Britain is Booming?

In his 1941 paper, ‘Churchill’s Lie Factory’, Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels wrote, “The English follow the principle that when one lies, one should lie big, and stick to it.  They keep up their lies, even at the risk of looking ridiculous”.

Goebbels knew of what he spoke.

It would appear that the UK government is continuing the tradition, claiming Britain is booming when it is crumbling – and large sections of the mainstream media are letting them get away with it.

We Have Been Proven Right on Economic Policy

Chancellor George Osborne was wheeled out to produce one of the more absurd political speeches of our time this week.  Osborne set himself up in a building site in the City of London, then invited in the media to tell them that opponents of ideological austerity had “lost the argument” and that the UK economy was “turning a corner”.

“We held our nerve when many told us to abandon our plan,” he said, “the evidence increasingly suggests that our macroeconomic plan was the right one and is working.”

What is the point of growth

if the wealth is not spread?

This triumphalist moment came on the back of news that UK GDP grew by 0.7% in the first 6 months of this year.  This means the economy is still 3.2% smaller than 2008, and this is the slowest economic recovery in the last 100 years, meaning the UK recovered more quickly from the Great Depression than we are recovering from bailing out the banks.

More worrying than the lack of growth, is the manner in which even this meage growth is being generated – by an all-out assault on the rights of working people and the social contract.

What we are witnessing is not an economic recovery, in any sense of the words.  We are seeing a return to profit for a cluster of corporations, at the expense of their workers, the tax payer and those reliant on social security.

The Coalition government follow the principle that when one lies, one should lie big, and stick to it. They keep up their lies, even at the risk of looking ridiculous.

Employment? Not As You Know It

The UK government was today cheerleading the latest jobs figures which appear to show a mere 0.1% drop in unemployment rate in the last quarter.  But the government simply ignored the bad news in the figures.

The number of men working full-time fell by 272,000 and those in part-time work rose 281,000.  This is the highest number of people in part-time work since records began in 1992.  A third of those men in part-time work stated they held those positions because they could not find full-time work.

Unemployment among 16-24 year olds was up 34,000.  This means the UK has an unemployment rate of 21% among young people, with 960,000 now jobless.

And the picture was no rosier for those who had managed to gain employment. While unemployment may well remain lower than equivalent austerity nations, the nature of employment is shifting in a worrying direction.

Wages have fallen for 36 of the 37 months of the Coalition government.  This makes Cameron’s Coalition the the worst performing government in UK history on wages.  No former Prime Minister in the history of our parliamentary democracy has seen wages drop for this length of time – not Thatcher, not Harold Wilson, not Ted Heath.

What is the point of growth

if it costs us our homes,

jobs and health?

There has also been the rise of Zero Hours contracts, which mean working people are not guaranteed regular hours by their employer, or access to basic employment rights such as sick pay, paid annual leave or a notice period before dismissal.  A recent survey by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, found more than 1 million UK workers are now on a Zero Hours contract. Unite claim the figure could be as high as 5.5m but Full Fact found some issues with the methodology by which these figures were derived.  Be it 1 million or 5.5 million – this is more than enough to seriously skew the unemployment figures, which showed a drop of just 24,000.

poor man on bench by Carl

Professor Kim Hoque, a Professor of Human Resource Management at Warwick Business School, comments on the long term role of zero hours contracts and job insecurity on the UK economy:

“The flexibility they provide may well have enabled the UK to avoid higher levels of unemployment during the economic downturn. They may also have enabled some people to maintain an attachment to the labour market who would otherwise not have been able to do so. That said such contracts could also be seen as part of the wider underemployment problem that has affected the UK economy in recent times, with large numbers of workers on part-time or casual contracts wanting to work more hours but being unable to do so.”

This is a recovery?

For whom?

The claimant count for Jobseekers Allowance also fell 32,600.  Whilst this is being billed as good news, this has more to do with changes in eligibility criteria.  All the government has to do to reduce the claimant count, is make people ineligible to claim.  The Thatcher government was able to show a drop in unemployment of 550,000 in July 1986, and 668,000 in 1989 by transferring those unemployed into work programmes (workfare).  They also kept an average 90,000 unemployed under 18 year olds off the books by making them ineligible to claim benefits.

