Sunday, 9 December 2012

The Soft Paper Wall

Tiger's are stupid. Some of the rarest were hunted to near extinction in India because they fell for an illusion used by hunters; that of the paper wall. When hunters spotted a tiger, they'd surround it before moving in with a large roll of paper they were carrying. Tigers are huge and strong, nothing would stop them from running straight through it to safety except that they didn't know they could.

A lot of boring political commentary last week spoke of the 'ingenious trap' the Chancellor set up for the leader of the official opposition in his Autumn statement. The law says that all social security benefits in the United Kingdom must be uprated each year in line with inflation, to protect the basic safety net. So it requires a change in the law to implement the policy the Chancellor has come up with to lock this to a 1% rise for the next three years and this means an Act of Parliament very soon. The Chancellor believes that the opposition will be forced to vote for it or against it and either choice would be politically damaging, but voting against would be the worst. The Coalition parties have repeatedly tried to paint Labour as 'the party of the shirkers', ignoring that most benefit claimants are in-work and most of those out of work were working before and want to work again.

The Facts don't matter to them because welfare has been the government's most popular policy area, yet it is simultaneously the one on which they have shown the most incompetence.

More than anything, incompetence will finish this government.

Sometimes European hunters in India got too confident. Sometimes they fell for the illusion too- they actually thought the paper sheet being carried by local boys would always keep the tiger contained, even if the tiger launched itself at the wall. Imagine their surprise when it came straight for them, through the paper as the Sun cast their shadows onto the back of the paper and seeing a target, the tiger struck out. In their last moments, tigers are at their most dangerous- when cornered. Hunters taking their time and enjoying the show rather than just getting it over quickly would be the worst risk. The incompetent hunter.

The Chancellor is an incompetent hunter and trapper, with a very undeserved reputation for cunning and political instinct. The mainstream media is very forgetful of his 2007 clunker where he sought to implicate Peter Mandelson in a corruption scandal by 'asking questions' about why he was on the yacht of a Russian billionaire accepting hospitality. Mandelson is a notorious schemer and George Osbourne thought he had him, that he'd out-witted him. Mandelson didn't hardly need to be Machiavelli to then point out that Osbourne knew because he was there, on the billionaire's yacht. Yet as EU Trade Commissioner at the time, Mandelson had a legitimate reason to be there whether it was true or not, Osbourne didn't. Make up your own mind about why the Establishment and our institutions of state did not investigate Osbourne, as he thought they would have Mandelson.

He doesn't know that the trap he's set for Edward Miliband is a soft paper wall. He's one of those over-confident hunters that is too convinced of his own cleverness. He doesn't remember or he never knew at all about Miliband's finest hour. I wrote a harshly critical essay of Miliband last year describing it: he used all his five questions at PMQs to ask the same one because the Prime Minister did not understand the specifics of his own government's policies. Miliband's success was so absolute that the government-supporting media were forced to ignore what was an extraordinary exchange. He managed it because someone had done their research and briefed him very well on the Facts about the issue. Evidence and Reason carry no risk; the government benches were a mix of confusion and arrogance- they thought they'd won, they'd thought it was Miliband who looked ridiculous and were going to make huge political capital over his 'buffoonery' in wasting all five of his questions.

Then they would have met with the parliamentary party researchers who then told them what Miliband was actually getting it and how idiotic Cameron was made to look to anyone that understood the issue. Rather than making capital out of it, they then had to pretend it never happened and the media acquiesced. But now they are going 'all-in' and have made a lot of noise about the upcoming votes, where Miliband will almost certainly tell his party to vote against. The media can not ignore the outcome as they did last time because the government are involving them so deeply, cocksure of the case based on popularity.

All Miliband has to do is see this paper wall for what it is and do as he did last time.

1. Most of those affected are not even out of work.

2. The disabled are not protected. The WRAG are not 'fit for work', they are sick and disabled.

3. Of those who are out of work- most have worked before, want to work again and the data says that even in a recession they will. 

4. The IMF has had to adjust their fiscal multipliers for austerity, why hasn't the government or even the supposedly 'independent' Office of Budget Responsibility? This could be a measure that costs more than it saves because it sucks demand out of the economy. 

5. There is a repeated logical inconsistency in the government's arguments. Either you believe benefits are a basic safety net or you don't. If they are a subsistence-only net, then it is always immoral to cut them. If they are above subsistence, then you'd believe in cutting them anyway on moral grounds, but this precludes the financial 'need for austerity' argument. Yet the government makes contradictory moral and fiscal arguments depending on which they are being attacked on. Attack their morals, they'll try pragmatic 'fiscal reality'- attack their figures, they'll make empty moralisations.

6. If there was a Moral or Reasonable case for their welfare policies, they wouldn't need to lie and distort constantly.

Miliband has nothing to fear from the paper wall. He just needs to realise it.

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