (making the average UKIP supporter a lot more left-wing than the leadership of the New Labour party). The problem with this is that the policy of renationalisation is entirely at odds with the extreme-right economic ideology of the UKIP leadership and their financial backers, who are people who consider themselves the heirs to Thatcherism.

Another indicator that a lot of UKIP supporters don't really know what they're supporting is the fact that so many of them describe UKIP as "an alternative" or even "the only alternative" to the Westminster establishment. Imagine how politically confused you'd have to be to believe that "the only alternative" to the establishment is a party led by a privately educated, ex-stock broker and former Tory party activist, stuffed full of Tory party rejects (Neil Hamilton, Roger Helmer, Janice Atkinson, Bill Etheridge and countless more) and bankrolled by a rogues gallery of former Tory party donors.

I imagine that the majority of UKIP voters would reconsider their support for the party if they knew anything about UKIP's appalling voting record in the European parliament (the worst voting record and the lowest attendance record of any party in the entire European Parliament). But it's proven extraordinarily difficult to get Ukippers to read anything that is remotely critical of their party.

UKIP are certainly a non-traditional party, but it is clear that they are not an alternative because they peddle a slightly more extreme version of the same right-wing economic ideology adhered to by the three Westminster establishment parties, and because their ranks and party coffers are so grossly swelled by former Tories and their money.

Although the majority of UKIP voters seem to be confused about the real identity of the party they support, one thing is absolutely clear, UKIP could never have become so popular without a huge amount of public dissatisfaction and disillusionment with the Westminster three.

The SNP

The rise of the Scottish National Party has been even more dramatic than the emergence of UKIP as a political force. UKIP may now have the more MEPs claiming expenses in the European Parliament than any other UK politcal party, but the SNP is the only party to hold a majority government in the whole UK.

Between 2002 and 2013 SNP membership rose from 16,000 to 25,000, which is a less dramatic rise than UKIP or the Green party have managed, but in that time they have firmly established themselves as the leaders of the Scottish parliament, first with a coalition government in 2007, and then by forming a majority government in 2011 (which many had said was impossible for any party to achieve in the Scottish Parliament).

In the aftermath of the Scottish Independence referendum the SNP reported a huge 66% surge in membership to overtake the Liberal Democrats as the third biggest party in the whole of the UK in terms of membership, which is a remarkable achievement given that the SNP only represent Scottish constituencies, and not constituencies across the whole of Great Britain like the Liberal Democrats do.

In some ways the SNP offer a clear alternative to the Westminster establishment, but in others their agenda looks decidedly orthodox.

There is little political similarity between the SNP and UKIP, however the fundamental issues that drive both parties (Independence from Europe and Independence from the United Kingdom) clearly set them apart from the three establishment parties and allow them to present themselves as "alternatives to the status quo". Another similarity is the way that both of the party leaders have been happy to suck up to Rupert Murdoch, indicating that they're just as willing to subscribe to the crony capitalist economic agenda peddled by the Murdoch press as the three establishment parties have proven themselves to be.

There may be two stark similarities between the SNP and UKIP, but the differences are plain for all too see. The SNP have adopted a centre-left Social Democratic stance that is way to the left of the territory now occupied by the Labour party, while UKIP adhere to an extreme form of the right-wing the Thatcherite ideology that is still hated across the majority of Scotland. Their two forms of nationalism are completely different too. The SNP have striven to present themselves as inclusive civic nationalists focused on making Scotland a better place for all, whilst UKIP have never been afraid to feed off the xenophobia and fear inspired by endlessly harping on about immigrants and Islamist extremists.


