Sunday, January 27, 2013

Why Cameron's Conservatives are the most incompetent British government ever

I wrote last year about how Cameron's government is possibly the worst-ever British government in modern history. Since that time, that point of view has been only vindicated even further.

Last spring, around the chancellor's "omnishambles" budget, there were a series of cock-ups that made the government seem completely inept, as well as indifferent towards the detrimental effect their policies were having on the economy and British society in general.

If possible, things are now even worse.

 The government's economic policy has been a complete disaster. The UK is now on the verge of entering a unprecedented triple-dip recession. The UK is currently going through its slowest economic recovery (if it can be called that) than even before the Great Depression. Youth unemployment is at near-crippling levels, many of those including people with degrees. Levels of long-term unemployment are at similarly-worrying levels. The vast majority of the jobs that are on offer are part-time or temporary (if not both). All these signs in the job market tell us that, thanks to Osborne's incompetence, the British economy may be going through a permanent structural change in the employment market, so that large parts of the country become comparable with a deprived East European country.

The government's economic policy is centred on paying off the debt. This would be a laudable aim, if the way there are going about it were not more laughable. Thanks to their economic policy, the debt has increased continually, rather than the opposite. The Conservatives use the reasoning of comparing government finances to that of a household, which may seem easy to explain, but is also completely idiotic. You cannot compare running the government to running a household. This is what economists might call confusing micro-economic policy with macro-economic policy. This mistake is easily explained if you think about where government gets its money from: taxpayers.
The government confuses taxpayers to the same income you would get from a job to pay your household outgoings. The government also confuses paying government debt to the same principle as paying off household debt (e.g. a mortgage). The government thinks that if you pay off government debt as fast as you can, by cutting back on public spending regardless of its detriment to its taxpayers, it will be better for the economy. This is like a household cutting back on things like food and fuel in order to pay off a mortgage more quickly. Rather than getting a better deal on your mortgage (paying it off over a longer time frame), the Conservative household would rather starve now. Furthermore, using the same Conservative principle, imagine the household is unemployed. If you cut back on transport costs, for example, you make it more difficult to get a job. So the measure is self-defeating.
This is what the Conservative government have now discovered, too late for the economy. By cutting serious public investment, and cutting back on public spending, you are reducing the opportunities for taxpayers to make more money; and when you make the economic situation more difficult for your taxpayers, your tax revenue goes down. Thus increasing the debt, not reducing it. When the economy is doing badly, this is the time for government to act; when the economy is doing well, the government can back off. The Obama administration has known this all along, and explains why the US is on the way to a steady recovery. The Conservatives' therefore have shown that they are utterly incapable of understanding how the economy works.
Furthermore, George Osborne still says that the sign of the economy's decline is even further justification for his policy of reducing the debt at all costs. Going back to the mortgage analogy, this is like a household starving to death to pay off the mortgage stating that their starvation is a sign that they're doing well! I'm not sure what Osborne's mindset is these days, but he's either: completely irresponsible in knowing he's wrong but refusing to admit it, or; completely delusional, and in need of mental help. In either case, a rational or competent Prime Minister would dismiss him. But David Cameron is neither rational or competent either.

While Osborne is responsible for the government's disastrous and idiotic economic policy, his long-term friend David Cameron supports him, and meanwhile is largely responsible for the government's foreign policy, in particular Europe. Now that Cameron has officially stated his party's stance towards Europe, he has displayed another example of his amateur ineptness at politics. Cameron has stated that if he wins the next general election, he will give the public a referendum on Britain's membership of the EU, based on the assumption he will get back some powers (which, he doesn't say, or know, yet).
There are a host of reasons why Cameron has shown appalling judgement (here), as well as creating a disaster in the making (here). In short, Cameron has offered a short-term solution to papering over the cracks of his party's disunity, by offering a ticking time-bomb, for both his party and, potentially, the country.
Apart from its reception in the UK, Cameron's European "strategy" of getting a better deal can only work if his threat to leave concerns the EU, and Germany in particular. But thanks to thirty years of government under-investment in the manufacturing sector (as I described here), the EU paying more for the UK's exports  is not a huge worry for them if the UK leaves. Many of them would just shrug their shoulders at the silliness of the British government, and carry on without us. The UK needs the EU more than the EU needs the UK. Cameron doesn't seem to realise this, however.
So Cameron has followed up Osborne with a potentially disastrous and idiotic European policy. For even in the best-case scenario (that he is re-elected, wins sizable EU concessions, and wins the referendum), there will still be a Eurosceptic wing to his party, as now. Cameron doesn't even want the UK to leave the EU, but he is willing to put everything at risk for a relatively small gain.
I wonder if he's ever played poker.

