The coalition government of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats is in the process of unveiling its budget cuts in order to address the national debt level resulting from the bailout of failing banks during the financial crisis. In practice, this means significant cuts in public sector spending of 25 per cent in each department affecting amongst others child benefit payments, school refurbishment programmes, services for people with disabilities, etc. Everybody should do his/her bit in order to get debt levels under control, it is argued. What sounds rather reasonable at first sight, however, masks three important facts.
First, it is forgotten who was responsible for the crisis. It was banks and financial institutions, which in their search for ever higher profits fuelled the economic bubble, which then so spectacularly burst in the autumn of 2007. As it was the fault of banks, it should also be banks which have to pay for it. Second, while cuts in public expenditure may be necessary, it is still a political decision how fast these cuts are implemented. If public sector cuts are too drastic, this could actually worsen the economic recession, as it is likely to result in a large reduction in public spending power. Third, it is still a political decision, which expenditures to cut. Rather than cutting back vital public services such as school refurbishment programmes, a disengagement from the war in Afghanistan may be the more effective way forward. As Lindsey German from Stop the War Coalition argued
‘The cost of the war in Afghanistan is £3.2 million a day. The cost of replacing Trident, the nuclear submarine system, will be a total of £75 billion pounds. Now, how dare they say they have to close schools and hospitals, when they are spending this kind of money …’
British trade unions are closely involved in the organisation of resistance against these cuts. When the annual conference of the Conservative party in Birmingham was opened on Sunday, 3 October 2010, trade unions organised a large demonstration. Several thousands of protesters made clear that they would not accept these cuts without a fight. The following video clip provides some footage of the demonstration including also the words by Lindsey German, quoted above.
Trade Union demonstration in Birmingham on 3 October 2010.
Prof. Andreas Bieler
Professor of Political Economy
University of Nottingham/UK
Personal website: http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/~ldzab
8 October 2010