Saturday 23 March 2024

Economy, Class

Let joy be unconfined that inflation is “only” 3.4 per cent. Things are “only” that much more expensive. Whoop-de-doo! This country now has 12 million people in absolute poverty, 18 per cent, more than one in six. The rise of 600,000 would have been three times worse if it had not been for the cost of living payments. The 3.6 million children living in absolute poverty, whose households have less than 60 per cent of what was average spending power in March 2011, are as numerous as the WASPI women, and 69 per cent of them are in families where at least one parent works.

2.7 million people are too ill to work, and if they are claiming benefits specifically for that, then they are not swinging the lead. To the astonishment of my GP and of my hospital consultant, I have repeatedly been turned down for those despite being most people’s definition, including theirs, of a textbook case. Anyone who has met me in the last 10 years will know exactly what I mean. Sickness and disability benefits, of which the latter allow one to work and which I have only ever sought on that understanding, are hard to get. Anyone who has them, deserves them.

The standing charges on gas and electricity are 50 times the cost of maintaining the networks, and although they are supposed to protect the suppliers from going bankrupt, not only have they repeatedly failed to do so, but they have never come down when those suppliers have been eye-wateringly profitable. The whole thing is a racket to rank with HS2, PPE, the money already paid to Rwanda to take absolutely nobody (having always said that it would take only 100 people per year), and the top secret £1,593,535,200 to rent the Bibby Stockholm for two years, one and a half times what it would cost to settle the junior doctors’ pay claim in full. And there is more. So much more. Never, ever, ever let it be said that there is no money.

Most countries have never been in the European Union to leave it. The whole world was affected by Covid-19. The impact of the war in Ukraine is far from unique to Britain, as is that of anything to do with the war in Gaza, including the blockade of the Red Sea. Rather, the roots of these very British problems are in the ideology that the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats all regard as unquestionable, and which therefore expresses itself in, through and as this country’s endemic culture of maladministration.

It costs a lot to right an enormous wrong, so it would cost a lot to give justice to the victims of the Post Office scandal, to the victims of the contaminated blood scandal, and to the WASPI women. But as a sovereign state with its own free-floating, fiat currency, the United Kingdom has as much of that currency as it chooses to issue to itself, with readily available fiscal and monetary means of controlling any inflationary effect, means that therefore need to be under democratic political control. The responsibility of the Government is to ensure the supply of goods and services to be purchased with that currency.

It is impossible for the currency-issuing State to run out of money. Money “lent” to the Treasury by the Bank of England is money “lent” to the State by the State; such “debt” will never be called in, much less will bailiffs be sent round. Call this “the Magic Money Tree” if you will. There is no comparison between running the economy and managing a household budget, or even a business. There is no “national credit card” to “max out”. Terms such as “taxpayers’ money” are extremely and intentionally misleading. “Fiscal headroom” is nothing other than the gap between the Government’s tax and spending plans and what would be allowed under the fiscal rules that it sets for itself and changes frequently.

For his clear understanding of these simple facts, Jamie Driscoll deserves to be elected Mayor of the North East Mayoral Combined Authority, with a population larger than that of 13 European territories that the United Kingdom recognised as sovereign states. At the General Election, anyone who pretended not to grasp these realities would be morally unfit to be a Member of Parliament, too wicked for office. Anyone who sincerely did not understand them would be intellectually unfit, too stupid for office. Grasping these realities includes a firm commitment to justice for the victims of the Post Office scandal, for the victims of the contaminated blood scandal, and for the WASPI women.

Also at the General Election, it is very much to be hoped that Mayor Driscoll will remember who had supported him in a First Past the Post contest, and who had not. Red and Green should never be seen. In search of joint candidates, the Greens are organising primaries with the Liberal Democrats, whose coalition with the Conservatives was more pro-austerity and pro-war than any Government since, and who are strengthening their links with the German FDP, which opposes pretty much any State intervention in the economy, regarding Keynesianism or Bidenomics as an unconscionable departure from the true Liberal path. Rachel Reeves would love the FDP. If she had ever heard of it.

Speaking of primaries, 20 years ago, Douglas Carswell and Mark Reckless were all in favour of open ones until they felt like defecting from the Conservatives to UKIP, at which point they became their new party’s candidates on the spot. Likewise, Dan Barker has gone straight from being the Conservative Party’s candidate for Mayor of Greater Manchester to being Reform UK’s. As with the coverage that Reform enjoys, this proves beyond doubt that it is as much a part of the cartel as the Conservative and Labour Parties between which sitting MPs move seamlessly. The former leaders of the Conservative and Lib Dem Groups on North Tyneside Council will both be seeking election to it as Labour candidates in a few weeks’ time, specifically because they just loved Keir Starmer. Reform is no different. Like them, it is in the big club that you and I are not.

But when I tell you that there is going to be a hung Parliament, then you can take that to the bank. I spent the 2005 Parliament saying that it was psephologically impossible for the Heir to Blair’s Conservative Party to win an overall majority. I predicted a hung Parliament on the day that the 2017 General Election was called, and I stuck to that, entirely alone, all the way up to the publication of the exit poll eight long weeks later. And on the day that Rishi Sunak became Prime Minister, I predicted that a General Election between him and Starmer would result in a hung Parliament.

I have no plan to join the Workers Party of Britain, although nor would I expect to stand against it. If, however, it did not contest North Durham, then I would. To strengthen families and communities by securing economic equality and international peace through the democratic political control of the means to those ends, including national and parliamentary sovereignty, we need to hold the balance of power. Owing nothing to either main party, we must be open to the better offer. There does, however, need to be a better offer. Not a lesser evil, which in any case the Labour Party is not. We have made a start.


  1. Reeves should be set a little test of this post. How much of it can she understand?