Land of apathy and stagnation

10 12 2011

Politicians usually try and offer hope to their voters. Mostly this is done by promising a rising standard of living and the hope that todays children will enjoy a better life than their parents did.

In British politics, Harold Macmillan told the nation they “had never had it so good”. Harold Wilson sought to introduce a new era of technological advancement in British industry. Margaret Thatcher promised to make the country great again and Tony Blair declared that class was a thing of the past in his new and prosperous Britain.

Harold Macmillan, the first Prime Minister after WWII
to speak of a prosperous future for all.

A lot of what they promised was fantasy but the thing they all had in common was a vision of a better tomorrow. Now in the 21st century, those at the top of the British government have no such lofty ambitions.

Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osbourne recently delivered a statement to parliament in which he had to admit that relentlessly cutting public spending in a stagnant economy had disastrous consequences. Undeterred he merely insisted that the country would just have to put up with more austerity so he could prove that his numbers will add up eventually, he hopes.

A clear contender for the worst Chancellor of the Exchequer in British history

The language he used was one of a doctor talking at a badly injured patient at the start of a long and traumatic recovery.

“What we offer is a government that has a plan to deal with our nation’s debts to keep rates low; a government determined to support businesses and support jobs; a government committed to take Britain safely through the storm. Leadership for tough times – that’s what we offer. “

In the same week the Institute for Fiscal Studies released a report that said the average worker would be worse off in 2016 than he or she was 14 years earlier. With wages stagnating and inflation and unemployment rising the future they described is far from an optimistic one. Nobody in government came out to say that this was shocking, if fact everybody seemed to shrug their shoulders and accept this as unavoidable fact.

David Cameron, George Osbourne and Nick Clegg cannot consider an alternative to the status quo, a better way of managing the economy simply does not exist in their narrow tunnel vision. They are merely middle mangers thrust into the top boardroom with only the ambition to ensure they leave the place in the same shit state they found it in. This isn’t really a personal failure on their part, its more a fact that their big ambitions in life were reached 18 months ago in the 2010 general election.

Clegg, Cameron and Osbourne all began their careers in politics fresh out of university.

They are part of the most common species that exists in politics now, that of the career politician. Elected representatives used to be lawyers, economists, businessmen or trade unionists. Today after graduating from Oxbridge with a degree in philosophy, politics and economics they take internships in a chosen political party. From there they move through the ranks until they reach the top or even an office in Whitehall.

Get elected, get into government and then stay in government. Sometimes this means compromising on almost everything, something Nick Clegg has discovered all too well. He thought he was doing well to be leader of the third biggest party in the country. When his words of change and a departure from the “same old politics” won his party a seat in government he couldn’t believe his luck.

This came at a price though, he promised his party would not raise student tuition fees, until they did. From there he has compiled enough examples of compromise to write a management textbook on making concessions in negotiation. His is a cautionary tale of a politician who never really expected he would be Deputy Prime Minister, when found he was, his top priority became to stay in the lofty office he had clawed so hard to get into.

The British economy is in the early part of its great lost decade. The most these empty suits can do is try and come up with a list of suspects to blame for longest economic stagnation in recent history.