Economic Times Editor: Of all the rhetoric that will be churned out over the next few days in the runup to the local elections, not much will be said for the achievements of the Conservative party since they’ve been in power for the last 12 years.
In the run-up to the 2010 election, Britain was not doing well, with productivity in the doldrums. GDP took a hit from the catastrophic financial crisis, of course, and the country was in a recession. Average wages had taken a hit as well. It was the same in many Western countries.
For years before that though, the workings of Thatcher’s economic revolution had been unwinding. The rich were getting richer, the poor were getting poorer. Trickle-down economics actually trickled up. From 2010 to 2021 corporate profits rose from £84bn to £128bn – a rise of over 50 per cent. In the same period, tax paid by corporations went from £42bn to £52bn – a rise of just 25 per cent. By contrast, average real wages in the UK will still be lower in 2026 than they were in 2008, analysis by the Office Budget Responsibility projects. The Tories blamed European immigrants.
The housing crisis was just one of many social problems in a financial spiral that started several decades earlier. Another was the social care system, a demographic timebomb which was already underfunded and poorly attended to by decades of government that did not want to tackle the systemic problems behind it.
The bank-led financial crisis was the pinnacle of political and economic policy failure. Worse, everyone was made to pay for its failed exercises in pass-the-parcel gambling with everyone’s future until the music stopped. They were never made accountable.
The Tories saw this economic mayhem whilst in opposition as a political opportunity and managed to convince the electorate that, as they said at the time – “We can’t go on like this.”
Twelve years later and the Tories have solved none of the problems that existed. We still have a housing crisis and a social care crisis. But now we have many more problems too – as a direct result of their reign. In fact, overall, it’s been an unmitigated disaster.
In real terms, (extracting the pandemic years) compared to our peers, GDP has not increased and therefore households are no better off. But they did bring us Brexit – an exercise that some may well still say is an opportunity – but has provided nothing financially tangible to households. Indeed, according to the OBR’s latest report – GDP is expected to fall as a direct result of Brexit by something like 4 per cent a year for the next 15 years. The government refused to allow the publication of its own report that said the same before the referendum. This fall in GDP now equates to an enormous loss of economic activity – like a perma-recession The OBR chairman said last October – “In the long term it is the case that Brexit has a bigger impact than the pandemic”
Britain is now more divided than ever. The four nations that make up the United Kingdom are now under serious threat. We are the only country in the world with a physical internal border. Another terrible political crisis awaits us in the road ahead.
In the meantime, everything is worse in the lived experience for most of us. GP appointments is just one of them, the NHS waiting list is another and social care gets worse by the day. And it’s easy to blame the pandemic for all the failures.
The pensions system is an implosion waiting to happen – dictated by nothing other than the future date on a calendar. The gap between the amount that actuaries have calculated that we all need to save for twenty plus years of retirement and the sum we are actually able to save does not and never will solve that problem. And as the treasury takes more and more of our money away from us – often attacking pension savings and its tax breaks to encourage us to look after ourselves – it will only get worse.
For millions of Millenials – home ownership is a lost dream in something called the rent trap. For them, the pensions timebomb goes off when they stop work and still have to pay rent for the rest of their lives. Inheritances will have been gobbled up by private care costs of their parents.
Today, it was announced that the Treasury has collected more taxes in the last 12 months than any previous year in British history at nearly £720 billion. On the same day, an article in the Tory-supporting Express newspaper concluded we now have the worst-performing state-funded agencies. And the government’s response to this – privatise them. Royal Mail, the council house stock, national rail and energy infrastructure, along with utilities such as water – are all exercises in the national experiment of failures in the privatisation project. Last month, 60 per cent of the ownership of Britain’s national energy grid was snapped up by a foreign entity on the other side of the world. In the era of madmen like Putin and the expansionist communism of China’s Xi Jinping – this is utter lunacy.
In the meantime, the national debt under the Tories has literally doubled (£1.1Tn in 2010 to £2.2Tn in 2021) – even when George Osborne – by far the worst Chancellor this country has had to suffer in a very long time – claimed his economic miracle had solved it. It was nothing but a delusion from the deluded. The London School of Economics concluded when analysing Osborne’s handling of the economy -“there is nothing on the horizon macroeconomically which could repair the damage that has been done.”
Osborne’s austerity policy was a disaster in every sense. It caused the economy to shrink, meaning rax revenues fell, causing yet more cuts. It was a cycle of death. A study by Mo Stewart Research concluded that this policy alone ended up killing tens of thousands of Britain’s vulnerable as vital services were withdrawn. Sensible chancellors increase expenditure at those moments to boost growth, a by-product of which is it boosts revenue to the treasury. Osborne’s failure led to drastic cuts leaving local government and communities to pick up the pieces. Just about everything suffered in terms of public services – and we’ve never recovered. They said we couldn’t buy our way out of a recession – but it’s just a true to say you can’t cut your way out either. Even the Daily Mail, the loudest mouthpiece of far-right nationalism lambasted Osborne for the “poisonous inheritance he left Britain.” But it wasn’t as poisonous as what David Cameron did next.
And don’t blame the Pandemic (£400billion) for increasing the national debt. That debt was effectively printed out of existence by quantitative easing. Britain’s national debt is still rising, it might not if the non-doms paid their way, if the tax havens were shut down, if the transnational corporations paid their taxes and if the tax gap of more than £100bn was closed.
When Tony Blair’s New Labour arrived in 1997, there was a lot of roof fixing to do as well. Educational standards were significantly increased, policing numbers were too – and the NHS was funded like never before. Indeed, NHS waiting lists were the shortest on record when Blair left office. Of course, back then there were 44,000 more doctors and 90,000 more nurses to cope. Three-quarters of GP practices extended working hours – today the opposite exists. Winter fuel payments went to 12 million pensioners for the first time and 22 million at the lower end of the earnings curve had tax cuts. 900,000 pensioners and 500,000 children were lifted out of poverty, and the New Deal put 2 million people back into work. Homelessness plunged – in fact, it was legislated out of existence. Membership of the middle classes was also increased. All of this – and the national debt was kept under control. That was until the banks blew a hole in HMS Brittania’s hull.
And so what of Conservative leader’s real performance in recent history? Theresa May was voted joint-worst PM in British history, matched of course by David Cameron’s personal quest (third-worst in British history) to solve a non-existent European problem – that then plunged the country into the most expensive policy failure all bar worlds wars – Brexit. This was then followed up by another Tory opportunist – Boris Johnson, a narcissistic self-serving liar with the moral compass of an ally cat – whose acolytes couldn’t care one jot about the prospects of ‘Global Britain’ over their own pockets. Donors with their own private interests now run economic policy. And democracy is plunging because of a paranoid government that used its principles to get into power now wants to shut them down to stay there. Only this week, the Tories attempted to shut down the electoral watchdog in Britain that ensures free and fair elections. This is the vandalistic action of tyranny.
For twelve years the Tories have had the time to fix at least some of the tiles on the roof – and they’ve not even bothered calling the builder. Everyone is worse off. In the meantime, the government is mired in scandal after scandal, sinking in accusations of malfeasance, sleaze and corruption and the country is lurching from one crisis to another as the incumbents of Downing street recklessly pursue power over national interest. This is what the Tories have brought us – chaos, division and misery. Nothing less.
Surely it is time to see off the charlatans, the fraudsters and political hustlers. If anyone claims they love this country, they should do their duty. Voting Tory is the exact opposite of this because the actions of this government tell us that they are in it for themselves and their donors – not you, not me, or our communities, prospects or the future of the next generation.