Osborne Fiddles The Books While The Economy Burns

Speaker's Corner, Hyde Park, London
Speaker's Corner, Hyde Park, London: an education for orators

I don’t know what you did with your morning, Dear Reader. But I hope you did something enjoyable and fun. Because I did something which made me feel ‘icky’ just so you didn’t have to.

That’s right, I watched George Osborne’s speech. And I must say, he scores quite low for presentation.

Along with the majority of politicians these days, he struggles with speaking to audiences over a handful of people.

It’s a sad result of the 24 hour rolling news coverage that politicos think and work in 10 second soundbites and not the old habit of hitting the streets and getting on a soapbox to do a bit of public speaking.

I’m starting to think that all aspiring MPs should go to Speakers corner and learn to orate.

Anyway, back to the matter in hand. George Osborne speech.

So, presentation was not great but it was at least a well-written piece – Guido reckons this is thanks to former Times journo Danny Finkelstein – with a proposition running through it and a decent structure.

That’s not to say the content was good. A chunk of what Osborne said worries me and the rest of it was just playing politics. Not a lot of what he said will do a great deal to make growth happen.

In case you’ve not looked or read any of his speech, I’ll give you my (highly valuable) opinion on some of the key points he made.

Osborne made a big point of the need for growth, which is great in theory, but then went on to tell us how he planned to create that growth.

There were a handful of policy announcements – mostly leaked beforehand – but tucked away in his speech was a section on changing the laws around unfair dismissal. Nice for the corporations, but terrible for the worker.

Osborne plans to increase the time you need to be working to bring an unfair dismissal claim from one year to two years. The justification being that it will make it easier for employers to dump unsatisfactory employees without having to get involved in a costly court case in a tribunal for unfair dismissal.

This is an awful erosion of employees’ rights and I hope and expect the Unions to leap on this. As well as this alteration to the qualifying period, Osborne plans to increase the cost to the worker of bringing an unfair dismissal claim to tribunal. Ignoring his own belief in the free market, he wants to artificially hike the cost of a tribunal via a fee to deter workers. That is disgraceful behaviour.

Another of his big announcements was a continuation of the freezing of Council Tax for a second year. But what the Tories are failing to say is that they already promised a two-year freeze back in 2008. Osborne’s implication that he luckily found the cash to fund this in recent weeks is rather undermined by the fact that most councils factored this freeze into their budgets many months ago.

Another problem with this policy is that the IFS have already shown that it benefits the very richest more than it does a huge proportion of the working poor. Osborne wants to brush over this by saying the very poorest benefit from it, handily ignoring the next 20% of the working poor in society.

Another interesting point is the £800 million Osborne claims to have ‘found’ to pay for this freeze.

I wish, Dear Reader, I had this government’s skill at finding spare money. I occasionally find a sodden fiver in my laundry to resuscitate on a radiator, or a bit of loose change down the back of the sofa. But both of those things are a rarity.

This £800 million is the second such amount of ‘spare’ money the Coalition have found in recent weeks. Can you, Dear Reader, remember two weeks back when Muppet Chief-Secretary-to-the-Treasury Beaker Danny Alexander ‘found’ £500 million to pay for the increase in infrastructure spending?

After all of Osborne and Alexander’s pronouncements about how Labour left them nothing, you have to wonder (or at least you should be!) where they’re finding these sums.

The answer, of course, is that the Whitehall departments are funding it. They were all asked to cut their spending to pay down the structural deficit. But those departments that are under-spending on their budgets are having the surplus from this year taken by the Treasury to pay for these announcements to be put in place next year.

They’re not even robbing Peter to pay Paul. They’re robbing Peter to pay Peter later. What do you think that does for growth?

Now I know I said it made me ‘icky’ and that I did it so you didn’t have to. That’s how much I care about you, Dear Reader. It really is. However, I do want to give you the opportunity to watch the speech yourselves. That way, you’re not just taking my word for it that they’re conniving shits who are demolishing our country’s economy one penny at a time. So here, thanks to the BBC, it is should you wish to have a look.


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