Saturday 28 May 2022

Is Rishi Dishy Again?

Of late, the chancellor has had a brusing time. How to get back on top of the ratings? We don't know the findings of his half-a-million pound focus groups aimed at improving his image, but perhaps doing something to address the cost of living scored more highly among their priorities than photos in his casual clothing. I'm not saying Rishi Sunak announced his package of measures to ease energy price rises to put him back into contention for the Prime Minister's job, but like unveiling it the day after Sue Gray's report the timing was politically fortuitous.

No one's going to turn their nose up at seeing their bills depressed by at least £400, but let's not play kiddum here. With the energy price cap galloping upwards from £1,971 now (itself a rise of £700 on the previous figure) to £2,800 in October, when those bills come in all households are going to be out of pocket. Sunak's "largesse" won't stop some from going to the wall, even though the poorest household qualify for more support with "grants" worth £650. Welcome upratings to pensions and other social security support are due next year as well, but they have problems too.

So when is a grant not a grant? What Sunak and the Treaury team are desperate to claim Labour, with its own windfall tax policy, had nothing to do with bouncing them into this position. But some serious thought has gone into ensuring this "giveaway" is entirely consistent with the Tory politics of offering nothing. That is the consistent strategy they have employed since Boris Johnson was elected to say a great deal, but ensuring any popular concession is begrudging and cannot be a handle for either empowering those below or encouraging them to ask for more. Sunak's ill-fated energy bill loan was very much of this character, yet even he was alive to the difficulties of it adding payback to living costs in the long run - just in time for the general election. The loan element has gone, but the method is the same. Deducting the "windfall" at source removes any agency on the part of the populace, and while it will provide relief for some the fact it's going to get smothered bill increases anyway just reinforces the sense that nothing can be done: that politics and political decisions are things done to us, not something we can articulate and prosecute ourselves. Sunak gets the headlines but the fundamentals of Johnsonian statecraft remain unperturbed. And what do you know, for their pains and as a big thankyou the Chancellor has given the oil companies a very generous tax break - a 91p saving - for every pound invested in the UK. Jolly decent of him.

The problem Sunak has is reverberations among the Tory ranks. There are reports of bank bench muttering about "socialism", others doubting the Chancellor's small state credentials, and the concern the Tories have too readily given in to Labour pressure. There are worries it could stoke inflation, because it's always caused by people having too much money and never price setting by the bosses. And where there's high inflation, the pressure piles on the Bank of England to raise interest rates, which then damages mortgage holders and all of a sudden the Tory strategy of basing everything on property owners starts looking shaky. Unlike Johnson's levelling up scheme, which is accepted by most Tory MPs because it's amounting to nothing, Sunak has actually done something and they don't like it. Whether this will add to the restive mood among some of the backbenchers remains to be seen, but it can't do his leadership ambitions any good when the time comes.

Sunak's reputation with his honourable members isn't great then, but has his announcements repaired his image with the wider public? There are two difficulties here. First, after his ridiculous "computer says no" argument that he can't uprate social security immediately has unnecessarily created the perception of meanness at the moment of danger for millions of people dependent on these payments. This contrasts with the timeliness of the job retention scheme and other support packages as Covid took off. When they do come through next year, few will turn around and thank the chancellor for his generosity. Second, precisely because of his preferred method of deducting the money from the bill, because they're rising anyway the windfall tax will get missed. When the bills are hiked again in October, the increase will obviously be noticed - not the intervention aimed at depressing the charges. Let Sunak enjoy the warm bath of the Tory editorials for now, the electorate will pour a cold shower in due course.


Old Trot said...

