‘Fixing practices upon our most vulnerable, in

‘Fixing the roof while the sun is shining’ was the term used to pardon the seemingly stable, yet modest economic growth experienced in the years following the financial crash, spanning from 2012-2016. It was then that the new Conservative UK Government had landed itself the opportunity to pursue it’s inkling to privatisation, at the expense of those in need, to the relief of those at the top. Bluntly put, austerity has dismantled the fabric of British society from the bottom up. It has inflicted demoralising practices upon our most vulnerable, in a deliberate act to sabotage our social security system; with the UN describing the government’s cuts to disability benefits as “grave and systematic violations of disabled people’s rights”, whilst divesting NHS staff of the cash reward they deserve by failing to finance better pay through the most challenging economic times, at a time when London bankers pocket bonuses to the tune of £5 billion.The austerity agenda has even incapacitated our security services, fundamentally undermining any callous mantra about this government’s regard for our nation’s identity and the security of its people. Since coming to power in 2010, the Conservative governmental budgetary pressure on the police force in England has resulted in 20,000 fewer police officers on our streets. The moral repugnancy of these decisions was denoted most appallingly in the wake of the Manchester attacks of May 2017, as the Former Senior Investigative Officer of the Metropolitan Police, Peter Kirkham blasted the government’s record on policing, citing budget cuts as the central source of difficulty facing UK police forces. He voiced his knowledge to Sky News: “The police are in crisis as a result of the cuts, they are being dragged from pillar to post. We hear we have extra police officers on our street – they’re not extra, they’re officers that have had their rare leave days cancelled, they have done twelve-hour shifts that are now being routinely extended to 16 hours. They have been drawn from other areas, the officers we saw in Manchester are not extra police officers at all, they’re from other duties and are being burned out.” When asked whether it was the case that there are more armed police officers than at any time before, he insisted: “No, no they’re not. Basically, people that are alleging that are lying.” Peter Kirkham’s barnstorming intervention raises questions over police spending and the broad principles of austerity. Why should the very safeguard of our civilisation be jeopardised in such a relentless and merciless way? Notably, what was so eye-opening about Kirkham’s contribution, is that the public was exposed to the reality that you don’t have to be a leftist to expect a sufficiently funded police force, it should be a fundamental public expectation. There are broader concerns relating to the harm austerity is causing. The concern is not purely that the Tories’ handling of austerity is immoral, although it definitely is; austerity is now considered, by economists and the general public alike, to be a categoric setback for the UK economy. Recently published OECD figures reveal that Britain is the only major developed economy where earnings have fallen, even as growth has returned after the financial crisis. Most working people in Britain today are earning less, after inflation, than they did ten years ago. A figure which only rivals that of Greece. So why is this? Simply put, in terms of state sector pay, the Treasury’s tight belt has meant that our most valued public servants such as teachers, nurses, cleaners, and firefighters have gone home with the same value of pay for nearly a decade, as a direct result of the so-called ‘pay-cap’. This has helped float the number of working people living in poverty to 3.8 million, an eighth of the national labour force, up by 1.1 million since the Tories came to power. At a time when the government can fork out money for palaces and parliaments, while handing billions away in corporate tax cuts, surely it’s just delusional to argue that having pulled the economic and fiscal levers to make these decisions for seven years, that it is somehow irresponsible to suggest a contrary course which rewards our public sector staff for the work they do?However the race to the bottom doesn’t just end with public servants. The government’s attack on Trade Unions and their swindling of the minimum wage has played as a political patchwork to the failings of their economic management. Those who work in the private sector have been subject to stagnant wages and poorer working conditions, not to mention the fact that over a million workers rely on zero hour contracts, the vast majority of whom do so against their desires. Yet again, this reality should make us understand: it doesn’t have to be this way. By banning exploitative zero hour contracts so that workers can have the security of guaranteed hours, and a secure pay, the jobs market will be equipped yet again to provide the drive and dignity that low paid workers need. Striving towards a minimum wage of £10 an hour, to establish a real compelling economy for workers to be self-sufficient would provide real, transformative change, rather than fiddling about with the wage structures. The most intricate economic indicators underpin the belief that austerity is now an economic challenge, particularly in terms of its sustainability. After the crash of 2008, the then Conservative Canadian government was seen as broadly competent in managing the economy, so much so that it was internationally renowned for its handling of the ordeal. Fast forward to 2015, when Canada was facing challenges, distinct to its economy, relating to the onshore oil and gas industry, following a significant downturn. What came to prevail was that the Canadian economy had not been prepared for an industrial transition, due to the fact that previous governments had sat on their hands, unwilling to cough up the cash for more diversification. Politically, the disappointment that followed from this lead to a more fiscally relaxed policy from a new Liberal Party government. Whilst Britain bears the brunt of austerity, Canada’s economic future looks far brighter. The OECD put Canada’s economic turnaround down to “The federal government’s mildly expansionary fiscal stance”, claiming that state-backed infrastructure investment would also play a part in returning the economy to full employment. More tellingly, the GDP growth projections for Canada far outstrip that of the UK for the years 2017, 2018 and 2019, accelerating with 2.2%, 2.4% and 2.5% growth respectively, compared to an inconsistent 2.0%, 1.6%, 1.7% series of growth for the UK. Despite all the facts and comparisons there are to offer, a sizeable minority remain sceptics of fiscal expansion, asserting along the lines of: if the government hadn’t cut spending in the few years after the financial crash, the UK would have ended up like Ireland or Greece. Certainly, there is always a case for fiscal prudence, and more understandably so in the wake of an international financial calamity. Tightening the belt no doubt assured investors upon its initiation, though as 2 in 3 economists now oppose further measures, the public can be safely assured that the shrinking state of recent years is an absolute choice. Extending budgetary pressures onwards for more than a short period, such as two or three years, meanwhile slashing taxes for those at the top as the nation returns to economic growth, is evidence in itself that the austerity program we are living by is nothing more than an opportunity for the Tories to weigh in on their privatisation agenda with the excuse of a financial crisis they insist the public associate with their opponents. It’s simply a smokescreen to further their agenda of misery.Those who seek to change this cruel course of action to one which strides in advances towards more opportunity, social cohesion and economic prosperity underpinned by compassion must be sure of the solution. Not a whitewash or a modest shift, but a fractional one. We must ask for Britain, our future, and our everyday society: what is our instinct, what is our demand? Not a nation of a health care monopoly and the concession of decline, but a base for real social justice, that people can believe in.

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