Osborne evokes Churchill… but would Winston call to vanquish UK’s poorest?
This Churchillian rhetoric was much in evidence during Tory Chancellor George Osborne’s last budget speech prior to the upcoming UK general election on May 7. As such, a packed House of Commons waited on March 18 in eager anticipation to hear the most important speech of the government’s five years in office, given that its contents would largely determine the electoral prospects of the competing mainstream parties when it comes to who would win the right to form the next government.
The Chancellor’s annual budget speech to Parliament, and by extension the entire country, lays out the government’s spending plans and economic policies for the next year. George Osborne is a key architect of the policy of austerity that has underpinned his party’s entire economic policy since entering Downing Street in 2010. Setting out his last budget before the British people go to the polls, he came storming out of the blocks with the proclamation that Britain was now on the road to recovery after going through the worst economic recession since the 1930s.
Try telling that to one of the million British citizens who were forced to rely on charity in order to feed themselves and their families last year at one of the nation’s burgeoning food banks. Try telling them about your ‘recovery’. Try telling it to the 4 million children in the UK currently languishing in poverty, the dozens driven to suicide as a result of having what meager benefit payments they were receiving from the state withdrawn for something as trivial as arriving a minute late for an appointment at their local Jobcentre, or rescheduling an appointment in order to attend a family funeral.
Yes, the aforementioned is happening in the UK – not in the year 1815, but today in 2015.
But let us return to George Osborne, the nation’s chancellor of the exchequer, a man for whom poverty is a crime to be punished rather than a direct result of an economic and political system that worships at the altar of the rich.
In an address lasting an hour, Osborne spared no effort in trying to stamp his speech, and budget, with the authority of Winston Churchill, Britain’s most celebrated wartime leader, a man whose name is revered and held up in Britain and the West as the epitome of indomitability and fighting spirit. It took some doing, but during the speech the chancellor managed to slip in a reference to the Battle of Britain (1940) – always a vote winner – but even more astoundingly the Battle of Agincourt (1415).
This is the point at which the nation cringed with collective embarrassment – or at least if it didn’t, it certainly should have.
What’s clear is that if the Tories are returned to government at the next election, British society will no longer be the cold, uncaring, iniquitous society in which compassion does not exist – it will be worse, much worse than that, given Osborne’s announcement of a further £12 billion worth of cuts to public spending over the course of the next parliamentary cycle.
It is said that a poor man is like a foreigner in his own country, which by this reckoning there are currently over 13 million foreign British citizens currently living in the UK (over 22 percent of the population), people that due to the poverty they are suffering find themselves isolated on the margins of society.
The thing is it doesn’t need to be this way. Economically, the ideology that informs the belief in vicious cuts in spending in order to bring an economy out of recession is a failed ideology. All such an approach – known as austerity – succeeds in doing is sucking demand out of the economy, reducing people’s spending power, thus feeding a downward spiral of under consumption and with it economic stagnation.
What is required in periods of recession is an expansionist economic policy that has investment at its heart. Poor people are consumers too, and the difference between them and the rich is that if their spending power is increased they will spend it on goods and services locally, rather as with the rich salting it away overseas or on luxury items abroad that have a limited or no multiplier effect throughout the rest of the economy.
Such logic, alas, is lost on those for whom purifying the poor with pain is the medicine of choice. It is nothing less than the transference of wealth from those same poor to the rich, using the recession as a pretext. The evidence in this regard comes in the form of last year’s annual Sunday Times Rich List, revealing that the 1,000 richest people in the country saw their wealth increase by 15.4 percent.
Winston Churchill was known for his strong leadership during World War II. Children in the UK are brought up listening to or reading the speeches he gave to the nation during those war years, stirring their hearts with patriotism and fortifying their courage as Britain faced the Nazi menace along with its allies, the Soviet Union, the US and others.
George Osborne’s attempt to replicate Churchill’s stirring rhetoric during his budget speech was merely the clarion call of a chancellor determined to vanquish not an enemy without, but rather an enemy within, in the shape of the nation’s poorest citizens.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.