“Traditions are not killed by facts” – George Orwell.
The Conservatives are creatures of habit rather than reason. Traditional. That is the why their policies are so stifling and anti-progressive for the majority of us. It’s why Tory policies don’t meet public needs.
There’s always an air of doom and gloom when we have a Tory government, and a largely subdued, depressed, repressed nation, carrying vague and fearful intuitions that something truly catastrophic is just around the corner.
I can remember the anxiety and creeping preternatural fear amongst young people in the eighties, and our transcendent defiance, which we carried like the banners at a Rock Against Racism march, back in the Thatcher era. We always witness the social proliferation of fascist ideals with a Tory government, too. It stems from the finger-pointing divide and rule mantra: it’s them not us, them not us. But history refutes as much as it verifies, and we learned that it’s been the Tories all along.
With a Conservative government, we are always fighting something. Poverty, social injustice: we fight for political recognition of our fundamental rights, which the Tories always circumvent. We fight despair and material hardship, caused by the rising cost of living, low wages, high unemployment and recession that is characteristic of every Tory government.
I think people often mistranslate what that something is. Because Tory rhetoric is all about othering: dividing, atomising of society into bite-sized manageable pieces by amplifying a narrative of sneaking suspicion and hate thy neighbour via the media.
The Tories are and always have been psychocrats. They insidiously intrude into people’s everyday thoughts and try to micro-manage and police them. They use Orwellian-styled rhetoric crowded with words like “market forces”, “meritocracy” “autonomy”, “incentivisation”, “democracy”, “efficient, small state”, and even “freedom”, whilst all the time they are actually extending a brutal, bullying, extremely manipulative, all-pervasive authoritarianism.
The Conservative starting point is control of the media and information. All Conservatives do this, and historically, regardless of which country they govern. (As well as following the hyperlinks (in blue) to British and Canadian media takeovers, also, see the Australian media Tory takeover via Murdoch, from last year: The political empire of the News Corp chairman.)
As we saw earlier this year when the Tories launched an attack on Oxfam, any implied or frank criticism of Conservative policies or discussion of their very often terrible social consequences is stifled, amidst the ludicrous accusations of “politically biased.”
When did concern for poverty and the welfare of citizens become the sole concern of “the left wing”? I think that casually spiteful and dismissive admission of indifference tells us all we need to know about the current government’s priorities. And no amount of right-wing propaganda will hide the fact that poverty and inequality rise under every Tory government. And how is it possible to discuss poverty meaningfully without reference to the policies that cause it? That isn’t “bias”: it’s truthful. Tory policies indicate consistently that when it comes to spending our money, the Tories are very generous towards the wealthy, and worse than parsimonious regarding the rest of us.
Then there are the Tory pre-election promises, all broken and deleted from the internet. And valid criticism of their spinner of Tory yarns and opposition smears, also deleted. This is not a democratic government that values political accountability, nor is it one that is prepared to bear any scrutiny at all.
The Conservatives are attempting to intimidate the BBC (again) into silence regarding its candid commentary regarding the autumn statement made by Osborne, exposing the vast scale of cuts to come for the British public. I’m pleased to see the BBC hitting back, for once, with a robust defence, declaring that: “We’re satisfied our coverage has been fair and balanced and we’ll continue to ask ministers the questions our audience want answered.”
It was BBC assistant political editor Norman Smith’s description of the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) response to the autumn statement document as “the book of the doom” and his suggestion that the UK was heading “back to the land of Road to Wigan Pier” that provoked Osborne’s outrage.
But whilst journalists are hardly unknown for hyperbole, Smith certainly can be cleared of this charge. Because many agree that the figures contained in the OBR blue book are truly remarkable and worry-provoking. Many of us have concluded the same, from the OBR and Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) to an army of quietly reflective bloggers, who have collectively anticipated this purely ideological outcome for some time.
The BBC are absolutely right to point out to the public that there will be severe social repercussions as a consequence of the scale of cuts that Osborne is planning, especially given that sixty percent of the cuts are yet to come.
The judgements of the OBR, which Osborne set up, and IFS, were at least as damning as the BBC’s, but it’s worth noting that the Chancellor doesn’t publicly attack either report. Because he can’t.
Instead the Conservatives have accused the BBC of “bias” and “systematic exaggeration,” David Cameron and George Osborne launched an unprecedented attack on the coverage of the Autumn Statement. However, the Conservatives have been openly policing the media for a while. (See: Tories to closely monitor BBC for left wing bias ahead of party conference season and: Once you hear the jackboots, it’s too late.)
