Brown prepares to cut and run
In 1997, New Labour chose Things Can Only Get Better by D:ream as its theme song for the election campaign. As speculation rises that prime minister Brown may call an election early in 2009, it is time for someone to record Things Can Only Get Worse.
With unemployment soaring towards the 2 million mark by Christmas on today’s figures, reports that New Labour may cut and run before the full impact of the recession in human terms is revealed makes sense – if your only concern is holding on to power that is.
The government knows that the financial and economic crisis is spiralling out of control. They’re just not telling anyone else that this is the case. So call a snap election around the idea that Brown has “saved the world”, as he told the Commons last week, and the electorate is likely to choose the devil they know (our saviour) rather than the one they don’t (Cameron).
Or so the thinking inside No.10 goes. But it’s a race both against time and against the unpredictable. All the measures taken by the government – bailing out bankrupt banks, slashing interest rates and VAT and stoking up government debt – have had no discernible impact on a crisis that is global in scope and capitalist in nature.
The only shot left in the locker is printing more money, known as “quantitative easing”. And this is under serious consideration by the Bank of England, which would achieve this by buying more government bonds than are required and flooding the banks with the proceeds. No wonder analysts call this the ”nuclear option”.
Such a move would be desperate and constitute an indictment of New Labour’s failures. You can see why Lord Mandelson (aka the Prince of Darkness) – who is about to part privatise the Royal Mail, adding to the jobless total – is urging Brown to make a dash to the polls before the Bank of England (which was set free by Brown when chancellor) pulls the rug from underneath the government’s feet.
Experts are warning of a jobs catastrophe in 2009, with unemployment likely to top 3 million according to the Bank of England's labour market analyst, David Blanchflower."Where is the light at the end of the tunnel? I can't see any," he says. If he could actually see a light, it would probably be the train of depression coming the other way, for his estimates could well prove too conservative.
For example, more than 350,000 managers alone could lose their jobs during the next 12 months, according to the Management Consultancies Association (MCA), which also reports that two-thirds of top companies are expecting to lay off workers next year. Today’s official unemployment figures only go up to October and do not include the avalanche of job losses announced recently in banking and commerce.
So as you ponder the “choice” between a capitalist government already in office and one waiting in the wings, here’s some preliminary advice about how to vote it you are invited to a polling station sometime in February 2009 – don’t! Why waste your hard-won right to vote on a bunch of creepy and useless politicians who will take your money and hand it over to the banks, big business or whoever? In fact, to anyone except those who need it most.
An election in these circumstances will be a fraud on the voters and a further insult to the democratic process. Our time would be better spent campaigning for radically different, not to say revolutionary, solutions to a crisis which will otherwise engulf us all.
AWTW communications editor
17 December 2008