Philip Hammond’s first Autumn Statement puts the Government’s promise to serve all in jeopardy, says Georgio Konstandi.
Let’s not beat around the bush: Philip Hammond is not a Thatcherite. He does not believe in living within one’s means during times of extortionate debt and he is not one for serving Britain’s economy with a ladle of harsh medicine. This does not make him a man of no talent, a ‘wet’ or a Miliband spy dressed in blue drag – Mr. Hammond is nobly serving his nation in one of her most politically turbulent times of the twenty-first century – but it is highly likely that his Keynesian policies could boomerang to give Theresa May and the Conservative Party an acute thwack in 2020.
How so? It boils down to the fact that no Party can ‘work for everyone’ under an economic policy that fails to cut deficit. There is no debate to be had on this truth. We can be proud of what our Party has done to revert some of the mess that New Labour left behind – for there is much to be proud of (Britain now enjoys a record employment rate of 74.5% thanks to a Conservative government) – but we would be foolish to deny the worrying increase in debt with which Britain is still burdened. Eight years on from the financial crash and government debt stands at 90% of GDP. This is a problem that needs amending.
Now, to hush the automatic reflexes of some, this increase has not been a result of excessive borrowing: Hammond’s Statement has put that theory to bed, with the announcement that public sector net borrowing will have fallen by half a percent by the end of this year. Simply put, when a nation’s debt is allowed to reach such staggering amounts (*cough* Gordon Brown *cough*), it is excruciatingly difficult to have it immediately reduced, especially when you factor in effects like debt interest (which in itself surpassed the £1 billion mark in 2014).
It is not impossible however. It merely requires an iron hand. Someone who is not for turning. The problem is, Theresa May is not (despite tabloid adamancy) this figure – and neither is her Chancellor. They do not believe in constructive austerity or any such ‘tough’ economics.
Again, this does not discredit them as individuals. They have a vision for how Britain should work and they are asserting it. Additionally, Theresa May will deliver on Brexit.
Alas, life does not end at the triggering of Article 50. We must look ahead to the not-so-distant general election that awaits, in just over three years’ time. This is when ‘everyone’ shall hold Theresa May’s Conservative government to account. They (JAMs, Mams and the like) shall look at whether their lives have improved under her government and weigh up the pros and cons of instead giving mandate to her opponent.
There has never been a time when a government pursuing Keynesian economics has worked for all members of its society during such debt. If Philip Hammond cannot change this fact of history as he rejects the principles of Thatcherism that last revived Britain from economic stagnation, ‘everyone’ will hold the Conservatives to account in 2020, with another ‘C’ waiting in the wings to paint Britain red.
Not convinced the electorate would have the guts? Welcome to the new era of democracy.