This today is the scene from battle ground Britain, as the Government announces the biggest austerity and cuts programme in living memory.
The Markets reacted well, but then they would. The rest of the country is simply reeling. The Chancellor, George Osborne said; 'Today is the day Britain steps back from the brink'. Many think he has taken Britain to the edge of the precipice. The Chancellor confirmed that the bloodiest cuts since the Second World War amounting to an incredible £81billion over four years will lead to 500,000 public sector job losses.
Britain’s welfare budget will also face much deeper cuts than originally planned to limit the damage to public services, contracting by £18billion in total.
- Whitehall, London civil service cuts doubled from £3billion to £6billion
- Average cuts in Government of 19% as total spending falls 8.3%
- Treasury slashed by 33%, Home Office 23%, Foreign Office 24%
- Queen's Civil List frozen for a year and cut by 14% in 2012/13
- Reprieve for child benefit on 16-19-year-olds but retirement age to rise
- £11.5bn extra for international aid, more than £2bn for green energy
- All this at a time when the UK's net debt hits £842.9 billion – a record 57.2% of GDP
In France over a million people have taken to the streets as President Sarkozy attempts to lift the retirement age to 62. Meanwhile in Britain, on this day of biting cuts, the Government announced that the retirement age will go up to 66, and barely a handful of people protested outside of Parliament.
Britain had a deeper deficit at the end of the Second World War, and yet the Labour Government of Clement Attlee was able to build a new welfare state. This Government is set upon dismantling it, using the deficit as convenient cover to roll back the State. The British, unlike the French seem to accept all of this with a degree of nonchalance bordering on masochism. Astonishingly perhaps many seem to accept the principle of deep public sector cuts – that is until they are affected. A few tremulous voices can still be heard politely inquiring as to why the poorest in society should accept the brunt of the cuts, when the blame for Britain’s economic dysfunction lies with the bankers and the Government Ministers who for a quarter of a century allowed them free reign.
Meanwhile the official Opposition in Parliament sounded flaccid and defensive. For the new Labour leader, Ed Miliband, this is his baptism of fire, and it is his misfortune that he has so few people of real calibre and imagination to fire opposition into outrage, then cold fury, and then a determination to present a real alternative to this madness – madness that risks plunging Britain into at worst a second recession, and at best Japanese style deflation. No growth, no hope. Just years of grinding misery.
For the hideous truth is that this Government has so little to offer in return. Its promise is that Britain will export itself out of recession as the private sector recovers. But sadly neither Messrs Cameron nor Osborne have looked at the recent trade figures, nor do they seem to comprehend that quarter of a century of casino capitalism has all but destroyed Britain’s productive manufacturing base.
Last one out, switch off the lights please....