In short, where once people could have claimed Job Seekers Allowance while searching for new employment, people are being forced to accept ever worsening working conditions or join exploitative government work programmes to attempt to stay afloat while the social safety nets are ripped away.

Meanwhile, the government continues to claim these figures as a sign of the success of an economic policy which is devastating the UK economy.

The Coalition government follow the principle that when one lies, one should lie big, and stick to it. They keep up their lies, even at the risk of looking ridiculous.

The Cost of Living

While the jobs market offers more work to fewer people at lesser wages, the cost of living continues to rise exponentially. The cost of living is currently rising at four times the rate of wages.  The UK Essentials Index also shows that prices of the basic items that the poorest buy have risen 33% since 2007.  This gap between wages and the cost of living has resulted in the poorest sections of the UK being left unable to retain a roof over their heads or feed themselves.

Statutory Homelessness (people without a home who are eligible for local authority support) rose 21% in the last year, while Rough Sleepers (those not eligible for support) rose 31% in England and 62% in London.  The Bedroom Tax, where people receiving Housing Benefit have had their payments cut for having ‘spare rooms’ (while in most of the country, no appropriately sized housing exists) is also seeing many more lose their homes.

What is the point of growth

if we can’t take care

of our vulnerable?

The cumulative effects of a range of social security cuts which have hit the working poor, the jobless, the elderly and disabled people has been a sky rocketing rise in reliance on food banks.  The number of people relying on food aid in order to eat rose by 300% between April 2012 and April 2013.  This was disgrace enough.  Yet, after a string of social security cuts since then, the numbers relying on food aid have shot up 200% in just three months.  150,000 people have joined the queues at food banks, on top of the half million people already there since 2010.

Opposition MPs have been repeatedly questioning representatives of the Coalition government on this disgraceful rise in reliance on Food Banks.  During a grilling by Andrew Neill on the BBC’s Daily Politics programme, Mark Hoban, a Minister for the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) was asked to explain how an economic recovery could be underway whilst the numbers of those relying on Food Banks to eat was growing.  Hoban’s response was, “You’ll have to ask the Food Banks.”

Well, we did ask the Food Banks.  Food Banks themselves (and Oxfam) report that the enormous spike in reliance on Food Banks is directly linked to government cuts.  So, there is the opinion of the people on the frontline, and (one might assert) the facts.

Wages have fallen for

36 months straight

Yet Iain Duncan-Smith, Secretary of State for the DWP and architect of the cuts, refuses to engage with reality.  He has made several derisory comments in response to persistent questions on Food Banks, including that the rise was due to a “growth in awareness”.

Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education weighed into the debate this week with some victim blaming too, stating: “I appreciate that there are families who face considerable pressures. Those pressures are often the result of decisions that they have taken which mean they are not best able to manage their finances.”

The Coalition government follow the principle that when one lies, one should lie big, and stick to it. They keep up their lies, even at the risk of looking ridiculous.

Economic Recovery? For Whom?

Wages have fallen for 36 months straight, millions are employed on Zero Hours contracts without basic employment rights, disabled people are being evicted from their homes due to bedroom tax arrears, one million young people are unemployed, the cost of living is rising at four times the rate of wages, the NHS has been all but sold off and elderly people are being forced to choose whether to eat or heat their homes.

This is a recovery? For whom?

What is the point of growth if the wealth is not spread?
What is the point of growth if it costs us our homes, jobs and health?
What is the point of growth if we can’t take care of our vulnerable?

What we are seeing is not economic growth, but merely increased profits produced in an unsustainable and unethical way.

A real world recession for the majority is applauded as a recovery, when all that is recovered are the profits for transnational corporations, and incomes of high earners, most of whom pay little or no contributions back into the collective pot of the UK.

The Coalition government follow the principle that when one lies, one should lie big, and stick to it. They keep up their lies, even at the risk of looking ridiculous.  A risk it is willing to take, when a puppet media is busy telling people that Britain is booming.

Photo: Copyright Carl Byron Batson (not to be reproduced without the photographer’s express prior permission)

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About Kerry Anne Mendoza 20 Articles
Kerry-Anne Mendoza is author of the Scriptonite Daily Blog: http://scriptonitedaily.wordpress.com She is also a contributor to New Internationalist, openDemocracy and the Occupy News Network. She is a writer, activist and campaigner for social, economic and environmental justice.

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