The latest Autumn Statement by George Osborne once again confirms the failure of Westminster governments. Despite the rosy gloss put on the figures by the Chancellor, the reality is really quite dreadful. Two figures in particular highlight just how disastrous the Tory/LibDem coalition has been for the UK. First the growth figures for the UK during Osborne’s stewardship. These show that GDP is up by just 2.6% over the life of the government. However during this same period the population of the UK went up by about 2.1%. So GDP per head is up by just 0.5% in 3 years. This is the wonderful record of our rather nasty coalition. Or in other words the government’s record of failure. Secondly when we look at the figures for the UK’s national debt, we find that this is still way, way higher than it was when Osborne took over the economy. Not surprising that this figure is not mentioned by the Chancellor. Yet another record of failure.
The Chancellor makes great play of the fact that the UK economy has at long last started to grow again, with forecasts for UK Growth for this year of 1.4%, next year of 2.4% and up to 2.7% in following years. However these forecasts, and they are still forecasts, are nothing to boast about. They simply reinforce the fact that the UK has been stagnating for the last three years. Once you touch bottom after a steep fall then you tend to rebound quite quickly. But, and this is the important point, you do not quickly recover all the losses of these downward falling years. The amount of lost output under the watch of our nasty coalition is quite staggering.
Just in case anyone might be thinking that this is all the fault of the current Toyr/LibDem alliance, then do not be fooled. It was the last Labour government that got us into this mess. Under the unwatchful eyes of Alistair Darling UK GDP fell by 7.2% in 2008-09. While this loss was primarily the result of incompetence and greed by our overpaid bankers, it was the Labour government which allowed them to get away with it. Poor or light touch regulation was the mantra from Labour in those years. Nothing to indicate that a future Labour government would be any different. At best just a little bit less harsh.
All this has come at a terrible cost. A cost which has been paid by all of us not on millionaire type incomes. This cost is twofold. The never ending austerity that George Osborne seems to glorify in has meant pretty savage losses for most people. The various cuts in wages and benefits is equivalent to a 6.4% drop in real wages, after allowing for inflation. This is a quite unprecedented drop. Which in turn has had some very drastic knock-on effects on the quality of life for millions of people. The steep rise in food banks all over the UK is likely to be directly related to this drop in real wages. I wonder what, if anything, the likes of Messrs Osborne, Cameron and Clegg have had to give up during the last three years?
The other cost of course is in the lost output that comes from all these years of recession and stagnation. Yet all of this was completely unnecessary. During a period of virtually zero interest rates the government could have borrowed money to invest in mending our creaking infrastructure. Whether this took the form of for example, modernising the transport network, replacing old schools, hospitals etc, the result would have been to get people back to work and paying taxes thus boosting the government’s revenues. At the same time we would get some much needed improvements to the fabric of the UK.
But public spending is regarded as bad by this coalition. So for narrow ideological reasons the rest of us have had to suffer. All so that the rich can get even richer. The other imperative for the Tory/LibDem coalition is to protect the City of London. All UK parties seem to be in thrall to this tiny part of the country. Just don’t expect Labour to do much about it if they ever get back into power. The only way to change any of this is to vote YES to independence for Scotland.