I tend to find that one of the most objective ways to judge a political party is through scrutinisation of their voting record. A look at the way that the six SNP representatives have cast their votes in Westminster shows that they have opposed the majority of the most outrageous legislation tabled by the Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition. Here are a few examples:
  • Bedroom Tax: Despite the SNP and the majority of Scottish MPs voting strongly against this vindictive scheme to financially penalise social tenants for "under-occupation" of their property (even when there are insufficient smaller properties for them to move into), it was still imposed in Scotland.
  • Secret Courts: The SNP were vocal opponents of appallingly illiberal piece of legislation designed to allow courts to decide people's fates without allowing individuals or their lawyers to enter the court, to see the evidence or even to know the charges against them. To put it into perspective how draconian and right-wing these new powers are, even the Daily Mail took an editorial line against Secret Courts describing them as "dangerous", "unnecessary" and "an affront to our liberty"
  • DRIP: When the Labour party once again colluded with the Tories in order to allow the secret services to continue mass-trawling the private communications data of millions of innocent people with complete impunity, the six SNP MPs were among the tiny minority of 51 MPs to vote in opposition.
Despite their impressive voting record in Westminster I still have a lot of doubts about the SNP. For every principled stance against the latest piece of illiberal legislation from the Coalition government, there's an example of them sucking up to people like Rupert Murdoch, Brian Souter or Donald Trump. And for every progressive policy there seems to be some ridiculous scheme like planning to cut corporation tax to 12.5% or talking about TTIP if it's some kind of marvelous opportunity rather than a secretively negotiated corporate power grabPerhaps the change in leadership triggered by Alex Salmond's post-referendum resignation might allow the new SNP to attempt to distance themselves from Rupert Murdoch, and focus on presenting a stronger more coherent alternative to the right-wing economic policies favoured by Murdoch and the three Westminster parties.

The Green Party
   

Between 2002 and 2013 membership of the Green Party increased from 5,900 to 13,800 and the party gained their first MP (the admirably tireless Caroline Lucas) and they also gained minority control of Brighton Council. 2014 has seen a strong surge in Green party membership. In the nine months to September 2014 the Green Party of England and Wales had a 42% increase (to over 19,300), while the Scottish Green Party saw membership increase an incredible 429% (from 1,178 to 6,237+), largely as a result of their pro-independence stance.

The Green party support both of the main policies that mark UKIP and the SNP out as "alternatives". They support a referendum on membership of the EU and they promote Scottish independence.

In terms of presenting other alternative policies the Green Party beat UKIP and the SNP hands down. I'll outline a few of the policies that really mark them out as a party determined to present a bold progressive alternative to the Westminster consensus.

  • Renationalisation: Despite the relentless pro-privatisation agenda of the Westminster establishment and the mainstream media, the vast majority of the UK public believe in the renationalisation of fundamental services like health, energy infrastructure, public transport and water.

    The Tories and Lib-Dems have totally ignored this widespread public opposition to privatisation in order to privatise the Royal Mail, huge swathes of the NHS, and over 3,000 primary and secondary schools. They also plan to sell off the profitable parts of the probation service too before 2015, if they can get away with it. New Labour kicked off most of these privatisations (PFI hospitals and schools, private sector health providers, academy schools, Royal Mail privatisation plans), and even now, all they dare offer is ridiculous pseudo-socialist tinkring like freezing energy prices for 20 months instead of the renationalisations that the public want to see.

    Anyone expecting UKIP to set off on a renationalisation agenda is living in cloud-cuckoo land. This leaves the Green party as by far the biggest party in the United Kingdom offering the public what they actually want; a party to renationalise vital infrastructure and oppose further privatisations.
  • Basic Income: If the primary objective of the welfare state is to eradicate absolute poverty, and the government is committed to achieving this objective in the simplest and most efficient manner possible, Basic Income is an elegant solution. As far as the Westminster establishment is concerned, the glaring problem with providing all citizens an unconditional basic income is that it completely removes their ability to coerce the public into working for low wages, or for no wages through the threat of absolute destitution.

    Studies have shown that Basic Income helps to promote entrepreneurship and small business creation, and that the only people who choose to work less when their basic needs are met are youngsters in full-time education and the mothers of young children. The Green party have accepted the evidence and adopted Basic Income as one of their core policies. The Westminster establishment on the other hand would rather everyone believe their narrative that the unemployed are feckless layabouts who need to be punished and abused into working for no wages at giant multinational corporations (like Warburg Pincus, the US based owner of Poundland) in order to teach them a lesson about the value of hard work. 
  • Opposition to TTIP: Another thing that makes the Green party really stand out as an alternative is the fact that they are by far the biggest party to explicitly oppose the TTIP corporate power grab. The Tories and the Lib-Dems are firmly in favour of it, the SNP have made lots of positive noises about it, the UKIP leadership have remained completely silent about it (because openly expressing their support would betray their utter hypocrisy) and the Labour party only seem to want to ensure an exemption for the NHS. The Green Party are the largest political party to explicitly oppose TTIP, rather than openly supporting it, refusing to talk about it, or cherry-picking one small aspect to quibble about whilst supporting the rest of it. 
In blind tests it turned out that the Green Party has by far the most popular policies, however hardly anyone votes for them. In my view two of the main problems are the fact that the mainstream media completely ignore them, and that when they are talked about, people like to lazily caricature them as a bunch of hopeless tree-hugging hippies instead of spending a few minutes bothering to learn anything about their actual policies.

