There is a lot of frivolous talk going on in the UK media about the amazing new ‘fair centrism’ of the Tory-Lib coalition. The official consensus dripping from many lips is that it’s all about stability in the face of difficult financial decisions, and all the other similar talk we’ve been hearing for the last six months.
It’s astonishing though to see who is coming up to pat the Tories on the back for their little policy sweeteners.
Billy Bragg, the left-wing activist/musician appeared on This Week expressing pleasure at the idea that I.D. cards would be dropped, and of course the demise (?) of the plan for a third runway at Heathrow Airport. Andrew Rawnsley declared that the coalition had placed the Tories “back to the centre”. The centre of what exactly?
Leaving aside issues like I.D. cards, to pretend that “new” Tory economic policy is somehow a magic wand of ‘freeing up free-enterprise’ for the good of all is a sign of having no sense of history and an even weaker sense of Tory economic policy, including the economic plans of this weighted coalition.
Labour had its Peter Mandelson, and the Tories have Oliver Letwin, precisely that sort of right-wing, rabid privatising lunatic, obsessed with cutting everything and who thinks a government of more than four people and a dog is ‘big government’.
I suppose he’s the sort of arch Tory the LibDem presence is supposed to be taming…which makes one ask why he’s been installed as as ‘policy developer’, sitting round that crowded cabinet meeting table? Read his book Privatising the World to get a better handle on his beliefs. The only difference is that this time, unlike 2001, Letwin doesn’t need to go into hiding when he says he wants to slash spending into oblivion and privatise the world. For Letwin this is a dream come true because now he has the perfect vehicle for offering up all his cherished privatisation and public service budget-cutting fantasies.
Let us make no mistake about this: it is the public sector, and thus finally the public, which is going to be forced to pay for the private sector’s money-circus meltdown. It will happen because no government will touch the sacred cow of the private sector – that so-called “engine of wealth creation” which runs and operates on taxpayer handouts whilst protecting its private wealth stores.
It is a re-run of the 80s in spirit, no use in fooling ourselves that it’s new just because the dates are different (although many of the faces are actually the same).