Saturday, 2 November 2013

Remember, "It wouldn't be happening without the Liberal Democrats"

The two strongest periods of growth for three years, 0.7% followed by 0.8% and the Tories and Lib Dems hangers-on are jubilant. Chief among the examples of this heady growth jubilation is Financial Secretary to HM Treasury Danny Alexander, who wrote in the Telegraph:
"Britain is on its way back. We need to stick to our plans to make sure this is a recovery that is built to last. That is the only way to improve living standards.
"Our economy is growing because of the hard work of people and businesses throughout Britain. But the coalition's economic plan is the rock on which our recovery is being built - so it wouldn't be happening without the Liberal Democrats."
On almost every count, he is wrong. This 'recovery' is doing nothing for living standards, which continue to fall. Wages are rising at just 0.7%, while inflation is four times that at 3.2% (RPI, 2.7% CPI).

For people on out of work benefits (and indeed those on low pay whose incomes are topped up by tax credits) benefit increases were capped by this government at 1%.

Put that alongside rents rising way above wage increases, energy prices rising at 8-9%, and the forthcoming 6% rail fare increase in January - and you can see the problem isn't being resolved soon. Figures show that workers have collectively lost £50 billion a year in real terms cuts in pay.

For many of the lowest paid - and those on out of work benefits - the impact has been devastating:
  • an extra million people are, by the government's own figures, living in poverty since the coalition was elected;
  • half a million people have had to use food banks in the last year;
  • homelessness is rising, and the number of families housed in B&B accommodation now stands at a ten year high, and the number of households in rent arrears is increasing sharply;
  • unemployment remains stubbornly high at around 2.5 million - with long-term unemployment and youth unemployment unaffected by failing privatised government schemes

So when Danny Alexander says that this 'recovery' is the only way to improve living standards, it is an evidence-free assertion, a delusion and, since he probably knows this, a flat-out lie. Of course living standards are improving for some people: the 1000 richest Britons increased their wealth by £35 billion last year (if you wanted to know where your missing pay rise ended up).

So where has the recovery come from? Mostly, debt. Consumer and mortgage debt to be precise. Yes, exactly what caused the crash, an unsustainable credit bubble. George Osborne (Danny Alexander's boss at HM Treasury) is huffing and puffing into that bubble with his Help to Buy scheme - re-introducing 95% mortgages at a time of rising house prices and falling wages ... what could possibly go wrong?

The "rock on which our recovery [sic] is being built" is that least rock-like of entities, a bubble. The question for the government is whether that bubble will burst before or after the 2015 election ... they may hope after, but the longer it inflates, the worse it will burst.

Alexander is right about one thing: "it wouldn't be happening without the Liberal Democrats", it's just that the "it" he refers to is rising poverty, homelessness, inequality, and a credit bubble that could spell further disaster for the UK economy and his government.

Remember, "it wouldn't be happening without the Liberal Democrats."

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