Aside from offering genuine alternatives in this era of economic uniformity, the Green party has the additional appeal that unlike Nigel Farage and Alex Salmond, the leader of the Green Party has never been seen cavorting and cosying up to Rupert Murdoch, which is probably one of the reasons that they are ruthlessly excluded the political coverage provided by the Murdoch empire.


How the establishment parties have maintained their grip on power

In this section I'm going to briefly outline some of the factors that have allowed the Westminster establishment parties to maintain their grip on political power, despite the fact that they have seen their combined party membership drop from almost 10% of the electorate in the mid 1960s to just 0.8% in 2013.

Our laughably outdated voting system: The single most important factor that has allowed the three establishment parties to keep their stranglehold on political power is the archaic and non-proportional voting system used in Westminster elections. A voting system that marginalises the majority of voters into "safe seats" where their votes don't count is an ideal system for resisting political change. Even if some 20% of the public across the entire UK voted for a new political party, they'd be lucky to win a single seat out of 650.

The House of Lords: The House of Lords is an absolute joke of an institution. The idea that the Prime Minster of the day can appoint as many members as he likes to the institution that is supposed to hold his government to account is complelely absurd. Some 90% of the current Lords have been appointed by just eleven Prime Ministers, and the only even remotely democratic element is the fact that the 92 hereditary peers get to elect hereditary replacements for deceased members. However in order to qualify for the hereditary peer election process the candidate must come from an old establishment family. People in countries with elected upper houses (the majority of the world) must find our bloated, shambolic and profoundly anti-democratic House of Lords quite extraordinary.

Our malleable political constitution: The fact that the UK has no single political constitution means that what passes for our constitution is highly flexible and can be continuously amended to suit the interests of the ruling minority. The constitutional safeguards that mitigate the excesses of the ruling establishment in other countries can simply be rewritten or removed from the UK constitution.

Lack of English devolution: One of the most ridiculous results of the malleable UK constitution is that England suffers an extraordinary democratic deficit in comparison to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Each of these countries has their own proportionally elected parliaments, whilst England has none. The devolution of some political powers to smaller national parliaments with modern voting systems has allowed the public to elect members of alternative parties. If England had a parliament of its own, or a number of regional parliaments, then the English electorate could elect alternative parties too. The results of the 2014 European election demonstrate that when the English electorate are allowed to vote in a fair voting system, non-traditional parties can do very well indeed (UKIP finished first, and the Green Party leapfrogged the Liberal Democrats into 4th place). Given the success of the SNP in Scotland and the non-traditional parties in the European elections, it's absolutely no wonder that none of the three establishment parties want to loosen their stranglehold on political power by allowing English devolution.

Mainstream media complicity: One of the really big factors that keeps the Westminster establishment in power is the bias of the mainstream media. The public are continually drip-fed with the assumptions that underpin the right-wing economic agenda that has become the Westminster consensus. If any politician or political party steps out of line they are either vilified or just completely ignored by the mainstream press. The complicity of the mainstream media can be summarised with a Noam Chomsky quote; "the smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum".

Fearmongering tactics: The Scottish independence referendum was a classic example of how the Westminster establishment use fearmongering tactics to maintain their grip on political power. After I wrote an article describing the Scottish independence debate as a contrast between hope and fear, a lot of unionists criticised me for it, saying that it was unfair to describe the No campaign as a campaign of fear. After the independence referendum concluded, the director of the No campaign publicly admitted that fearmongering tactics were essential to the success of the anti-independence campaign. A look at the demographics show that the majority of under-55s voted for independence, whilst a large majority of over-55s responded to the "fear-bombing" campaign about how their pensions would fail in an independent Scotland, and voted no, meaning that the Westminster establishment could keep overall control of the Scottish economy.

What can we do about it?

The first and most obvious tactic is to stop voting for the three establishment parties. If you vote for any of them, you're voting for the continuation of the unacceptable status quo.

Another strategy could be to write to your political representatives (your local MP, your regional MEPs ...) and urge them to support constitutional reforms such as electoral reform, the democratisation of the House of Lords, and/or the establishment of a devolved English parliament, or regional parliaments.

