In a speech this week Nick Boles MP outlined his vision for a leaner Public Sector. In his view the Public Sector should only be a mechanism for the advancement of the productivity of the country as a whole. Thereby demonstrating his ambivalence for anyone who cannot or does not produce. The BBC quote him thus:
“…only those tax and spending policies that can explicitly be seen to increase competitiveness of the UK workforce should be supported.”
If I were feeling pedantic I could discuss the comment he made about us all wanting further spending in the Public Sector on NewsNight the previous evening. If I were in this mood I might reference the cheering in the House of Commons from MPs which greeted the latest round of cuts as evidence that this is not the case. I could also mention that with proper taxation and tax collection from the wealthiest individuals and organisations, this is more than possible since it would more than wipe out our national deb. However such arguments would be tantamount to an ethical debate over the design painted on a nuclear missile. The debate should not surround individual policies, terminology or spin, but must focus upon the ideology that is being adopted among our political representatives as the basis for their actions.
I use the word “representatives” quite deliberately. It is the basis of our democracy in that it would be rather awkward to have a functioning government of 64million people each shouting to be heard. For this reason we each elect a spokesperson from our residential areas to put forth our views in Parliament. I would contend however that this no longer occurs, if it ever did. Instead huge corporately funded political parties use their financial muscle to dominate the list of candidates. The candidates then differentiate themselves based upon vague ‘promises’ that bear little resemblance to what they actually plan to do. These people expect us to trust their judgement as they write laws and formulate policies, despite the fact that we have no idea what they plan to do, and therefore no guarantee that the actions that are taken are actually in our interests as the electorate at large. In short, we do not have democracy if we have no idea what we are voting for. How many people would have voted Conservative had they known prior to the 2010 election that the party were already paying for advice from a company on how to carve up and sell the NHS? Some perhaps, but I suspect considerably less than actually did. If there had been enough popular support for the plan it would have appeared in the manifesto rather than the somewhat contradictory words “no top-down reorganisation of the NHS”. Once again I could be pedantic and ask what could be more top down than changing the actual owners of services? But this is not the point I wish to make.
Here I want to take a closer look at the ideology (and where it comes from) that is the basis for our government’s approach to running our country. Much has been written about cuts, welfare reform and privatisation (not least by me), and the financial case that has been set out for these actions have already been completely discredited – despite the fact that our media chooses not to report this on many occasions. Since they have been advocating the policies that the coalition is implementing for far longer than anyone else has been discussing them, I shall look to the Tax Payer’s Alliance as the source of the ideology we are following, and here’s why.
“…frontbench Conservatives and business leaders [have been] flocking to the TPA, and at the Tory conference policy after policy seemed to bear the TPA's stamp.” (Guardian)
Indeed, TPA Chief Executive Matthew Elliott has commented that the Tory Party have moved on to their agenda. This however is not a surprise given that many leading associates of the Tory party are also have associations with the TPA. Liam Fox MP, David Davies MP and Eric Pickles MP have recently spoken at TPA events. Other supporters include various large Tory donors including Sir Anthony Bamford (who has donated over £1m to the conservative party), Stuart Wheeler (who has donated £5m to the Conservative party, a range of Conservative MPS and even David Cameron’s former Chief of Staff Alex Deane. Further they are chaired by Stephan Shakespeare who also runs the ConservativeHome website. The Telegraph also reports that No.10 have had discussions about making Matthew Elliott (Chief Executive and Founder of the TPA) Senior Policy Advisor to the government. Nonetheless, Elliott maintains they are not a front for the Conservative party, and I would heartily agree. Research suggests that the Conservative party are a front for the Tax Payers Alliance since many of the policies that are being pursued by the government are those of the TPA. The Guardian reports:
“George Osborne's public sector pay freeze was recommended by the TPA last month and Elliott, who describes himself as "a free-market libertarian", said he had been "banging on about" the idea that no public worker should earn more than the prime minister without the chancellor's approval long before Osborne announced it”
Indeed, the TPA have a running commentary on their website about the progress that this government have made toward TPA objectives:
“In tax and spending the Government has introduced a 2-year public sector pay freeze (3/5) and cut middle class welfare (3/5) but has not matched benefit reform with better tax policy (2/5)…”
The Tax Payer’s Alliance however are a difficult organisation to research, despite their insistence on Public Sector Transparency they refuse to hold to the same lofty ideals. This is an organisation which depending on what you believe either has huge influence within the government or has wholly infiltrated it. Yet beyond its claim to have 60,000 members (it doesn’t have any members since it is a corporation, it has this many on its mailing list), it refuses to give information on the identity of either its donors or its members. Since they are a corporation rather than a political party they are under no obligation to reveal this information. Fundamentally this means that within our democracy we have no idea who is formulating the strategies that our country is following. And we are following them – the Guardian again:
“The TPA's proposals include scrapping the secondary school building programme, child benefit and Sure Start centres for the youngest children.”
