Politicians are inherently concerned with power, both acquiring it and maintaining it. The motivations behind this concern can be a genuine desire to improve their communities, or tax-payer funded massage of their messiah complex. Unfortunately we have been reminded of this fact by the Brexit debate, which I may soon stop calling a debate. A debate is a process by which the participants exchange ideas, however this discussion has been a Tory civil war played out in public with the rhetoric around the EU used to further people’s political ambitions. In recent days this has become intolerable for even a political junkie like me.
In the 2015 Conservative Party general election manifesto, the party made vague references to increasing British exports. To quote from the manifesto directly: “we will do more, using the new embassies and diplomatic posts we have opened to connect Britain to the fastest growing economies in the world…as a part of our drive to attract more investment into the UK and increase British exports”. Obviously this is not an especially controversial statement as all political parties seeking power want to increase British exports as this would create jobs domestically. However, a key way to see if the Tories are meeting this target is if they are in the process of reducing the British trade deficit, and it is clear that they are failing to do so.
Following the 2010 General Election the Conservatives reinvigorated the Right to Buy scheme which had originally been instituted by Margaret Thatcher. The issue of Right to Buy has always been a contentious issue, not so much the principle of council residents buying their own homes but what would happen to the money raised from these sales. In the 1980s critics of the scheme said that the money generated from the sale of council houses wasn’t reinvested in building new council homes. Now the 21st Century incarnation of this policy is accurately receiving the same criticisms.
Following PMQs on Wednesday George Osborne took to the dispatch box and delivered his second budget since the general election. After years of talking about what he was going to do if the Tories were governing without the Lib Dems the Chancellor stood up in the House of Commons to continue his lie that the Conservatives are the party of working people and that the Tories are seeking to make Britain into a fairer society. These pieces will take an in-depth look at the Budget and endeavour to breakdown what it all means, both financially and politically.
Much of the Budget was devoted to changes in personal finance and tax. Despite personal finances being much more important financial information, the media coverage of the Budget would imply that we were all wasps, only concerned with sugar. The Chancellor outlined a number of changes to specific taxes that challenge his narrative of being solely concerned with the nations finances and also reveal who the Tories are really on the side of.
Another Tory Budget and another round of austerity cuts. The cuts that have sparked the media furore have not been because of the scale of the cuts, per se, but mostly about who the latest welfare cuts impact the most. Although many people are speculating about his actual motivation, Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith cited the cuts in his unpredicted resignation. All of the Tories’ welfare cuts have been ideological and unnecessary but they could be justified by a right-wing internal logic: cuts to welfare will encourage people to get back into work. Even if you agree with this logic, which I do not, these latest cuts expose the Chancellor to be acting in pure ideological terms.
One of the aspects of the Budget that received some attention at the time was the announcement that all schools in England will become academies. This will be one of the most drastic changes in the English education system for a generation and will be terrible for students, teachers, and parents. The Chancellor’s motivation is a desire to centralise power in Whitehall, which runs contrary to his apparent belief in ‘localism’. It is this hypocrisy that people are starting to become away of but also that the Tory education ‘reforms’, despite the justification of it being about raising standards, are only about money.