Despite precarious economic state, London dances to the political tune of Washington
Published: Dec 22, 2022 05:45 PM
UK US relations Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

UK US relations Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

People in the UK are having a tough time due to the precarious state of the economy. That precariousness is due to the economy being run by a clique of dogmatic incompetents who think that profit, not people, is the most important thing in life. It's been like that for years.

The British government has been dominated for 12 years by right wing politicians of the Tory party who believe ensuring economic health is one of its primary functions. Get that right, they argue, and there will be prosperity to pay for public services and critical infrastructure. It is ironic, then, that party which sees itself as the guardian of the economy has made such a mess of it.

In a further irony for politicians who see themselves as the natural party for business, a consequence of their fiscal mismanagement has been a darkening business horizon which experts predict will result in more bankruptcies next year than at the height of the last financial crisis in 2009, due to high interest rates, falling consumer demand and the withdrawal of government post-pandemic support all loading unbearable stress on corporations.

Yet the UK has the ninth most billionaires in the world, according to Forbes magazine. The wealthiest 100 people in the UK have as much money as the poorest 18 million people. The government has created a country of enormous inequality.

Why, when the results of their policies are so patently unjust, causing disproportionate and widespread hardship, does the government persist on this path? It seeks to crush working people and reward the rich. It is a form of extremism. The system which allowed this to happen is clearly broken. Their disastrous budget, driven by a dogmatic conviction that they could revive the country's stagnant economy by huge borrowing and tax cuts for the rich, sent bond markets and sterling into a nose dive; interest rates rocketed and as people's mortgages increased, they started to lose their homes. 

Meanwhile, many years of government-inflicted austerity have slashed budgets in areas like health and social care, education, and even policing. In his recent autumn statement, new Chancellor Jeremy Hunt warned of further austerity ahead. A wave of public sector strikes not seen in a generation is underway after nurses, paramedics, rail workers, postal staff and even border patrols were told there is no money for higher wages after a decade of poor pay. The right-wing ideologues refuse to engage and want to crush the working class by defeating their representatives in unions, resulting in a supine and easily-manipulated workforce.

But money can usually be found when it is needed: it's just a matter of having the will to find it and pay it out.

Money was found to support Ukraine in its war with Russia. The UK has given Ukraine £2.3 billion ($2.79 billion) worth of military aid, and has promised to match that amount next year. It is almost as if, despite the economic crisis it has caused, it is pursuing a long-gone imperial past with blank-cheque funding of a proxy war. Also, the Western sanctions to which the UK subscribes have caused global energy prices to spike and driven millions into fuel poverty: this winter many will be forced to choose between heating their homes or eating properly. Increased energy prices are shoving up the cost of everything.

A corollary of this is the UK's energy security pact with the US to double its imports of liquified natural gas from across the Atlantic, at great cost economically and environmentally. The UK is already aping America's strategy of decoupling from China, whether it be denying access to UK companies like Newport Wafer Fab for Chinese investment, or provoking tensions over Taiwan, Hong Kong or Xinjiang. When your economy is critical it is not wise to narrow your options and become overly dependent on a dominant nation like the US. 

Basic economics tells you that more jobs, and increased wages circulate cash in the economy and generate business activity. It's not rocket science. But the UK's cabinet is full of multi-millionaires, and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is the richest occupant of Number 10 Downing Street. This is a government bent on enriching the capitalist class at the expense of working people. It is backing financiers with weaker regulation while seeking to suppress workers' organizations with tougher laws.

Who does this? Someone who cares more for money than people, for deliberately inflicting economic cruelty on a population. If a country has wealth, it has a moral duty to distribute it evenly. Not doing so - or to design a system which actively counters it - is an act of war on an entire class.

The author is a journalist and lecturer living in the UK. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn