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Thursday, 4 December 2014

And Now He's Cross

The BBC has been very naughty. Its news teams have told the country that by the end of the next Parliament - if Gideon Osborne is elected to get away with it - public spending will be at its lowest for 80 years. The fact that this is a reasonable extrapolation from his own figures is not relevant, from his perspective on this political argument.

The population of the UK is around 50% greater than it was in 1935 and it is growing rapidly. The amount of money that is taken in as taxes and returned to the people through schools, the Health Service, benefits and other channels, is massively greater, per head, than it was in 1935. So the removal of health, help and support from every citizen [whether or not they are deserving of all that they get] would be dramatic. It is not achievable, because the state would have been brought down by rioting mobs long before the target was hit. Once people have nothing - literally nothing - to loose, they will ally with others in the same position; and the depleted, demoralised police force will be incapable of stopping the destruction.

 One has to go back to 1848 to find any comparable situation to that which could exist in the UK by 2018. The situation then was that the 1834 Poor Law reform had taken effect, the Workhouses had been built and were fully functional, and [at least in principle] all the cash benefits that had been available under the Speenhamland System had been withdrawn. Many of the marginally-employed found it very hard even to put bread on the table for their families: and the Liberals [not least, the new capitalist class] blamed the high price of corn, not the low wages that they paid, for the distress that was evident among the working poor. Capitalist-funded orators ranged the country arguing against the landlord class and the farmers, who benefitted from the high price of food. By the mid eighteen-forties the Russian Empire, the USA and Canada had all become capable of exporting large quantities of grain; but Britain kept it out by imposing the tariff specified in the Corn Act. The Anti-Corn-Law League invested heavily in the campaign to keep industrial profits high and wages low, and hundreds of thousands of people signed the petition demanding repeal. There was a clear threat that violent riots would be staged if the demand was not met. Tens of thousands of middle-class and aristocratic men signed up as special constables; rather looking forward to being licensed to crack a few riotous heads. Among them was the exiled Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, who was soon to return to France, be elected President and then declare himself Emperor Napoleon III.

Sir Robert Peel's government duly climbed down, the Tory party was rent apart, and the Corn Act was repealed. This settled Britain a low-wage country, which enabled our industries to remain competitive on price even as German and American firms adopted newer technology to produce better products. The cost of becoming dependent on imported food only became fully apparent in the losses to the mercantile marine in the First World War; and the UK only began to pay high prices for food when it entered the EU and the Common Agricultural Policy in 1973.

Politics in 2015 will enter a new and frightening period. Labour is largely responsible for the mess that we are in: the Tories and the LibDems have not understood it, so have made it worse.

Stick with this blog: it is depressing, but it says it as it is!

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