Sound familiar? I bet it does to Nick Boles. The BBC note:
“Conservative MP Nick Boles is also urging a significant further scaling back of tax credits and housing benefit, and a re-examination of the "lazy sentimentalism" of the Sure Start programme of children's centres.”
What we have is a very small number of extremely wealthy people attempting to reduce their own tax burden and that of the organisations that they own which have contributed to their fortunes. They have no concern for the public good, the welfare of children, of the disabled or living standards of the elderly. Nick Boles mirrors this perfectly when he suggests such ideas as cutting benefits for elderly pensioners, notice he is extremely vague on where the line is to be drawn. Since this is floated as a money saving exercise you can be sure he isn’t talking only about millionaires, more likely his idea will consist only of reduced payments to those already in poverty and none to anyone else. Beyond this headline however what Boles is advocating is complete destruction of the welfare state and the Public Sector as we know it in order to make us a harder working and more productive country. The old Conservative maxim of “you make the rich work harder by making them richer, and the poor work harder by making them poorer” is back, and the ideas to live up to it clearly come from the TPA.
I would comment this on Nick Boles’ plans. Our country is not a business, we are not and never should be UK PLC. Our goal should never be to increase the wealth of the minority at the expense of the majority. There is a name for this kind of system, it is called slavery! When we no longer take care of our children, elderly and disabled. When our goals shift from providing the greatest quality of life to the greatest number, not only do we not have democracy, we do not have freedom. We must proceed with care because this hidden lurch to the right signifies the transformation of people into commodities who’s value, who’s only reason for existence is to provide greater wealth to those lucky enough to be born into privileged circumstances. Yes, the TPA/Tory plan is about forcing people to work harder, longer and hitting them with the starvation stick if they refuse. More than that though, the new ideology is not one of individual endeavour rewarded, it is one where the wealthy are absolved of their responsibilities as contributing parts of a larger society. An ideology where the poor are cast adrift as the rich wrestle an ever tightening grip on resources, education, government and the law. This is a grab for a position of total power and zero responsibility.
The fact that the TPA are hidden within our government tells us two things. First, they are not acting in the best interests of the majority. If they were, they would be electable on their own account and would thus form a political party with their not inconsiderable means and implement their ideas directly. Secondly however, it tells us that they have achieved a position of unelected power. Given that we as an electorate have not given a mandate to any party to govern, have never been consulted about the nature and severity of the policies that are being followed and have no powers to hold the TPA accountable to any degree, we must conclude that there has been a coup d’etat. Our government has been replaced by a corporation, a range of corporations who are governing purely in their own short-term self interest. They have no responsibility to the electorate and no incentive to care about the lives of the individuals within it.
The UK no longer has a government of the people, for the people, by the people. The fact that it is so difficult to say exactly what we do have tells us that. Whatever it is though, it does not value you or me or anyone outside of the wealthiest circles. What we have is a system where you don’t matter beyond your work and your spending. A system where you have few rights and are only as valuable as the things you produce.
How comfortable are you with that?