It’s been a bit more than six weeks since I said I was giving up on politics, and it’s gone pretty well. Fiona says I am much nicer to be around. I’ve completely stopped searching for political stuff on Twitter (though some inevitably comes my way nonetheless), and — crucially — I’ve blogged nothing at all on the subject.
Now I am breaking my fast a single time, three days before the General Election, to say these two things.
First: vote. Don’t miss this opportunity. Make your voice heard. Even if you are in a safe seat, your vote affects the size of the majority, which will affect how much authority your MP has. Vote.
Second: our present Conservative government was elected on essentially one promise, which was to eliminate the deficit. Labour were presented as economically incompetent, and the Tories as the party of grown-ups who could be trusted with the economy.
Since they came to power in 2010, we have seen real-terms spending cuts in virtually every area: on the NHS, on education, on emergency services, on in-work benefits. We’ve seen unprecedented rises in poverty (especially in-work poverty) and in homelessness, and a corresponding explosion in food-bank use. All of this in the name of reducing the national debt. We’ve tightened our belts because we were told how important it was to reduce the debt.
And yet when the Tories came to power in May 2010, the national debt was £1030 billion; and by April 2017, less than seven years later, it had risen to £1722 billion. (Source: Office for National Statistics, PS: Net Debt (excluding public sector banks): £bn: CPNSA). In other words, they have increased the national debt by 67%. Or, to put it another way, they have borrowed an additional £692 billion, which is over two thirds of what all previous governments together have borrowed.
What this means is that, judged by its own criteria, this government has been a catastrophic failure. Which of course is why, having adjusted the target date for running the economy at a surplus, George Osborne finally abandoned the idea completely.
Remember: the whole reason for cutting health, education, benefits and the rest was to reduce the national debt. Instead, it’s had the exact opposite result — as mainstream economics predicted.
In effect, the Conservatives took a huge gamble with all of our lives: that their own ideological conviction that All Spending Is Bad would hold up against the classic Keynesian consensus. They gambled that their uninformed intuition was more correct that the results of decades of formal study and analysis. And they lost. (Except they didn’t lose, because they are in the top 5% who are actively benefitting from the increase in top-5% inequality. But the nurses, firefighters, disabled people, JAM families and so on did lose.)
This whole government is a massive failed experiment. So: vote for someone else. Ideally, vote tactically, so as the best undermine the Tory majority.
Postscript. Only now that I have finished writing this do I find a letter to the Guardian, signed by 128 economists, saying basically the same thing. If you don’t believe me, believe them.