Austerity Is Not 'Over', in Case You Missed That Tory Lie Yesterday

Chancellor Sajid Javid proclaimed that austerity is coming to an end, before clarifying that austerity is very much not coming to an end.
Simon Childs
London, GB
austerity protest
Photo: Dinendra Haria / Alamy Stock Photo

Why can't we just get on with it? is the message Boris Johnson wants you to hear. He repeatedly accused Jeremy Corbyn of "dither and delay" during PMQs on Wednesday, so often, in fact, that it became clear it was obviously a press-ready line his tacticians had dreamt up.

The Prime Minister is trying to set up the coming election as Brexit Boris vs. undemocratic anti-Brexit politicians. Johnson is supposed to look decisive, a man getting Brexit done, in contrast to Jeremy Corbyn, who is holding things up with his treacherous lack of jingoistic belief that Britain will come out on top, no matter what – a position The Sun parroted today with their ridiculous front page.


Not only is getting on with it a clarion call to hardcore Brexiteers who want to ride off on a unicorn, but also to the very many people who are extremely sick of all this shit; the temporary pain of a no deal Brexit could be a small price to pay to no longer have to watch Emily Maitlis trying to make sense of another rip-roaring day of Westminster shenanigans.

People could be tempted to vote to rip the plaster off rather than let this slow-burning torture go on for much longer. Even if this particular plaster is attached with super-strength adhesive to the exposed brain of a country whose head has been cracked on the pavement of post-imperial malaise. Never mind that it could mean food shortages, medicine shortages, lorry pile-ups into Dover and lives ruined. Who could blame anyone for wanting all of this to end?

But the idea that any of this could be over anytime soon is perhaps the biggest lie going. This is maybe best explained through another Tory lie that was repeated on Wednesday.

Amid the chaos, Chancellor Sajid Javid gave a spending review – a financial statement designed as electoral catnip, with an open chequebook. He proclaimed that "austerity is over". This is "Britain's hard work paying off", he said. If these lines sound familiar, it may be because they're almost identical to the nonsense of Theresa May's last Conservative Party conference speech as Prime Minister, in a ploy to distract from her terrible handling of Brexit.


"I can announce today that no department will be cut next year. Every single government department has had its budget for day-to-day spending increased at least in line with inflation. That's what I mean by the end of austerity," said Javid.

So, after a decade of austerity – of transferring public wealth to private hands via the degradation of public services – the end of austerity means that a gutted welfare state will be allowed to limp on at least for as long as the Tories feel unable to weather any bad headlines about further cuts.

As Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell put it, "The Tories have checked what are the top three or four issues in the polls, and cynically judged just how little money they have to throw around to try and neutralise the concerns people have about those issues."

Austerity was not an inevitable, if painful, operation that the UK had to go through to get back on its feet. It was an ideological attack, the effects of which we are still reeling from. Brexit can be understood in similar terms: not a simple procedure to return us to normality, but a project to change the country for the worse. You cannot get it over with and get back to normal any more than you can after being shot in the head.

In his statement Javid hinted at what is to come, talking about seizing the "opportunities" that leaving the EU will bring to "reshape the British economy", "design smarter, more flexible regulation" and "cut red tape that stifles innovation". So austerity will be replaced with another set of attacks of living standards and workers’ rights in favour of big business in the form of a Tory Brexit.