Assuming that by next year the united , cynical, war-mongering by the Tories AND Starmer's Labour Party, and of course the Lib Dems too, hasn't lead , 1914-like, to a thermonuclear 'accidental' over-escalation in the Ukraine crisis, an accelerating 'stagflation' , particularly in the basics which ordinary people require to live, seems certain to be still in full swing. Such basic living standard disaster - not forgetting the impact of rising mortgage costs for homeowners who have mistaken the historically unique low mortgage costs of the last decade or so as 'normal' - and will now face the harsh reality, could well produce such a local and by-election electoral crisis for the Tory government, and Party internally, that either in 2023 or 2024, the Tories could be chucked out in a crisis General Election. And because of our FPTP electoral system, the replacement can only be some sort of lash-up Lab/Lib Dem (possibly plus the SNP) coalition. And such a lash up government's solution to the economic crisis which will still be in full swing ? More of the same - ie, more Austerity, more privatisation, more cuts to basic services and the NHS ! Waiting in the historical wings , for this predictable utter failure of any Right wing Labour/Lib Dem, substitute for the Tories, as per the useless Biden presidency in the US, is the pseudo radical divisive politics of Far Right populism. The neo fascists aint on the march in the UK yet - but the utter defeat of all that is represented by the 'Corbyn Insurgency' of 2015 to 2018 will have left an increasingly desperate electorate with no believable alternative route but that of falling for the poisonous fake radicalism of the Far Right. We should be very afraid of what lies ahead, not childishly gleeful that a corrupt, status-quo supporting Right wing Labour Party my well benefit short term from the eventual collapse of the utterly corrupt Tory Party and government.

Phil said...

let's not play kiddum


Desperate Daniel said...

I hate all that 'Dishy Rishi' Daily Mail bollocks. He's a public school boy wanker, like Johnson. He was already a rich boy before he married into quantum wealth. He, like Johnston, will have long-departed petty bourgeois politics - moving on to more lucrative ventures - well before British society tumbles into the frightening alt. Right future that Old Trot, above, predicts.

Blissex said...

«More of the same - ie, more Austerity, more privatisation, more cuts to basic services and the NHS !»

Those affect negatively "loser" voters that no major party cares to represent. They can riot, but riots can be put down. The demagogues of the far right can start to represent them, but as in almost every previous instance those demagogues eventually betray their base in favour of their "big capital" sponsors.

«the impact of rising mortgage costs for homeowners»

That is a big deal instead, but so far property prices are booming faster than inflation, and a large percentage of properties are fully paid. Higher mortgage costs will however reduce demand pressure, but the government can deal with that in many, if expensive, ways. All major parties are fully agreed that the interests of rentiers are of paramount important, so some solution will be found, until the trade deficit situation becomes unsustainable. That's some time away though.

Old Trot said...

Blissex, you are a stuck in the groove old-style vinyl record , man. undoubtedly property prices , and the unearned gains thereof to the property-owning middle classes is an important element in the tapestry of issues that determine voting patterns - But your tiresome monomaniac focus only on property prices is deeply flawed , when trying to understand the dire social, and political, crisis that lies ahead for us in the UK (and Europe, and the US, and across the Middle East too).

We are in a very different ballgame when basic stable foods in the UK , like pasta, can inflate in price over a MONTH by 50%. It is sadly true that the vast numbers of people here being worst crushed by the escalating cost of living crisis, the surging escalating rental crisis, the falling real wages crisis, are mainly the poorest, and least actively participant in our PFTP 'managed facade bourgeoise democratic theatre' , but you therefore , with patrician disdain, simply write off their alternative, of 'riots' as 'easily put-downable'. It must be increasingly clear, to even the still participating voter that the utter crushing of Corbyn and 'Corbynism' (ie, mild reforming social democracy) , has reverted NuLabour to a authoritarian status-quo supporting , deeply corrupt, party , with nothing to offer the mass of even still active voters - who actually do also worry about the collapsing NHS , collapsing school system, rocketing living costs, nil returns on their savings, and pathetic future private pension expectations - regardless as to whether their house prices are still rising, or are stable - so far.

As I have said before, the blatant collapse of a supposedly real choice-based political system into an across the major parties rigid defence of an indefensible status quo - leaves the mass of voters with few 'normal times' options. The future political direction can only match the development across Europe and the US , ie, the emergence of pseudo 'radical' scapegoating hyper nationalistic, alt Far Right populist parties, which will in due time scoop up huge masses of the politically and economically dispossessed. Your obsession with a monocausal aspect of voting behaviour, ie, property prices - needs a re-think Blissex - never mind the tedium of your remarkably identical posts to each of Phil's articles.