Things are bad right now. Energy prices, food prices, housing, you name it, the price is going up. Wages are stagnating, if not falling in real terms when measured against inflation. Christmas is coming but people are afraid to spend money, and not just because expenses are already so high. In the last few years, we’ve had too many surprises; we’re afraid of what’s going to happen next. It’s increasingly, glaringly, offensively clear that the government is not going to help us. The current Tory party is only barely Democratically elected (It’s a “tilt your head and squint to see the democracy” situation). And, as much as I don’t like making sweeping generalisations when it comes to blame, I feel confident in saying… It’s all their fault.
There are many things that contribute to the current crisis: The Covid Pandemic, obviously, disrupted the economy and pushed the NHS beyond its limits. The War in Ukraine has affected food and energy prices. But Britain is suffering 200% more (Actual stat, not hyperbole) than its European neighbours. It’s all gone downhill in the last 6 years. We’ve had Tories in power for 12 years. So Yes, it’s all the Tories fault.
For the last 12 years, the UK has suffered under the Tory misrule. I can’t even say they’ve made mistakes, as each catastrophic decision was made deliberately. They achieved the short-term goal they intended. They NEVER considered the unintended consequences, probably because they never felt those consequences.
David Cameron became Prime Minister in 2010. The twin themes for his first term were Austerity and Big Society. ‘Austerity’ was their answer to a struggling economy. They cut government spending in an effort to reduce the deficit. This meant cutting benefits and public spending, although I don’t recall MPs taking a pay cut. Sad to say, Austerity doesn’t work. In the long term it increases poverty and inequality, which doesn’t bother them, as they are rich and on the high side of the inequality.
Then-Chancellor George Osborne was the Austerity man, allowing David Cameron to take the seemingly softer role of Big Society guy. Cameron loved to bang on about the Big Society; people coming together to serve their own communities. In reality, it was his sugar-coated way of telling the public to do all the things the government wouldn’t pay for anymore. Volunteers would be needed to staff libraries, maintain common spaces, give care to infirm relatives. The unvoiced threat in all this was that if ‘Society’ didn’t step up and fill these roles, these services would disappear.
Cameron’s next big self-serving and self-destructive decision: The Brexit Referendum. In an effort to secure victory in the 2015 election, he promised a simple, yes/no, 50%+1 vote on leaving the European Union. The Tories won the election by enough of a margin to show they did need Eurosceptics in the first place, but he had committed to the referendum. Cameron’s final carefully considered failure was his mishandling of the Remain Campaign. He tried to scare people into voting remain, which only served to further divide the country. Another unintended consequence.
Meanwhile, the Leave campaign, who were also Tories, were promising everyone unicorns and rainbows and ice cream for breakfast if we just left the EU. They inspired people with talk of taking back control of our borders and our trade. Their rhetoric carried a tone of “Once, we were Empire. Why should we bend to the Bureaucrats in Brussels?”
It’s at this point, Boris Johnson took centre stage, The King of Unintended Consequences (as evidenced by his undetermined number of children). Credit where it’s due, he sold the dream. His waffling connected with people. People who were working hard but still struggling. People who needed something to change, to go their way. Or at least needed someone to blame for their problems. BoJo gave it to them. The EU, with their laws, regulations and Red Tape are making your lives more difficult. EU Freedom of Movement means Foreigners are stealing your jobs or claiming benefits. And, most famously, “We send £350 million a week to the EU. Wouldn’t that be better spent on the NHS?”
Unfortunately, all their rhetoric, plans and promises were based on nothing. The £350 million was repeatedly debunked and they kept saying it anyway. There were no deals in place, no contingency plans. Their Post-Brexit vision was based on everyone agreeing to do whatever the UK wants. It was Entitlement on a colossal scale.
Brexit was rife with unintended consequences. Instead of being free to trade with whoever we want, we are at the mercy of whoever is willing to trade with us. All the cooperative deals we had with the EU are gone now. These include joint research projects between universities, being in the loop for security threats, supply chain issues. Despite Britian being at the forefront of development of a Covid Vaccine, we suffered supply issues because the vaccines were being manufactured in Belgium. The end of Freedom of Movement with the EU has led to an employment crisis in the UK. Every shop, cafe, pub, restaurant and hotel have Staff Wanted signs in the window. The service industry has been decimated by Brexit as there are fewer people looking for work. Oh, and that £350 million per week for the NHS? Where is it? Because they could really use it now.
Each Tory decision has netted them a short-term goal, with no regard for the wider consequences. But now the unintended consequences are starting to turn on them.
Keeping wages supressed for the last 12 years, with below cost-of-living pay rises and a stagnant minimum wage (supressed for the working class; executives have had staggering bonuses), has decimated the middle class. Cuts to public spending have made everything harder for working people, raising unemployment and under-employment, forcing people into debt just to get by. I bet the Tories are regretting closing all those libraries because they are now calling them ‘Warm Banks’ and telling people to go there this winter so the British Public doesn’t freeze to death with the cost of energy going up (another Tory created crisis as they lifted the price cap on what energy suppliers could charge). So far, it’s the British Public that have had to face the consequences of Tory blundering.
But now the consequences have consequences. The British Public know that they have been underpaid, undervalued and underserved. They know the rich have gotten exponentially richer on the back of and at the expense of the workers. They also know the Government that created these problems will do nothing to fix them (and if they tried to fix things, would only make them worse). So the Public are taking action.
Rail Workers, Tube Workers, Bus Drivers, Postal workers, Nurses, Healthcare workers, Junior Barristers, Highway workers, Teachers, Baggage Handlers, Driving Examiners and the security staff at Harrods are all striking. We have a genuine Advent Calendar of Strikes this Christmas. And the Christmas Miracle of it all is the public support theses strikes are receiving. The strikes are inconvenient, obstructive, a bloody nuisance and absolutely necessary. The public don’t resent the workers fighting for a fair wage. They resent the bosses who refuse to dip into corporate profits or executive bonuses.
And they resent the government who led us to this point.