Heroes; Lesson from America
‘I’m only happy when it rains
I feel good when things are goin’ wrong’
As schools are a topical subject, I thought it was time for an end of term report on the last 13-yrs of Tory mis-government.
It started with austerity, remember those sound bites:
- ‘the need for building strong and sustained economic growth in Britain‘. FAIL – growth remains, at best, weak
- ‘I want this government to carry out Britain’s unavoidable deficit-reduction plan in a way that tries to strengthen and unite our country at the same time‘. FAIL – the deficit is bigger than ever, and the country more divided
- ‘The economy was based on a boom in immigration, which at one point accounted for a fifth of our annual economic growth. But this was unsustainable’. FAIL – immigration has increased
So, F’s everywhere, whilst unnecessary and heartless policies inflicted unnecessary inflicted pain on many families.
One quote that was prophetic came from George Osborne, the former Tory chancellor and architect of austerity, who accused his Labour predecessors of ‘failing to mend the roof while the sun was shining‘. Now, 13-years on from the cost-cutting he initiated, schools are collapsing.
Austerity was sold to the electorate it as a short period of necessary pain to fix the country’s public finances, instead, it became a fully-fledged nightmare for many. Today, as a direct result of Tory mismanagement the country has been systematically under-resourced, public services have collapsed due to a chronic lack of investment.
‘the country has been systematically under-resourced, public services have collapsed due to a chronic lack of investment’
If austerity was meant to shrink the state, then this is one policy that succeeded; often the state is non-existent.
Austerity was replaced with Johnson’s vision of ‘levelling up‘, his attempt to create a more equal society. Whilst, the pandemic meant levelling-up was put on the back-burner, it was subsequently repackaged as ‘building back better‘. Prizes awarded to anyone who can provide an example of this.
Next came Brexit, this best thing I can say about this, is it saved us from more Cameron. Brexit was to be our saviour, leading us into a bountiful era redolent of the days of empire.
Instead, Brexit can be summarised as an exercise in self-harm. Even the electorate know it; polls show >50% of the country think it was wrong to leave the EU. Within this is are a number of leave voters who have, at long last, realised that Brexit hasn’t delivered on promises to energise the economy, on reducing immigration, and has probably exacerbated the cost of living crisis.
The Tory party is now out-of-step with the public over Brexit. In 2019 many Conservative members were willing to countenance the destruction of their party to achieve Brexit. Sunak, who was a Brexiter in 2016, is now having to clean up a mess that he helped to create. However, neither he, nor his ambitious rivals can admit this. The reason is simple, Nigel Farage still hovers in the wings ready to pick-up the pieces should they waiver.
‘Brexit can be summarised as an exercise in self-harm’
Whilst rejoining anytime soon would be a step too far for Brussels, whoever wins the next election will be moving towards closer relations with them.
One of the drivers for Brexiters was immigration; ‘vote leave’ meant an end to free movement and for parliament to ‘take back control’, and decide who should be allowed to enter the country for work.
Whilst illegal immigration is still an issue for some, concerns over legal immigration have been replaced by issues such as the cost of living and rising interest rates.
As a result, net migration rose to a record 606,000 in 2022. A figure slightly skewed by the fact that a number of people have come from Hong Kong and Ukraine.
Pre-Brexit most migrant workers came from the EU as part of the freedom of movement. Post-Brexit, we have a point based system meaning that migrants can come from anywhere provide they fit the criteria; having a job offer of a certain skill level paying> £26,200 p.a., and they speak English. The four countries that secured the most work visas were India, Nigeria, Zimbabwe and the Philippines, many have joined the health and social care sector.
Illegal immigration, ‘stop the boats’, is an area the Tories will resurrect from their traditional playbook in the next election.
Historically immigration has been regarded as a ‘Tory issue’, at the 2010 election, the Tories were a massive 40 points ahead of Labour when voters were asked which party was ‘best’ on asylum and immigration. Once elected, Cameron promised to limit net migration to the UK to ‘tens of thousands‘ a year.
”stop the boats’, is an area the Tories will resurrect from their traditional playbook in the next election’
Neither he, nor any of his successors have got close to this target, instead immigration has increased. As a result this hasn’t been the crowd-pleaser the party expected, as a result continuing with this tactic at the next election might be risky.
Going back to 2103, the number of voters concerned about immigration started to rise and peaked in the run-up to the Brexit referendum in 2016. The Leave vote was part-fuelled by hostility to immigration. Amusingly, it was Cameron who had initially stoked the immigration fires, and an immigration inspired Brexit that bought him down.
Post-Brexit concerns over immigration fell, although it has started to increase again over the past year or so, due to the media attention on the ‘small boats’ crisis, and the government’s lack of control over it.
From the Tories’ perspective this increased focus may not be to their benefit. Many voters are sceptical that either of the major parties have good immigration policies, but it is now the Conservatives who are the least trusted by the public, with >60% of voters say they have little or no trust in them. Their net distrust score is -46,> 2x that of Labour. This is partly the cost of being in government for so long, and of continually failed initiatives.
