Two economists at the conference I attended yesterday in London gave a sombre assessment of the current situation. Depressing as it was, they warned that;
as things are, as soon as you finish a forecast, you need to begin again. This analysis is fresh, but it may already be too optimistic.
One stood before a graph comparing Britain to the other G8 nations and said “Gordon Brown says we are well placed to come through this. Yet quite clearly we are the worst-placed developed economy.”
Through presentation after presentation, it gradually dawned on me that - even though what we must now think of as "the old days" in economic terms are over - Labour has still succeeded in rewriting the political agenda in Britain. It has even changed the vocabulary of ordinary businesspeople who express themselves now (and presumably think) in terms that almost make it impossible for them to be conservative. These were educated, articulate and (until recently) successful people. Yet they still clung to Alistair Campbell's miraculously effective presentation of Gordon Brown as the man to solve the problems he has so very largely caused.
Attendance at the conference was 50% down on last year. Many of those who attended were in fear of losing their jobs and their companies in fear of their future. Yet still there was the obligatory session on promoting “diversity” in the workplace and a consultant assuring us that “the Green agenda” was no “luxury item” to be dispensed with in a downturn. There would be “no escape,” she said, from compliance with tough legislation. Indeed mere compliance was not enough, she argued - a cold gleam in her eyes. I felt rather sorry for her. As things are, no developers can afford to pay her to advise them on how to load their buildings with "green" costs. It can only be a matter of time before she tearfully carries her possessions from her desk to her hybrid car in a recyclable cardboard box.
Throughout the debt-fuelled phony boom, the government has stealthily raised taxes to an extent equivalent to doubling income tax. It has also - even more dangerously - loaded "compliance" costs onto businesses. Costs that, as the rest of the capitalist world strives for efficiencies, will make it harder for our companies to recover. Such is the fervour of Labour's puritanism that no-one doubts it will continue to do so. No-one at the conference even considered hoping that the government might scale down costs or taxes. This, even as business after British business fails - including one established in 1770 that has survived World Wars, recessions and the Great Depression. As President-elect Obama sets out to change America, we have to recognise that Labour has already changed Britain, perhaps irreversibly.
Certainly electing a Conservative government will not reverse it. Except perhaps during the Thatcher years (and David Cameron is no Margaret Thatcher) it never has. For the real change is not happening in the political arena. It is happening in the places of education, where the brightest and best of each British generation have consistently been indoctrinated with leftist ideas since the 1930s and where the Misses Paine are currently experiencing a regime which marks down any essays which stray from the standard left-liberal view. Miss Paine the younger is studying Plato at present, for example. I recommended Volume One ("Plato") of Professor Karl Popper's "The Open Society and his Enemies" (Volume Two is of course titled "Marx"). She immediately told me that her professor had announced that "if anyone quoted Popper with approval on the subject, their essay would get an 'F'. He has been utterly discredited."
The same sort of standardised left-liberal thinking is to be found in the BBC and throughout the rest of the British mainstream media. The academics and the journalists they indoctrinate are the source of the change, not the mayfly politicians whose self-serving careers they facilitate. Thatcher may have dismantled the trade union "closed shop", but she didn't have the slightest impact on the closed shop of thought in Britain's academia and media. That failure is what has set all her efforts at naught.
Some who participated in that change, such as the Times leader-writers, may even have an inkling of what they have done. This morning one of them wrote;
The story of Baby P is one that will haunt Britain for years to come. But for some, its message is already all too clear. That this has become a country where the State’s largesse can be a lifelong livelihood; where parents can have as many children as they like with as many partners as they please without feeling obliged to care for any of them; and where the maximum penalty for a campaign of torture and sadism against a defenceless child is 14 years in prison. This message is pernicious and deadly. It mocks every claim this country has to social progress and the civilised majority must now work unceasingly to prove it wrong.”
In many ways, this is the usual “it must never happen again” blather one expects in such circumstances. It also says that this is only the message "for some" and urges all who consider themselves "civilised" to prove the analysis wrong. But the headline gave the game away, stating;
Those of us who come from the real Britain (as opposed to to the gentrified bits where the ruling elite lives) could have told the author that years ago. Not far from my childhood home - near the stadium of the football club I used to support every Saturday - is an enormous sink estate where children grow up knowing no-one who works for a living. Children whose parents don't work, whose grandparents didn't work and whose peers are all raised in similar circumstances. People who never took jobs, even when - in recent years - the British economy was sucking in millions of immigrants to satisfy employers' needs.
It's not fair to blame the Baby P case on the social workers alone. The politicians who, in corrupt pursuit of bought votes, have engineered a system which provides a free house and benefits to every single girl who gets pregnant and then increases the benefits for each unsupported child to which she gives birth are also to blame. As are the academics who construct theories to justify such corruption and the journalists who gloss it over. The Baby P case is different only because of the savagery of the vile boyfriend who sadistically "trained" the poor child like a dog and then tortured him to death. He's unusual (thank goodness), but the useless, neglectful mother and the absent, unsupportive father are almost the norm in such places.
Not only does the welfare state create perverse incentives to feckless breeding, it also divorces people from the need to care personally for the young, the sick and the elderly. Practical caring for others involves skills that need to be learned and maintained by practice. When every widowed grandparent incapable of looking after him or herself moved in with their family, the children of the house learned both to value them as humans and to help take care of them. They were family, after all. Nothing could be more natural Now they are looked after in state nursing homes, where “carer” is just a job title; usually with as much relation to reality as most modern job titles. An old school-friend works in just such a home and routinely starts her shift by cleaning up residents who have been allowed to sit in their own filth by "carers" who couldn't be bothered because "they will only do it again." Tellingly, she reports that residents are only really cleaned up (other than by her) when relatives are due to visit - for fear that the families will "make trouble." The very families who would, if the welfare state did not exist, be looking after their old folk themselves.
You can’t outsource love and care to a bureaucracy without dehumanising consequences. The Prime Minister’s viciously inept response yesterday to David Cameron’s question about the Baby P case, revealed just how far Labour’s welfare state has deadened natural sensibilities. I doubt King John, still less any past Prime Minister, would have been so out of touch with his humanity as to react as Brown did.
Back at my conference, the economists were standing before another damning graph. This one showed all the sectors of the British economy in recession; output down and jobs lost - except one. The public sector, amazingly, is still recruiting. Richard Littlejohn took up that story in this morning’s Daily Mail.
While millions of us in the competitive sector of the economy stare down the barrel of redundancy, the feather-bedded inhabitants of Brown’s bloated client state are insulated from the realities of his economic mismanagement.
Among them, of course, the odious, emotionally-deadened, leader 0f Haringey's social workers (see picture and note Rosa Klebb-like expression). The arrogance with which she has refused to accept any responsbility for Baby P's death, or to consider that any of her staff might be at fault, says - more than anything above - that Labour has changed Britain for good, or rather - permanently - for ill.