A coalition mistaking failure and harm for success

By Bernadette Meaden
October 20, 2014

In a brilliant piece in the Guardian, Ha-Joon Chang comprehensively demolishes the economic ‘recovery’ claimed by the coalition government, dismissing as an ‘economic fairytale’ its claims of success.

Ha-Joon Chang concentrates on economics, forensically taking apart the illusory recovery, and points out that the almost universal acceptance of this narrative by mainstream media and the political class "has allowed the coalition to pursue a destructive and unfair economic strategy, which has generated only a bogus recovery largely based on government-fuelled asset bubbles in real estate and finance, with stagnant productivity, falling wages, millions of people in precarious jobs, and savage welfare cuts."

A similar litany of damage dressed up as reforming success could be compiled regarding public services. In one area after another, cuts have reduced services to a shadow of their former selves, with the mainstream media not seeing scandals where they abound, and opposition politicians often showing a strange lethargy and lack of righteous anger.

In the NHS, a massive top-down re-organisation has diverted resources, talents and energies away from patient care and into fostering competition and marketisation. With what should be one of the most damning political admissions ever, senior Conservative officials are reported to have said that the NHS reforms were a "huge strategic error" which David Cameron didn't even understand. If true, this means the Prime Minister, having promised ‘no top-down reorganisation of the NHS’, then set about a massive reorganisation which he did not even understand.

In education, a drive to create free schools and academies has fragmented the system, taking resources away from perfectly good schools, and far from raising standards, has created unaccountable schools which perform worse than those left under Local Authority control.

In the prison service, cuts and staff shortages have produced what the prison service ombudsman has described as a “rising tide of despair” with an average of more than six prisoners a month now taking their own lives.

As for the impact of welfare reform: when campaigners link this to deaths, they are accused of being extremists, but there are a growing number of cases where a Coroner has made the link between a death and the impact of welfare ‘reform’. A simple Google search will reveal many such stories. Stories like that of David Clapson, who when he died of diabetic ketoacidosis three weeks after his benefits were sanctioned, had no food in his stomach, no money for the electricity meter and could not keep a fridge running to keep his insulin chilled. Many similar stories don’t make it into the national press, only being reported in their local newspapers.

Whilst producing an economic recovery that is almost entirely illusory, the Coalition has managed to severely damage the public services which are most vital to maintaining a decent society. It is a miserable record of failure and harm.


© Bernadette Meaden has written about political, religious and social issues for some years, and is strongly influenced by Christian Socialism, liberation theology and the Catholic Worker movement. She is an Ekklesia associate and regular contributor. You can follow her on Twitter: @BernaMeaden

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