What sort of a world would George Osborne like to live in? I imagine him fantasising about the Republic of Gilead in Margaret Atwood’s novel The Handmaid’s Tale. Unprotected workers, assigned their places in a fixed social system, crawl over toxic waste dumps, while the upper castes, though rendered sterile by unregulated pollution, live without fear of democracy, trade unions or the minimum wage.
The Republic of Gideon began to take shape on Tuesday, when the Chancellor launched a full-spectrum assault on both workers and the environment. In his autumn statement, he curtailed public sector pay and, once again, hammered the tax credits and benefits upon which the poorest people depend. At the same time he gave away £250 million in yet another bail-out for big business: in this case the UK’s most polluting industries. Read Damian Carrington’s withering exposure of this exercise in crony capitalism, and you will rage and gnash your teeth … //
… In the wake of this autumn statement, perhaps UK Trade and Investment will now seek to entice investors away from with the promise that there are tax breaks for the biggest polluters, no planning laws worth their name, and special access to ministers if you want to trash England’s beauty spots.
Even if foreign investors can be persuaded that the rules are slacker in the Republic of Gideon than in the grimmest export-processing zones of the developing world, what does “winning” look like in these circumstances? A bit like winning a nuclear war? “Yes, our nation has been reduced to a charred desert. But we’ve come out on top*. Rejoice, just rejoice!”
(*Customers should be aware that when, in the previous clause, the government states that “we” have come out on top, it is in fact referring to a subset of the population: namely those possessed of sufficient means to have invested in underground bunkers. The government cannot be held liable if the rest of the population experiences alternative results. If you are not fully satisfied with this outcome, please contact your nearest mortuary assistant).
In reality, the autumn statement, like much else that Osborne has delivered, has little to do with stimulating economic growth. It’s about transferring even greater powers and resources from the rest of us to an economic elite, the kind of people Osborne hangs out with on Nat Rothschild’s yacht. They are the only winners of the Chancellor’s pyrrhic victories. (full text).