What does it take to be a senior minister in the current government? Political intelligence? Clear thinking and well focused policy ideas? Public school education? A few million quid? I ask as it is increasingly clear that the current shower is possibly the worst we have ever had. I say this not only in terms of tribal politics or ideology, but with regard to just how staggeringly bad they are at justifying and implementing their plans to destroy society and place neoliberal capitalism at the heart of everything that runs our lives.

As an olde worlde club comedian might have said, take George Osborne. Please. Now, I’m no economist, but neither is he. And yet this clueless charlatan, a localised black hole for charm and charisma, is making the decisions that will ‘safeguard’ the UK’s financial future. Nobel winning economists and practical examples be damned, austerity is the way forward. And we’ve just slipped back into recession – how’s that working out for you, Gideon? Well, nicely enough as it happens as he has his tax avoiding, multi million trust fund to fall back on. Gideon also claimed to be shocked at the level of tax avoidance being carried out by the richest in the land. Really, G? Stupid, disingenous or an outright liar? You decide.*

Earlier this week Andrew Lansley took time out from destroying the NHS to state that he feels it would be ok to implement regional pay for nurses and hospital ancillary staff. Not the managers, mind, they must be ‘incentivized’ in order to attract the very best. For my views on the infiltration of private sector management methods and ethos into the public sector please see previous posts. Suffice to say, it hasn’t had a positive effect on the ‘service delivery’ that Lansley is so keen on.

This race to the bottom is of course justified by the word ‘competition’ – by driving down public sector wages the private sector will be better able to ‘compete’. No mention of looking at how private industry exploits and underpays its workers. No mention either of how in many areas the public sector is a major part of the local economy – hit the workers financially and you’ll hit the whole area, even the private sector seen by Lansley and his ilk as our saviour. It’s simple cause and effect. Public sector workers are already being hit by wage freezes, in effect cuts, and changes to their pensions – are we now to further penalise people for the simple act of what postcode they live in? Silly question: as most of these postcodes never return Tory candidates, of course we are.

Moving onto Grant Shapps, that paragon of ineptness and flim-flammery. It emerged this week that outlying and more deprived boroughs in London are starting to feel the effect of benefit changes as the low paid and unemployed are cleansed from the more affluent parts of the city. To this end Newham council has attempted to strike a deal whereby people on its housing register can be rehoused. In Stoke-on-Trent. Shapps decried this move and claims Newham is trying to make political capital – this may be true, but it is also a very real thing that is happening. To bolster his viewpoint Shapps offered that he had taken a “quick look” at the website of an East London estate agent and found 1000 “suitable” properties available to rent within 5 miles of Newham. Any questions? Well, yes. How does Shapps define ‘suitable’? How many of these properties are fit for purpose? Are the landlords willing to accept tenants claiming benefits? Why pay large amounts of housing benefit to private individuals rather than smaller rents to councils or RSLs where the money is ‘recycled’ into the local economy? Why ignore the hugely negative impact that fetishization of home ownership and the falsely inflated market it engenders has had? Why relaunch Right to Buy when it has devastated social housing and reduced available, properly affordable housing by over a millions homes? I could go on, but Shapps is the man who suggested that a practical solution to the housing problem was for people to live on boats.

It’s all bollocks, isn’t it? Divorced from reality, ignoring the real issues and aimed at establishing the ruling elite for decades to come. The justifications are weak and can be skewered by a marshmallow, and yet still they come, aided by a weak and quiescent media. For all that I think Paul mason is one of the few decent senior journos left at the BBC, I’m frustrated that he simply doesn’t turn to camera and say “This is just fucking mental”.

One last example of how far this government is removed from the real world? Last night Jacob Rees-Mogg appeared on Newsnight to defend with crass ineptitude the Hulture Secretary, Jeremy Cu… – Louise Mensch, herself such a force for weakness in the Leveson enquiry, declared on Twitter that Rees-Mogg is ‘a legend’. This is just fucking mental.

* the correct answer is ‘all three’

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  1. May 17, 2012 at 12:22 am

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