The Cuts and Campaign Strategies
As you might imagine, the cuts aren’t just occupying a lot of my campaigning time, they’re also occupying some huge number of hours of discussions in pubs, cafes and at meetings. I really don’t think a good enough strategy has emerged for dealing with the cuts, and I feel that a lot of groups are far too hesitant to bring out a full scale debate in the public arena, despite a clear need to break the ideological consensus behind the program of cuts that is being unleashed.
Listening to the debate in the media, one might assume that ‘those in power’ were completely agreed on the need for huge and irreversible cuts to public spending. Listening to many campaigners, one continue in this thinking. Now, one shouldn’t deny reality, but what one learns in Economics is that there are usually two ways of looking at a set of figures.
I say this because my first strategy, my first target, is to break the consensus around the need for cuts in the first place. The reason for that this is a vital starting point stems in part from the fact that we are dealing with ideology, in part because otherwise we will be drawn into consultation about “which cuts and where”, and in part because we can win this argument.
We can highlight key facts, such as Britain’s current debt as a proportion of GDP, as compared to previous years and generations. Never has the public debt when assessed according to our ability to pay it off been as low as it was last decade. This country now earns so much money (Gross Domestic Product) that, even though the raw figure of public debt is so high, it is only 50% of GDP. Its like having an income of £20,000 a year and a mortgage of £10,000. When the NHS was started, our national debt was three times greater than GDP (mortgage of £60k assuming above example). The huge figures are huge because all the other figures are huge. A lot of the fear around the budget is being created by using raw numbers to blind people with fear.
Britain still has an AAA credit rating, and the IMF recently warned that by slashing public spending, we could bring on a second dip in the recession. Now, the IMF for those who don’t remember are considered to be ‘not nice people’ by activists in every single country of the planet. When the IMF is agreeing with you, either you’ve doing something wrong, or a line has been crossed.
Another possible strategy would be to target the very people who are driving this public and expose them for who they really are – something I wrote about yesterday. Of course, this could backfire if indeed money is on its way to pay for a mobilisation of the public like the tea party in the USA, as someone suggested yesterday. That said, I suspect any such movement would infuriate a few Tories.
Again, exploiting the bizarre image of agreeing with the IMF and the police. No, I’m not going to feel happy about sharing a platform with a police officer, but the fact is, local police forces are going to face serious cutbacks. The last time such policies were on the table, during the reign of Thatcher, her priority was to strengthen the police to target the working class in their resistance – which they did so tremendously well at Orgreave just after I was born. I shall expand how the rise in private security firms may play in this elsewhere, but for now, suffice to say that frontline police, especially of the sort who believe in ‘making communities safer’ rather than defending private property as an aim in and of itself, could become very important allies.
Add this to a front-lining of discussion about equality and a challenge to any attempt to undermine such work as the Spirit Level Report, backed up by a real commitment to research. I’m thinking of organising some kind of research afternoon at my house, where everyone who can supplies a laptop and I supply flipcharts, tea and cake. Maybe there could be some kind of social media input.
Finally, I’d say a big part of the strategy should be a position around Unions that sees them as both a necessary part of the campaign and refuses to idolise them. By idolise, I mean put them on a pedestal whereby they have sole agency (ability to create change) and where one ends up either stalling a campaign because the union has yet to play catch up, or creating a situation where the union are the sole voice of a workforce that may be considerably more radicalised by the situation.
I offer these as suggestions with which others are welcome to disagree, but also as proposals from which action can be taken. I guess the main strategy I’d suggest is to actually do something.