Senior Tory MP Andrew Bridgen suggested there was a risk that unless the BBC was “scrupulously fair” in its reporting, it may “drive voters into the arms of Labour”, adding the threat “and may even find its future funding arrangements affected.”
A blatant threat.
On Thursday, Bridgen wrote to Rona Fairhead, the BBC Trust’s chairperson, to complain “about a pattern of systematic exaggeration in the BBC’s reporting of the Autumn Statement”. It’s not his first complaint about alleged bias, either: he whined when the TUC’s senior economist Duncan Weldon became Newsnight’s new economics correspondent earlier this year.
Mr Bridgen said he wanted “to seek assurances that in the remaining six months until the general election your coverage will demonstrate the impartiality and balance that the public, and indeed the BBC charter, demand”.
He added: “Over the last four years the entire nation has pulled together to achieve something many said could not be done: we are now the fastest growing advanced economy in the developed world. The sacrifices and hard work of the British people are ill-served by pessimistic reporting which obscures our economic success with the language of fear and doom.”
I don’t think this is about “impartiality” or what best serves the British people. This is about the Conservatives not getting their own way, so they resort to bullying and attempts to discredit people who have simply told the truth.
The Chancellor responded angrily to the references to Orwell’s The Road to Wigan Pier in the Today report on BBC Radio 4. He said: “I would have thought the BBC would have learned from the last four years that its totally hyperbolic coverage of spending cuts has not been matched by what has actually happened. I had all that when I was interviewed four years ago and has the world fallen in? No it has not.”
Well, that all depends George. For many people, the only genuine growth we’ve seen is in poverty, inequality, destitution, hunger, suffering and referrals to foodbanks. And deaths. So yes, for growing numbers, their’ world has fallen in.
A BBC spokesman said the BBC was satisfied that the Today programme’s coverage had been “fair and balanced and we gave the Chancellor plenty of opportunity to respond on the programme.”
And the comments were justified because the Office for Budget Responsibility had itself said that nominal government consumption will fall to its lowest level since 1938, the BBC said.
Both the OBR and IFS said in their responses to the autumn statement that Britain has not seen public spending reduced to this level as a proportion of GDP since the grim days of the 1930s.
The public sector spending cuts over the next five years set out in the autumn statement may force a “fundamental re-imagining of the state,” the Institute for Fiscal Studies said in their report.
The warning from the IFS – Britain’s public spending analysts – came only hours after Osborne had angrily rounded on the BBC, accusing its reporters of “totally hyperbolic” reporting about his spending plans and “conjuring up bogus images of the 1930s depression”.
The IFS confirmed that the scale of cuts to departmental budgets and local government would reduce the role of the state to a point where it would have “changed beyond recognition.” The government’s spending watchdog, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), also said yesterday that Osborne’s statement indicated that with the cuts set out in Treasury assumptions, we would see the state reduced to its smallest size relative to GDP for 80 years – since the 1930s.
It was about this era, the Great Depression, against which Orwell set The Road to Wigan Pier, in his account of the bleak living conditions, social injustices, suffering and misery of the working class in the Northwest of England. Norman Smith made an apt comparison.
Scenes from the Jarrow Hunger March, 1936, Marchers from Jarrow in the North East of England, walked to London where they handed a petition to the House of Commons in a plead for more work as the depression and starvation of the 1930’s hit hard
Osborne admitted to John Humphrys two hours later, that “difficult” decisions on welfare would include freezing working age benefits for two years and lowering the welfare cap on spending from £26,000 for a family each year on benefits to a maximum of £23,000. But he maintained his glib assurances that the outlook was not as grim as Smith and Humphrys were claiming.
With the cost of living rising sharply year after year, and with the catastrophic consequences of the first wave of welfare “reforms” now clearly evident, it is difficult to envisage how the outlook for the poorest can be deemed anything other than enduringly, grindingly bleak.
If any evidence was needed that the Conservatives fear the political consequences of the cuts to come, the assault on the BBC’s coverage of the autumn statement has certainly provided it. The Conservative responses are strictly about discrediting the BBC as a means of pre-election damage-limitation, and not about the accuracy or “bias” of the reporting, because Osborne had not anticipated that the real consequences of his budget plans would be shared with the public. Most people don’t, after all, read the OBR or IFS forecasts and reports. As it is, Osborne had set out to mislead the public, and was well and truly exposed.