At the same time, Cameron has given further ground to Alex Salmond, effectively Prime Minister of a semi-autonomous Scotland. For Cameron's newly-stated European policy plays into the hands of those who want Scottish independence. The reasoning for Nationalists is this: why put at risk Scotland's position in the EU (and even if not threatened, potentially reduced, as part of a re-negotiated UK deal)? Rather than wait for Euro-sceptic England's potential withdrawal in (for example) 2017 to drag out Scotland as well (joined at the hip, as they are in the UK), much better for Scotland to engage with the EU on its own terms as a separate state, by supporting the independence referendum in 2014.
Thus by 2020, Scotland could be in the EU in its own right, and the "remainder of the UK" out. Again, Cameron shows up his complete lack of strategic thinking.

Then there is the issue of defence, another issue that Cameron has completely screwed up. He recently made a speech that the Algerian hostage crisis highlighted the need for a British defence strategy for North Africa, involving troops and additional ordinance. He suggested this at the same time as supporting his governments ongoing plan to reduce the British army to a level (eighty thousand men) that is lower than was that of the German army's punishment at the terms of the Treaty Of Versailles (who were reduced to a standing army of one hundred thousand men). In other words, it could be argued that, in earlier days, Cameron and his government's treatment of the British army would have been equated to that of a foreign conqueror on a defeated enemy. I wouldn't be surprised if many of the service chiefs have similar views now.
Not only does this attitude of obsessive parsimony to the army show incredible arrogance by the party that is traditionally supposed to best defend the interests of the armed forces. More than that, it is another example of the chronic lack of foresight and future planning. How does the government expect Britain to defend itself, let alone fulfill current and future commitments abroad?
It could be argued that such incompetence towards its defence policy is tantamount to an abrogation of its duty to defend the nation.

This "lack of foresight and planning" is an ongoing theme with Cameron's government - a polite way of saying that they haven't got a clue how to run the country. But this is, in effect, the reality.

Not only is the government completely incompetent in its key roles of the economy, defence, and European relations. It also has a completely incompetent and self-defeating immigration policy.
The UKBA has been found out to be one of the most incompetent government agencies of all. Again, government cutbacks play a part in this, as fresh scandals explain. UKBA staff are overwhelmed with the workload relative to their staffing sizes; as a consequence, airports are filled with queues more redolent of a banana republic, and tens of thousands of visa applications (including passports and supporting documents) have been lost or forgotten about. Months pass without a response for many applicants, and that is just in the UK.
Then there are the government's idiotic immigration rules themselves, that are causing universities to pull their hair out in frustration, as thousands of potential foreign students forego on the chance to get a British education because they are either unable to get a visa, or don't have the patience to wait months for one when they can much more easily go elsewhere. For these people, getting a visa to the UK seems no less difficult than getting a visa to North Korea.
Lastly, there are the government's immigration rules that are less incompetent, as inhumane. British nationals married to spouses from outside the EU or EEA (meaning those married to Americans, Australians and Kiwis as many as any other country) can only live with their spouses (and children) in the UK if they earn nearly £20,000 a year, or have a similar amount in savings (more if they have children). In other words, if you are British, not rich, and are married to someone from the wrong country, you cannot live in the UK. If the government's defence policy is something close to an abrogation of its duty to defend the country, the government's policy towards these unfortunate Britons is something close to a denial of the basic right of residence to its own people.

There are countless other examples of ministerial and governmental incompetence.
One of the most recent ones is the fiasco over the implementation of the "Green Deal", the government's supposed "flagship" environmental policy, that was meant to update the environmental standards of homes across the UK, and keep the related industries with permanent, long-term employment. However, in spite of the government's outward support for these industries, lack of basic government planning has meant there is no work at all for these industries, as very few home-owners know about the "Green Deal", let alone signed up to it. Bone-headed government thinking has therefore left key "green energy" industries out on a limb.

Thus in the space of less than a few years, the Conservative government has reduced the UK to same level of government competence as found in a Third World banana republic.

The title of the article is "why Cameron's Conservatives are the most incompetent British government". I have explained the "how", but not the real why.
The real reason "why" is because those at the top, from the supposed "cream" of society, have little idea about how to run government and the key institutions that run modern-day Britain. This is down to education, as explained in more detail here.

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