Chancellor George Osborne developing the UK budget – By James Martin “This is a budget that doesn’t duck our nation’s problems. It confronts them head on.” That was UK Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne’s final comment whilst delivering his bud …

Walton Pantland

Chancellor George Osborne developing the UK budget

– By James Martin

This is a budget that doesn’t duck our nation’s problems. It confronts them head on.

That was UK Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne’s final comment whilst delivering his budget speech to the House of Commons. The word ‘problems’ is another euphemistic attack on workers: Osborne’s so called ‘problems’ appear to be our welfare state, those who rely on the state sector and the unemployed.

So, what are they up to and where are we heading?

Firstly, for our international readers, let me explain something: it’s all the Labour Party’s fault. Everything. Even the problems in your country. The international financial collapse and Euro crisis, yes, you’ve guessed it: Labour’s fault. This is the tawdry argument given by the Conservative Party as an excuse to introduce austerity: “the mess Labour left us” is the standard Tory refrain in the UK today.

Most of the Western world saw a resurgence of the Left from the mid-nineties through to the end of the naughties. By Left I mean the self-appointed Left, Social Democrats and those ever-grinning Blairs and Schroeders that had moved their parties from Left to centre. For most, the old Right appeared to be politically destroyed, having drifted into the global finance sector (like Austrian Josef Martinz for an example) to become directors or ‘advisers’ in companies that went bust when the great ‘credit party’ ended. We thought they were politically dead. Regrettably, like an army of the undead rising from their crypts, the Right wing resurged like never before (I can understand why zombies have become popular, just look at any Right wing party). After the crash, the Right swept to power in most Western countries.

The Left are in crisis. A very serious crisis. As neo-liberalism is giving birth to neo-conservatism, here in the UK the Tories are looking to destroy the last bastions of socialism – The welfare state and NHS. Their argument of ‘blame Labour’ is a smoke screen. The Right are using simplistic arguments such as ‘maxing out the country’s credit card’ and ‘we cannot borrow more to reduce the deficit’ and a lot of people are swallowing this mantra. In reality they are conditioning the public so that never again in our lifetime will there be an argument for universal welfare, free at the point of use – because in their view, ‘it will cost too much’.

The Left, as a political tradition, seems to be heading for destruction. Socialist parties are either falling over each other to emulate their Right wing opponents or are so busy fighting each other that they have lost any effectiveness. The only real organisation of the Left seems to be the trade unions. In the UK unions are not supported by any mainstream party (yes, you can argue Labour, but when did they last support workers right to strike?). If there is anything we should emulate from the Right, its their unity in presenting their core ideas and values. We need to get back our Spirit of ’45: worker-led parties, not parliamentary-led parties – my adage of shit can only flow downhill being appropriate here.

We can build economic arguments against the likes of Osborne. If the Left are after ideas, there are many around. A Robin Hood Tax, a trade unionist on every corporations remuneration and executive committee to curtail excessive bonuses, a tax on bonuses above £5,000 or a tax on executives that earn more than 10 times their lowest paid worker. With these taxes, we can repay the debt, create a National Care Service and reinforce our starved welfare state. There are many other ideas, these are just some of the absolute basic ones that seem to be ‘too radical’. We need radical and alternative ideas to the status quo. If we carry on with the current mantra of austerity and its alternative of ‘selective cuts’ we are facing the complete meltdown of society, an Orwellian dystopia by the back door. Of course who in the next generation will have heard of Orwell when all the libraries have been shut down?

We need a common platform on the Left, desperately. In Cyprus this week, its Right wing President became its banker, defending a bailout that saw, not the banks charge its customers for going overdrawn, but the Government charging bank customers for saving. If its government doesn’t find savings, the bailout is potentially off. Will the EU impose an unelected technocrat as it has done in Greece and Italy? This is one thing that the Left need to combat vigorously, the EU should not put a gun to its workers’ heads like this.

There is something else that needs to be addressed, the language of the Left. Our language has been stolen by the Right. Trade union, socialist, Marxist, utter those words to anyone in the street and you will likely be looked at like some Soviet red under the bed. Language is important, if we in the UK are to restore Left politics to its working class base, we need to stop using Tory language on the economy: efficiencies, lean, modernise all mean ‘cuts’. Beginning to expose this will play them at there own game.

My final thoughts are this: The UK 2013 Budget is a prime example of economic stasis. In 2007 the US housing market collapsed due to many borrowers not being able to afford the house they were buying, despite mortgage brokers and banks having lent out the cash. The repercussions of this were a catalyst for the current recession. In 2013, the UK Government is now actively going about doing the same, becoming the Fanny Mae of the UK by lending money to those that cannot afford a house. People cannot afford housing because there are not enough houses, houses are too expensive and wages are too low. It is this that needs tackling for those lucky enough to be in work. If we can find money to bail out banks, why can’t we find money to help people?

Well I’m off to drink 1,000 beers, thanks for your penny off a pint Osborne, that way I can save myself £10 thanks to this budget. If only I could afford enough for one pint. If only I could afford to survive – again, thanks Osborne.

Although socialism is widely held by the establishment to be outdated, the things that are most popular in British society today are little pockets of socialism, where areas of life have been excluded from the crude operation of market forces and are protected for the benefit of the community” – Tony Benn


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Walton Pantland

South African trade unionist living in Glasgow. Loves whisky, wine, running and the great outdoors. Walton did an MA in Industrial Relations at Ruskin, Oxford, and is interested in how trade unions use new technology to organise.

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