The IFS director, Paul Johnson, said: “The chancellor is right to point out that it has proved possible to implement substantial cuts over this parliament. One cannot just look at the scale of implied cuts going forward and say they are unachievable. But it is surely incumbent upon anyone set on taking the size of the state to its smallest in many generations to tell us what that means.“
It’s also worth bearing in mind that Clegg has claimed co-authorship of the budget statement. Clegg’s absence from parliament for the third Wednesday in a row suggests he is farcically trying to distance himself from David Cameron and Osborne in the run-up to the election.
However, he attempted to take credit for the central policies of the statement, including the stamp duty overhaul unveiled by Osborne, when questioned on his LBC 97.3 radio show by Ed Balls, the shadow chancellor.
“Everything in that autumn statement is there because we’ve agreed it and I fully support it,” Clegg said.
The BBC exposed the chasm between what the Tory-led Coalition plan and what they are prepared to disclose and discuss publicly. That’s because of a chasm that exists between Tory ideology and a genuine economic problem-solving approach to policy: Osborne’s autumn budget statement was entirely about political gesturing, designed to divert attention from the sheer extent of social and economic damage wreaked by five years of strictly ideologically-prompted policy.
This is a Chancellor who rested all of his credibility on paying down the debt and has borrowed more than every Labour government combined.
It must be abundantly clear that the Tory aim of much bigger and destructive cuts after 2015 is not about deficit reduction, but the destruction of the public sector, our services and social safety nets, the undoing of a century of our the hard-won achievements of civil rights movements, and all in favour of greedy, elevated, unbridled market forces.
Conservatism is centred around the preservation of traditional social hierarchy and inequality. Tories see this, erroneously, as an essential element for expanding economic opportunity. But never equal opportunity.
Conservatives think that civilised society requires imposed order, control and clearly defined classes, with each person aware of their rigidly defined “place” in the social order. Conservatism is a gate-keeping exercise geared towards economic discrimination and preventing social mobility for the vast majority.
It is these core beliefs that fuel Osborne’s stubborn adherence to austerity policies, even though it is by now patently obvious that austerity isn’t working for the economy, and for majority of the public. It never will.
Thanks to Robert Livingstone for the memes.
Osborne’s Autumn statement reflects the Tory ambition to reduce State provision to rubble
33 thoughts on “The BBC expose a chasm between what the Coalition plan to do and what they want to disclose”
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The Nasty Party will not be happy until they have taken the country forward to the 18th century and even then they will complain about the cost of maintaining Workhouses. They want what they can get from society, but they do not wish to contribute towards a decent, caring society.
All that they have undone: that which made us a civil society, may be rebuilt, unless they win next year, then I think we will witness damage to the fabric of our society that we will never recover from for many generations.
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Thank you A6er
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This is the best article on Conservatism that I have ever read. It is all in such simple terms that anyone, especially those that the Tories know won’t bother with graphs and figures, can understand.
At last the BBC are telling the truth. If the Tories really think that their attempts to “discredit” the BBC will work I think they are in for a rude awakening. Surely they should know that most of the public always believe the BBC, it’s aye been so. They only need to look at their own past, when the BBC didn’t stand out against NHS privatisation or Workfare. “What goes around comes around” as they say across the pond.
Thanks Joan, I try and write a mix so that the articles are useful to a mix of people. I do use graphs and so on sometimes, as the evidence is important to some people, whereas others can see intuitive or descriptive truths better. I’ve a little of both qualities. If you like straightforward accounts of conservatism, this one may appeal, too – https://kittysjones.wordpress.com/2014/09/26/conservatism-in-a-nutshell/
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Kitty here describes the way the Tories manipulate language and the public’s psychology in order to justify and normalise their policies. They are also extremely intolerant of any criticism. The BBC is now suffering further Tory attacks for supposed left-wing bias by Osborne and the Tory MP Andrew Bridgen, because they reported the views of the Office of Budgetary Responsibility and the Institute of Fiscal Studies on the scale of the cuts and the disastrous effects this would have in forcing more and more people into poverty. They were especially stung by the statement by the BBC’s Norman Smith that the cuts would lead us back to the era of Orwell’s classic, ‘The Road to Wigan Pier’.
Nor can Clegg claim complete innocence of this latest assault on the dignity and livelihood of hard suffering Britons. Clegg has a strategy of repeatedly claiming he had nothing to do with the more controversial, destructive aspects of Tory policy, even when he blatantly has. This is yet another instance. Clegg is trying to distance himself from the Tories ready for next year’s election, but claims to have co-authored the statement of the autumn budget. He’s a liar, and like the rest of the liars on the green benches, should be thrown out as quickly as possible.
As for the Tories, Kitty’s right in that their fundamental values are those of tradition. They themselves have repeatedly argued this case, from Oakeshott in the 1950s to Roger Scruton in the 1980s and beyond. The defence of tradition against radical, rationally imposed changed has been at the heart of Conservative thinking since Burke’s ‘Reflections on the Revolution in France’.