If you've become so disillusioned with politics that you no longer vote in elections, it is worth considering casting your vote for a smaller party to register your discontent with the system, rather than just staying away from the polling station altogether and getting lumped in with those who are too ignorant or apathetic to bother voting. Non-participation is a particularly poor form of protest because it simply hands more political power to those who can be bothered to vote. Even if 99.2% of the public refused to vote, the 0.8% who are paid up members of the establishment parties would still vote for their own parties and maintain their grip on political power.

Another thing you could do is to become a non-traditional political party, or even to become a party activist. The more support the smaller parties get, the more votes they are likely to receive, and more opposition they will be able to offer against the Westminster establishment parties.

I know that my suggested solutions involve political engagement of one sort or another, so I'll leave you with this quote from Plato by way of explanation: "
One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors".


 Another Angry Voice  is a not-for-profit page which generates absolutely no revenue from advertising and accepts no money from corporate or political interests. The only sources of income for  Another Angry Voice  are small donations from people who see some value in my work. If you appreciate my efforts and you could afford to make a donation, it would be massively appreciated.





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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Given his appalling track record of failure, why do so many people trust George Osborne on the economy?






George Osborne's tenure as Chancellor of the Exchequer has been a remarkable display of incompetence. Anyone who tries to deny this is clearly extremely confused about economics, or they're blatantly lying to you.

The easiest way to prove that Osbornomics has failed in its own terms is to look at the economic projections George Osborne made when he first took office in 2010. He bragged about how he was going to completely eradicate the budget deficit by 2015, and how he was going to protect the UK's AAA credit ratings. He has blatantly failed to achieve either of these things. It has long since been accepted that there is absolutely no chance that the budget deficit will be eradicated by 2015, and in 2013 the UK suffered the embarrassment of being stripped of it's AAA ratings by the credit rating agencies for the first time since the 1970s.

The extraordinary scale of Osborne's borrowing is so bad that by the end of the 2010-15 parliament he will have borrowed £207 billion more than he claimed that he would. Under his stewardship public debt will have risen by 50% in just five years, meaning he will have increased the national debt by more than every single Labour government in history combined!

Not only has George Osborne completely failed to eradicate the budget deficit as he claimed he would, and borrowed hundreds of billions more than he claimed he would, the economy is way smaller than he claimed it was going to be back in 2010. Osborne's 2010 projections claimed that by the end of the 2010-15 parliament the nominal GDP of the UK economy would be £1,916 billion, however this has now been revised downwards to £1,788 billion. It turns out that George Osborne has borrowed £207 billion more than he said he would in order to make the economy £128 billion smaller than he claimed it was going to be!

If anyone in the real world would have missed their business projections by such appallingly vast margins, there is absolutely no way they would still be in a job. However with George Osborne the situation is even more ludicrous than the fact that he's still in his job despite his ridiculous track record of failure, because the public actually believe the right-wing propaganda about how much of a success he's been and rate the Tories as by far the most economically trustworthy party!

That Osbornomics has been such an appalling failure in its own terms, yet the public laud the Tories for their economic competence raises the interesting question of how it is possible for the public to be so completely wrong.

Economic fairy stories

The first thing to note is that a huge percentage of the public have no training in the economic basics, meaning that they are susceptible to the most ludicrous economic fairy stories.

One such example of a ludicrous economic fairy story is the endlessly repeated "recovery" narrative. The fact that the UK economy has only just recovered to pre-crisis levels in 2014 means that the entire UK economy has suffered an average economic growth rate of 0% for seven long years. The Tories and the right-wing press would have us believe that we're experiencing a remarkable economic recovery, but in reality we've just endured the slowest economic recovery since the aftermath of the 1720 South Sea Bubble!

Not only has the economy effectively flatlined for seven years, the majority of people have become poorer due to wage repression, cuts in in-work benefits, hidden inflation and the ideological assault on public services. The economy is the same size as it was before the economic crisis, but the majority of people are much worse off now because of the massive transference of wealth from the majority to the wealthy minority that has been going on under George Osborne's watch.

Another example of how people can be bufuddled by economic fairy stories is the way that so many people believe the economically naive idea that the only way to reduce the debt is to reduce government spending. In reality it is possible to dramatically cut spending and massively increase the debt (as George Osborne has spent the last four years demonstrating) and it is also possible to reduce the debt by increasing spending (as was proven by the post-war Labour government, which spent huge amounts on founding the NHS, building hundreds of thousands of council houses and rebuilding Britian's shattered infrastructure, and managed to reduce the national debt by 40% of GDP in the process).

