Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Male on Sunday.

If there is one person I like to actively ignore it's Peter Hitchens, the well known big head who always comes at a subject due east of unreasonable. Last Sunday he caught me by surprise by appearing shortly after Andy Murray had collapsed in the Melbourne heat, heading up the comment and analysis on The Politics Show.

I thought he said two things of note, much as it pains me to say it, one loud and clear, the other ignored despite obviously being close to the Hitchens heart, or at least as close as anything can get. Firstly, he made the point that the cuts imposed on Britain by the Coalition, the Tories and the Lib Dems, Daleks and Ogrons, are mainly for show. They can't in themselves make much difference but they convince the bond markets that Britain is serious about its debts. The second point, at the end of a long sentence, made in a hurry but with determination, was that the Government may have underestimated quite how much the economy relies on investment and jobs in the public sector.

Taking the first point. The bond markets are in the ascendancy in the global economy. In a world reliant on credit and the exchange of money in a bewildering flood of schemes and enterprises, Hitchens concludes that the central plank of the Government economic policy is a confidence building measure. He's probably right. So why has Vince Cable done so little to change the way Britain works, one of his key election themes? If we are all enduring a long term pain for a short term gain, why are the Liberals not working toward reforming our economy so that in future we are not held to ransom by short selling? Mr Cable used to be convinced that the financial sector was too large for a healthy economy, is he still so sure and if he isn't, would it not be possible to tell us why? The deeper the world gets into the pockets of global capitalism, the clearer the need to regulate and defend the societies it meddles with. The amounts of money that can be removed from any functioning sovereign economy are now so enormous, none of us should feel safe until our elected leaders (hmmmmn) come up with an escape plan.

On to Hitchens' second point. Why is this not a battle cry from the opposition benches? All of us rely on a healthy public sector to keep the lights on. In many parts of the country the public sector offers the only employment capable of basing a secure mortgage paying economy on. Of course it is expensive, but that money so reluctantly invested in people rarely leaves our shores, most of it is plugged straight back into a local economy, supporting the private sector with steady reliable custom. The rewards of the public sector are more evident now than the drawbacks were when we were all drunk on credit. The work force valued security above wealth, now they face being left with neither because, abandoned by their traditional champions, they're left to the venom of the free market supporters, frothing at the mouth with indignation at the supposed waste of tax payers money.

We have become a sham meritocracy. We talk about social mobility without noticing it's always been all one way, William the Conqueror brought over the current cabinet. Those lucky enough to join the elite make sure the meritocratic ideas don't get in the way of their children's education. When the going gets tough, rather than large scale reform or meaningful dialogue, the elite poke the serfs with sticks and demonise them. The Coalition is carrying out a right wing manifesto under cover of keeping the bond markets happy and dissolving our public services while blaming the deficit on the cost of paying staff to work in them. It's bad enough as it is without having to agree with Peter Hitchens as well.

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