Unless the political class is made to face its responsibilities to the vulnerable, the eventual revenge could be socially devastating. Whiteminster needs a good kicking now to avoid destabilising violence later. The citizens’ fight for justice is also a fight for a better future.
If nothing else, this trip to Blighty has given me a sense of perspective about the political class. Not “politics”, because that’s a different thing based on the illusion that any of the MPs and ministers involved can be deemed qualitatively better or worse based on the red, blue, orange, green or purple thing. They can’t. It’s a purely quantitative thing, in that some MPs are slightly less bubonic than most, and about seven of the buggers can be trusted not to lie, fiddle and embezzle.
What I’m essentially talking about here is good governance – that’s to say, smart Benthamite investment of public monies, as opposed to a pointless combo of effluent waste and foul bribery.
Consider some of the gigantic white-elephant-in-the-room cockups of the last half century:
- The Blue Streak rocket (Tory)
- M1 repairs (Tory)
- The Humber Bridge (Labour)
- In place of Strife (Castle)
- New NHS management tier (Heath)
- North Sea Oil (both Parties)
- M25 (both Parties)
- Privatisation (Thatcher)
- Council House sales (Thatcher)
- The Poll Tax (Thatcher)
- Connecting for Health (Blair)
- The Iraq War (Blair)
- The PFI (Brown)
- EU charges (Blair)
- NHS wasted investment (2003/Brown)
- NHS internal market
- Bank bailouts (Darling)
- Olympic Games G4S (Johnson)
- HS2 (Cameron)
- Trident update (Tory)
- Middle East bombing (Cameron)
- Hinckley Point (Tory)
- National Debt explosion (Osborne)
- Immigration & Housing (May)
While the blame above is laid upon Parties, it is impossible now to divorce Whitehall from those politics….one of the reasons I tend to refer to the political class as Whiteminster. In most of the above cases, senior civil servants were underinformed, hopeless at assessing ROI, run ragged by the private sector, over-complex in their structural models, and pathetic at budgetary control. But one of the rarest events of the last 50 years has been an MP or a Sir Humphrey being made to pay for incompetence, overmanning or waste.
It is partly down to the (at today’s prices) trillions wasted on ego-schemes, technology, admin models, poor infrastructure planning and economic ideology that the Government now finds itself embroiled in the Waspi pension-delay scandal. But the cost of (and favouritism shown to) Whitehall dwarfs any costs associated with the Palace of Westminster.
Estimates by the Taxpayers’ Alliance (based on the Governnment’s own figures) put the annual waste in 2014 at £120 billion. But consider:
£53 billion of it is the cost of funding pay and pensions for Whitehall and public sector workers
The cost per worker averages roughly 7.5 times more than that required to fund Waspi female State pensions.
The two other biggies are £25 billion (poor procurement and negotiation) and £20 billion (public sector fraud, including private sector overcharging and crooked bidding for government business).
In 2005, the National Debt stood at £500 billion. The 2008 financial crisis bailouts took that to £1.2 trillion. Without any crises to worry about, George Osborne managed to get that up to £1.6 trillion….and the rate of increase is accelerating: by the first quarter of next year, the Debt will be £2 trillion.
The national debt will have quadrupled in just 12 years. Even with no rate rises, it will cost the country £52 billion a year just to service the interest payments.
This isn’t the result of “external forces”, “unexpected economic headwinds” or “Brexit” as the Government and its Remoaners would have you believe. It is, in this order of cost, overspending every single year, paying for Whiteminster pensions, bailing out rich bankers, corporate and offshore tax evasion, and a continual trade deficit with the European Union. Longer term and more generally, it is the reduction of our manufacturing base over half a century from 18% of gdp to 7.9% today, and poor marketing/product quality in relation to the goods we export.
All of this – from bad PFIs and poor negotiation in the NHS to military waste, poor tax collection and wasteful projects – is down to the political class and its alleged “agents” in the Civil Service (about 82%) and blatant corporate tax evasion (18%).
Now take that 100%, and stare at this reality: the same amount is purely to do with the pension featherbedding of the élites in Whiteminster. Or put another way,
Every year, £105 billion goes to paying for the mistakes and pensions of just 1 in 8 Britons.
Welfare fraud per head of the population is a minute fraction of that number. Britain is not in a mess primarily because of welfare costs today: it’s in the doo-doo because of élite corruption, incompetence, Zil Lane pension arrangements, and – some way behind – corporate tax evasion/avoidance.
This is why – right from the start of my involvement in the Waspi campaign – I have said that the attitude of those supposed to be spearheading it has been far too beholden, craven and genteel. The Waspi leadership and many of its self-styled advisers have – like the media – been utterly duped by risible government claims about balancing books – and puerile neocon moral hair-splitting about contracts, entitlements and so forth.
Osborne’s fantasy austerity maths are and always were doomed to be dwarfed by the key structural factors of debt servicing, waste, the decline in exported goods and overpopulation.
Even DWP penury turned out to be a lie hiding a whopping £23 billion surplus and obscene service charges from private sector suppliers.
Commitments to provide a State pension at 60 for women were made in the 1950s, and have now been broken. As all the women involved have paid vast sums into the NI system over that time, technically the delayed payment of pensions represents embezzlement. This is a Civil Rights abuse, in the defence of which the government stands paraplegic. To have failed completely in the attempt to get any movement in their position at all is a damning condemnation of the Waspi leadership….all of whom have expended sums to that end for zero return.
I fully appreciate the desire of some to aim for “an achievable ask”, but the Government is so completely in the wrong here – not least in its mendacious communications incompetence – in my view and and all compromise aspirations are misplaced: the Waspis have been mugged by feckless spendthrifts, and they deserve complete restitution plus damages.
Those of us with no axe to grind beyond a desire for justice are, however, now reaching the end of an already fragile tether. Cheated female OAPs need to run up the skull and crossbones before sympathisers run out of energy.