The paradox of thrift has been known about since antiquity, yet still people prefer to think in really simplistic terms, rather than accept the complex reality that cutting spending on economically beneficial things can increase the debt, and increasing spending on economically beneficial things can reduce the debt.

It seems counter-intuitive, but cutting spending can increase the debt and increasing spending can reduce the debt. Most people simply won't accept this fact because they know absolutely nothing about basic macroeconomic ideas like fiscal multiplication and the marginal propensity to consume.


Another economic fairy story that is adored by the public is the idea that Labour blasts loads of money, and the Tories pay off the debts. George Osborne himself used this one back in 2007 when he said
"As has been the case so many times before, it's the next Conservative government that will have to clean up the mess left by a profligate and irresponsible Labour Party". Millions of people believe that this is what has been going on, despite the fact that George Osborne has created more debt in just four years than every Labour government in history combined!

The mainstream media


The mainstream media has a lot to answer for giving George Osborne such an easy ride on his appalling track record of failure.

The right-wing press are notoriously biased towards the Tory party, meaning that he always gets an easy ride from them, no matter how often he has to revise his growth figures downwards and his borrowing figures upwards. However even traditionally left-wing publications like the Guardian are guilty of giving George Osborne a ridiculously easy ride too.

In this article entitled "George Osborne likely to miss deficit reduction target as UK borrowing rises" the Guardian discusses the fact that Obsorne looks set to miss his March 2014 projections by £10 billion, meaning that borrowing in 2014-15 will be £105 billion rather than the projected £95 billion. The fact that in 2010 George Osborne and the OBR projected that the budget deficit would be completely eliminated by 2015 wasn't even mentioned in the article.

Judging George Osborne by his most recent set of economic projections, rather than the promises he made when he became Chancellor in 2010 makes it look like he's going to be just 10% out 
on his calculations (borrowing £10 billion more than he claimed he would in March 2014), rather than 100% out (borrowing £105 billion more than he said he claimed he would in November 2010) . 

The habit of judging Osborne against his most recent set of economic predictions instead of what he promised when he came to power has allowed him to consistently revise his economic growth projections downwards and downwards and his borrowing projections upwards and upwards without anyone pointing out how spectacularly inaccurate his original projections have proven to be.

The Labour party

One of the main reasons that George Osborne gets away with such incompetence is the fact that the Labour party has completely given up trying to present anything resembling an alternative. From one day to the next the only thing the public hear from Ed Balls and the Labour party is that they plan to imitate George Osborne's economic policies.

Instead of pointing out that George Osborne has borrowed £207 billion more than he claimed he would in order to make the UK economy £128 billion smaller than he claimed it would be, Ed Balls has provided George Osborne with a veneer of false credibility by promising to stick to George Osborne's spending plans should Labour win in 2015!

Instead of repeatedly slamming George Osborne's pet quango the Office for Budget Responsibility for the fact their economic projections have proven to be so incredibly inaccurate over and over again, Ed Ball's has provided them with a veneer of false credibility by pledging to allow them to scrutinise his spending plans!

Instead of repeatedly attacking George Osborne's appalling track record of failure, the Labour party keep imitating George Osborne and providing him a veneer of legitimacy that he really doesn't deserve.

The public won't trust Labour on the economy because they appear to be imitating George Osborne with their aganda of austerity-lite. I mean why would anyone choose to believe in a watered-down imitation, rather than the thing that is being imitated?

The incredible stupidity of the Labour economic stance is one of the main reasons that the Labour party is lagging so far behind the Tories on economic credibility.


Conclusion

If we look at the unimaginably vast differences between what George Osborne promised his austerity agenda would achieve in 2010 and what has actually happened in reality, it is impossible to conclude that Osbornomics has been anything but a catastrophic failure.

In other articles I have explained why Osbornomics has failed, but in this one I've concentrated on how the public have come to believe that George Osborne and the Tories are economically trustworthy, despite the absolute mountain of evidence of their catastrophic economic mismanagement.

In my view there are many reasons including the widespread economic illiteracy of general the public (due to the appalling lack of economic literacy training in state schools), the incredibly biased reporting of the mainstream media and the absolutely ridiculous "austerity -lite" stance of the Labour party. 



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