More recent ideas have shown different shades of desperation; one genius suggestion was removing care workers from the list of shortage occupations. This would only serve to deepen the crisis in the NHS.
More realistically, most Conservatives favour increasing the number of visas for doctors and nurses, and only 20% want the number of visas for fruit-pickers, and social care workers lowered.
The issue of the ‘small boats’ is the most polarising; >66% of Labour voters say they have a great deal or a fair amount of sympathy for the asylum seekers. Whereas, only 33% of Tory voters share the feeling, and the government’s inability to prevent the crossings is angering many of them.
It was because of this that Sunak made his rash pledge to ‘stop the boats’, leading to the ill-fated ‘small boats week’ in August. There were more deaths in the Channel that week, and the number of people crossing since 2018 topping 100,000. From a policy perspective it was a PR disaster.
There is also the controversial ‘offshoring’ policy, which has achieved nothing other than making the Rwandan government the beneficiary of £140m of our, the taxpayers, money. If the supreme court rules that the scheme is unlawful, the Conservative party would be left pondering whether to fight an election with a manifesto commitment to rip up the UK’s adherence to the European convention on human rights, which would put us in the company of Russia and Belarus.
Should the government win the court case and be free to implement their scheme, the Home Office’s figures suggest it will cost > £169,000 per person deported (the true figure will be higher). The X-factor being that no one knows whether the policy will deter those desperate enough to undertake crossing the world’s busiest shipping lane.
All in all, this isn’t a good report, more accurately it’s a ocean of failures.
‘All in all, this isn’t a good report, more accurately it’s a ocean of failures.’
Across the Atlantic President Biden has a different problem, age. Should he be re-elected he would be 86 when his second term finishes.
To quote Mark Twain, ‘Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.’
The difference between Biden and the 13-yrs of Tory fiasco is stark, Biden has already achieved a great deal.
Last year’s Inflation Reduction Act, achieves two epochal goals.
It hastens the US countries the break from fossil fuels, by making clean energy both morally, and financially superior.
This is achieved by a raft of tax breaks, subsidies and incentives all designed to encourage the production of wind turbines, solar panels, ever improving battery technology, geothermal plants, along with tax credits aimed at making electric cars irresistible even to those middle-American consumers more concerned about their wallets than the burning planet.
The sheer scale of the legislation dwarfs anything we would even contemplate, initially $386bn, but that isn’t the ceiling. If the demand is there for solar panels or electric vans, Biden’s law obliges the US government to keep spending. Credit Suisse calculate that the figure could rise to $800bn, which will in turn unleash $1.7tn in private-sector spending on green technology. Even Goldman Sachs see the act as a ‘gamechanger’ in the fight to tackle the climate emergency.
Goldman Sachs see the act as a ‘gamechanger’ in the fight to tackle the climate emergency
The second goal of the legislation is almost as significant, with the insistence that US factories receive all the subsidies to build all this clean tech – alongside an earlier, huge package of infrastructure spending – restoring jobs to workers who had long been written off.
This is how levelling-up should be done, reviving industrial towns and cities in decline since the 1980s.
The Inflation Reduction Act is the centrepiece of Bidenomics, an approach that resurrects old-school industrial policy centred on an activist state making serious public investment in manufacturing; regulation of corporations; and warm encouragement of unionised labour; ‘When unions win, Americans across the board win,’ says Biden.
Biden has effectively changed the direction of US economic life, which will have a generational impact. Whereas Obama and Clinton were free-marketers continuing the neoliberal consensus that started with Ronald Reagan, Biden has reversed this. Corporations are being challenging if they are de-facto monopolies, and he is reviving ‘anti-trust’ policies that had long been abandoned. As Biden says, ‘Capitalism without competition isn’t capitalism. It’s exploitation.’
Bidens transformational policies afford Labour a formula for success, one that could make them as influential as Thatcher. These policies don’t require the left-wing orthodoxy of Corbyn, but they do require boldness.
The question I pose is, is Starmer that person?
‘I want the young American
Young American, young American, I want the young American’
A simple concept from Philip – a ‘school report’ assessing the Tory government’s performance over 13 years; ‘must try harder’ really doesn’t even come close:
‘Today we deliver a school report on the 13-yrs of Tory government. Simply put, it’s been a disaster. If it could be done wrongly, badly, it has been.
In contrast the 3-yrs of Biden’s presidency in the US has delivered the Inflation Reduction Act. Put simply, it delivers everything the Tories have failed to do.
Lyrically, we start with Garbage and “Only Happy When it Rains”, we close with a tribute to Biden, David Bowie’s magnificent “Young Americans”.Read it and weep!’
Philip is a great believer in meritocracy, and in the belief that if you want something enough you can make it happen. These beliefs were formed in his formative years, of the late 1970s and 80s