It has become an article of the faith that the Tories are better at managing the economy and that Labour (no-one mentions the Lib Dems) is a tax and spend disaster. But no-one ever looks at it.
In fact this is the national debt picture. The sudden rise in 2008 is because of the worldwide financial crash.
This is not a ringing endorsement for austerity and our wage growth has been the same as Greece. Latest figures show that our growth has fallen from the highest of the G7 countries to the lowest in the first quarter of this year. The reasons are broadly the same. The growth was driven by a buoyant services sector and bolstered by consumer spending, itself funded by borrowing (financial crash anyone); manufacturing remained largely unchanged. Moves by the services sector, triggered by Brexit uncertainty, are beginning to bite. The value of the pound has also fallen from where it was 10 months ago. Imported goods (which is most of our goods) have become more expensive while wages stagnate. Consumer spending is down with a commensurate hit on growth. While exports (which you might expect to go up with a weaker pound) have not shifted overall.
The Conservative manifesto gives little cause for hope; entirely uncosted, the plan seems to be we vote for them because “we know” that they are more fiscally reliable than everyone else, while giving them a blank cheque, signed by the British public. Mostly the plan is more cuts and more austerity….which hasn’t worked so far and there is no reason to think that this is going to change. The claim that “there is no magic money tree” sounds great but is actually ridiculous. The money tree exists and is the same for Tories and everyone else. It is taxation, borrowing and quantitative easing (printing money) and the Conservatives have tried all three. In fact not only have the Conservatives borrowed more than labour they have also given us less to show for it. Austerity has not worked, the alternative, investing in the country using borrowing if necessary was the method used by Obama to help America recover after the 2008 financial crisis.
In truth the independent and respected Institute of Fiscal Studies found neither the Conservative nor Labour party manifestos look particularly fiscally sound (an FT summary can be found here). For me the reason I put the Conservatives at the bottom of my fiscal responsibility score card is because of their hard and confrontational attitude on Brexit, which at the very least, has made getting a good deal, harder. Their attitude which though it will serve political tools in terms of appeasing the more extreme Brexiteers and giving them a 6% poll boost from ex-UKIP voters, is, using the treasury’s own figures, hugely economically damaging. While Brexiteer Corbyn is hardly reassuring, at least he hasn’t painted the UK into a corner and the EU has said they would extend the time period before we fully leave should he win the election.
Funding as a percentage of GDP has continued to fall under the Conservatives with plans to drop it further. While there possibly was a case for making “efficiency savings” in the first years, it is increasingly hard to find areas of bloat to improve. At this point they are no longer efficiency savings but just cuts. This report by the Daily Mail (a decidedly pro Conservative paper) highlights the problem as does this video by the Junior Doctors. The Full Fact report (an independent fact checking organisation) can be found here – but it basically says yes there are cuts left and right and yes the government is lying with its extra money claims. To compound the issue the Conservatives also want to implement The Naylor Report – which encourages selling off the NHS.
Problems within the NHS are not just financial but also with staff shortages. The government’s populist plan to reduce immigration to “10’s of thousands” is not only likely not feasible, it is also reckless.
A report by the Chartered Institute of Personal Development found “The UK sleepwalking into a low value economy” due, in part to an inadequate education. It is hard to see how further education cuts will help this. We are already in a situation of expanding class sizes, teaching assistants being asked to perform jobs beyond their levels of training, and experienced teachers are being forced to leave either because they are too expensive or because pointless, punitive and excessive form filling means they are doing less actual teaching.
Grammar schools are unlikely to increase social mobility. I don’t deny they will be better for those who go, but I do deny they will be good for social mobility. Those who can afford to will get their kids privately tutored to pass the test and save themselves a fortune in private school fees. What we really need is a Canadian system where ALL the schools, private or public, are equally good and I don’t think grammar schools are going to achieve it.
Following the recent terror attacks a great deal has been said about policing and security and the fall in numbers. Very little has been said about the day to day experience on the ground. A police friend told me about the following incident. A violent man had nearly killed two male police officers putting them both in hospital in a serious condition. He was spotted and arrested and when arrested was found to be armed with a taser. Who arrested him? An unarmed unsupported female officer who had spotted him from her car. Before the cuts there would have been two people in the car. Theresa May will of course say that this shows that two officers were unnecessary…to which I say, next time there’s a violent offender Theresa – you nick him.
Theresa May has shown poor leadership, listening only to a small coterie of advisors and by seeking to bypass parliament undermines democracy. Whether Tory, Labour or Lib Dem it would be hard to see her election campaign as anything other than a debacle. Scared of meeting in open debate, only meeting stage managed crowds of supporters, and restricting journalists in the questions they can ask this is the very antithesis of strong. U turning on the dementia tax and then claiming she didn’t is the very antithesis of stable. The defence secretary rules out income tax rises. The next day Theresa May (wisely in my view) refused to rule out income tax rises; she does not have a grip of her policy – merely repeating meaningless phrases, nor her team. She has alienated our European partners and has shown no evidence of strong negotiating skills (her oft claimed success in getting rid of Abu Qatada is a fudge). This is the opinion of former Ambassador Craig Murray:
Theresa May has said (correctly) that NHS funding is at the highest it has ever been. The question is not is it the highest, but is it high enough? As we have seen the independent evidence says not. And Theresa May knows this. Worse, she knows she is being misleading. She quotes an extra £8bn for the NHS. Damian Green said this would come from retargetting existing NHS monies. Even if it were true it remains inadequate. If you need a pound for a sandwich and on Monday I give you 10p and on Tuesday 20p your funding might be the highest it has ever been and still leave you starving.
on 6th June 2017 Amber Rudd quoted a police commissioner who said there was no correlation between crime and police numbers. Again probably true – in that if you double the number of officers you don’t half the number of crimes. But that is not the same as saying that increasing numbers has NO effect on crime and Amber Rudd knows it. It’s rather like a film review where they go “I would like to say this film is magnificent but it is crap” and the poster reads “this film is magnificent”.
Theresa May says there is increased education funding – possibly but then why are the schools crying poverty and laying off teachers.
In the choice of whom to believe I will take the people on the ground, the teachers, the doctors, the police, the nurses over a politician (any politician), every time – and all of them are saying don’t vote Conservative.