Whitehaven News column – 4th December 2014

The Chancellor’s Autumn Statement will have been and gone by the time you read this, but at the time of writing, we are still waiting to see what he announces.  The news is full of stories that this has been the warmest year on record and despite the Government’s reputation for spin, it is still a bit of a stretch to have an ‘Autumn Statement’ in December.  The delay has come because the Government does not want to face up to the problems it has caused.
In the first week of advent, we have opened the papers each morning to discover another announcement from George Osborne. Rather than a piece of chocolate to enjoy, we have been given re-heated ideas from announcements made, in some cases, years ago.  It is incredibly condescending of the Chancellor to think that people will be drawn in by his bluster and spin.  The alleged new roads programme is almost as old as Stonehenge.  The ‘new’ funding for the NHS is money the NHS largely already has. That’s not smoke and mirrors; that’s knowing deceit.  The announced investment in flood defences is nothing more than a re-released press release, roundly criticised by flood defence campaigners.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this, though.  In 2010, the Government were predicting that, by now, we would have a strong economy, living standards would have risen and everyone would be better off.  This was meant to be the Cameron and Osborne’s victory speech, but, unfortunately, they have failed.  They have failed on every measure.  The Tories set out their own terms on which they asked to be judged, yet they have failed to meet their own terms.  The deficit was supposed to be gone, but the country is now borrowing more than it was last year.  The Chancellor pinned his reputation on Britain’s credit rating, but his failed economic plans saw Britain downgraded.  The reality is, this is a failure of the Government’s making.  They have presided over a huge cost of living crisis and overseen a fall in wages by, on average, £1,600 a year.  This is the biggest fall in wages since 1874.  This means that in work poverty is a very real problem.  Thousands of hardworking families are struggling to make ends meet despite spending all hours trying to make a living.  More and more people are forced to turn to food banks and pay-day lenders.
The headline figures show the economy is growing, but most people aren’t feeling any benefit from a fragile recovery built on sand (the sand in question being the trillion dollar stimulus President Obama primed the US economy with).  Prices are high and wages are low.  People are struggling, but there is little sign that the Government are willing to do anything to help.
The NHS is paying the price for the Government’s failures.  It is under pressure and under resourced, but senior Tories have said that the NHS budget should be cut.  The NHS needs more money.  We should be asking the very richest in society to contribute a bit more in order to fund thousands of new nurses, doctors, midwives and more.  Why won’t the Government match this?

George Osborne and David Cameron asked voters to judge them on their economic plans.  They said that if they didn’t meet their targets, you should vote them out.  They have failed on their own measures.  It’s time to show them the door.

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