And they have always stood for the rights of the few – the rich – against the masses. There’s a cynical definition of what a Conservative is that runs, ‘A Conservative is someone who demands greater equality for the rich’. It’s true, but what they want is not greater equality, but absolute control and deference.
There’s a similar definition of ‘Liberal’, which goes ‘A Liberal is a Tory who’s been mugged by reality’. Sadly, that is no longer the case, and as Clegg shows, the Liberals have long since joined the Tories in fantasy la-la land. The real crime is that they’re determined to drag the rest of us with them.
Thanks BR. Very well said, and I love the definition of a Liberal, and rejection of it in view of recent history. There’s a whole piece that needs to be written exposing the normalisation process, because the public have bought into the narratives about welfare costs and “burdens”, yet it’s such an irrational acceptance, but it shows the immediacy and inflicted shortsightedness of successful propaganda and it’s also a nod in the direction of conservative Francis Fukyama’s claims of a tacitly accepted neolib global triumph, which must be challenged clearly, persistently and extensively.
Osborne is only claiming “the roof hasn’t fallen in” because as Kitty said, the rich are apparently immune to the suffering of the vulnerable and ill and elderly. This echoes the speech made by Kinnock, and every word of it drips with poignant prophecy for all of us for whom the safety net of social security has been turned into a shackle or a noose.
The bellowing of the right about the BBC has been, of course, fully reported, and that is the message that will stick with most people. There is silence where the defence should be made. It is really difficult because the BBC’s reporting has been so biased and tory-led that anyone mounting a defence on their terms of right vs. left bias would be rightly derided. But then we do actually have to have a modern and adult conversation about it. We do need people to defend it, as once it is privatised we will have lost forever a much-loved British Institution.
Very well said, Florence. I’ve spent 4 years being a little disgusted that the BBC hasn’t given us adequate coverage of this authoritarian govts devastation, I write letters of complaint almost every week now…and no, they have not been neutral – but it’s plain to see they are being coerced.
Credit where credit is due: they made a stand and were true on this absolutely crucial issue, and this may make all the difference we need it to come May 7th, 2015.
I thought the Tory behaviour this week was very reminiscent of their “dummy-spitting” after Raquel Rolnik criticised them last year. Very petulant party.
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It is an excellent article but I’m not sure about ‘greedy, elevated, unbridled market forces’? Yes, they are greedy, they think they are elevated and above us but surely the problem is that it isn’t pure market forces but very much a captured market they are totally milking for their own benefit with the tax-payer picking up the tab and the risk.
I meant that market forces are elevated as the deciders of who swims and who sinks, socio-economically- a kind of implicit social darwinism that explicitly draws on minarchism and laissez faire as a justification rhetoric – it’s a Randian Tea Party-styled ideology.
But we already know the markets are fixed and weighted heavily in favour of the already wealthy.
i agree with everything said in the article. but personally i think the time has come for the people to take back their own country
. we need to start from scratch. we need a party that will actually listen to the concerns of the public. one of the reasons the cost of living is so high, is because the successive governments have continually raised taxes on the goods and services we use. too many of the parties are funded by large corporations, lets face it whether it is the tory, labour, liberal, ukip, or even green party, they are funded by those who want to control our government and our people. we have the the best political parties money can buy.
we need to break this stranglehold that these corporations have on politics. a party that is run by the people of this country, one that is open to the idea of solar energy and not nuclear or fracking.
we need a party that will say NO to people having to live on the streets or having to go to food banks.
come on people of the united kingdom, IT’S TIME WE TAKE OUR COUNTRY BACK
Let me know how you get on with your new party, Sandra. Good luck.
Meanwhile, I will stick with my plan A, which is voting for a party that ISN’T funded by corporations, which has stood up to big businesses like the energy companies, water companies, and even Murdoch, one that has an excellent track record on human rights, one who gave us the human rights act, in fact, and also the equality act, one that will scrap the bedroom tax, save the NHS, tax the rich and won’t cut services or welfare. One founded on social democracy.
That would be the Labour Party. The only viable alternative to 5 more years of the Tories
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Well said on your last response, Kitty, and an excellent article all round.
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Thank you Lynn.
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“I don’t think this is about “impartiality” or what best serves the British people. This is about the Conservatives not getting their own way, so they resort to bullying and attempts to discredit people who have simply told the truth.” Conservative idealog, full story. A party with nazism at its core and once again Kitty Jones unearth some home truths. Well done
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