A Friend on Facebook posted the other day that Jools Holland striding towards his Piano was the most depressing thing about television. I responded with a post intimating that there were lots of things depressing about British television (quoting the BBC’s love of Jane Austin). After a bit of thought, last night it occurred that currently the most depressing thing on British television is BBC Scotland’s own Paxman-lite Gordon Brewer introducing yet another discussion on Independence on Newsnicht. Nothing against Independence, but there won’t be very much of Scotland left after nearly 5 years of Gorge Osborne’s scorched earth policy.
While the Scottish media have been obsessing over Independence, the economic indicators just get worse and worse. GDP has been bumping along at around the 0% mark since the election, with the last set of figures showing the economy growing by the huge amount of 0.5%. The rate of inflation is currently at 4.5%, with the Retail Price Index at 5.2%. The squeeze on peoples finances is well and truly on, and this is before the next set of cuts hit home.
One wonders then what planet the IMF are living on. No really what planet are they living on. Their… um… spokesperson John Lipsky gave Osborne the thumbs up by saying that "The current slowdown in our view is temporary and the current policy mix is appropriate." Osborne is of couse dining out on this little pat on the back, his response being "I welcome the IMF's continued strong support for our overall macroeconomic policy mix, including our deficit reduction strategy. The IMF have publicly asked themselves the question 'whether it is time to adjust macroeconomic policies' - in other words, is it time to change course? And they have concluded definitively that 'the answer is no'."
The problem with this endorsement is that the IMF’s reputation is not entirely as bullet-proof as people would make out. They failed to spot the credit crunch, and endorsed the Brown government’s stance. They failed to spot Greece’s difficulties before they happened, and have been key drivers in pushing for bale outs in Ireland, Greece & Portugal. None of the bale outs have worked, as reboots to their respective economies. Also the IMF are not really a neutral arbiter of people’s economies. They see things through a monetarists eyes, hence the countless caviats and conditions to any loans, mostly involving privatisation. These conditions have to be applied to the IMF’s appraisal of the UK’s tanking economy.
Not that the IMF’s approval will have touched people’s lives the way that Scottish Power’s intention to put up Electricity & gas prices has done. Scottish Power’s price rise is immoral and unjustifiable for a company that is posting profits in the region of £1.2 billion. Even more immoral when you consider that wholesale gas prices fell below break even price around September 2008, as this graph demonstrates…
While the media have been obsessing about Independence and the proposed roadmap, while the Macblogosphere has been indulging in collective navel-gazing, the world has moved on. People are seriously struggling. The economy is failing. This may seem like heresy to some people but compared to the struggle to survive in tough economic conditions, and the real need to promote a viable alternative to torching public services, Independence is not a hot issue. By next spring, there’ll be blood on the hands of the IMF, Scottish Power (and any other power company that raises its prices), and Osborne.