Wednesday, 20 October 2010

The Comprehensive Spending Review

Back in the early 1990s when I first started to take an interest in current affairs it was impossible to go a weak without hearing the phrase 'years of underinvestment' to explain poor sporting performance, crumbling schools, NHS waiting lists, crime, unsuitable social housing, economic disparity between regions, arts provision that was nearly non-existent...the phrase echoed endlessly.

As we stand today many of these deficiecies have been radically overhauled thanks to concerted investment. Underinvestment is no longer a buzzword: we have short NHS waiting times, school buildings featuring in international design arwards, unparallelled sporting success at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and arts organisations that reach more people in more ways than ever before. Today I fear we will take a massive pole-vault backwards.

While I agree that debt is economically debilitating and needs to be tackled, cutting accross the board is not the answer. We are so far in debt primarily for two reasons: expensive and utterly unneccesary international conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the bailing out of the banks. Not, therefore, as a result of investing in the fabric of our society. So why is this fabric set to bear the brunt of the cuts? There are all sorts of alternatives - scrapping Trident, raising taxes, not policing the world, targeting cuts gradually and strategicallly, sellling our stakes in the banks - all of which would do so without resulting in a regressive impact on the least fortunate.

The discussions of the next decade will be written today. In ten years 'underfunding' will once again be the buzzword we are all using to lambast the poor state of our public services. It will then cost more to rectify the situation than it would have to keep things going. in the first place.

These cuts are not being forced by the economic situation, they are the direct result of ideological opposition to government spending by a Thatcheright Tory government that is rubbing its hands with glee today at this open goal they've been given to do exactly what they most wanted.

The ten year old me who was baffled at why we had got into a situation of such underinvestment back in the 1990s is saddened to be back at the beginning of the cycle today. And the twenty-something socialist is just plain angry.


David Nolan (dsc73277) said...

Sam, I've never voted Labour in my life, not even in 1997, but I agree with everything you say here - and not just because I already knew my public sector job was going.

Note that they are not just blaming "the last government" or "Brown" but "Labour". This is deliberate. The new government do not just wish to discredit a particular administration but a whole school of thought. In one fell swoop they seek to discredit the opposition and cover up the spectacular failure of a particular brand of free market capitalism that has been predominant in this country for the past three decades. The worrying thing is, so far, they appear to be getting away with it.

Well done for being brave enough to post this, because political blogging can turn unpleasant. Some may see this post as a diversion on a book blog, but we cannot stay buried in our books all the time. Books are as much about engaging with what is going on around us as they are about providing us with an escape.

Sam Ruddock said...

Thank you for your generous comment, David. I appreciate the time you have taken to reply. I think I agree with everything you have said. Its an ideological decision, rather than a necessary one. I was reading only this morning that Vodafone have just had a £6million tax bill cancelled which would have paid for almost all the benefits cuts anounced yesterday.

I think my grounding in current affairs was shaped in the early 1990s with all the complaining about underinvestment and so I can't understand why anyone would want to return to that situation.

For the record, I have never voted Labour either. I'm not really a fan of party politics as it seems to me it entrenches an us and them attitude that is counter-productive and wastes time in petty squabbles.

This situation is not about colours or badges or murmerings in the house of commons. It is about how you perceive the role of the state. Cameron and Osborne have an ideological aversion to the state. This will be our weight to bare over the next five years.