Tag Archives: George Osborne

What’s So Anti-Scottish about Free Education?

A clear sign of Scottish Labour’s gradual drift towards Tory type thinking was posted yesterday in Johann Lamont’s speech to mark her first anniversary as leader of the party:


Her general point is the obvious one, which Cameron and Osborne have never tired of ramming home, that the policy of free universal services is unsustainable in the current economic climate.

Perhaps that is the case, but they always omit to say that the current economic climate includes horrendous sums of money wasted every year on unnecessary and illegal wars, and the vast amounts of revenue lost by turning a blind-eye to multinational organisations choosing not to pay their share in corporation tax. Not to mention the unforgivable betrayal of Scotland’s future that occurred when the decision was taken not to set up an Oil Fund.

Lamont develops her point by arguing that persisting with the unaffordable policy of free higher education has been made possible at the expense of significant cuts to the further education sector, which has in turn created huge inequalities between Colleges and Universities.

So whereas Lamont claims that the policy of free higher education in Scotland is being paid for by the college sector, others might feel justified in countering that claim with the reminder that there would have been no need to reduce spending on education at all, had successive Conservative and Labour governments in Westminster not chosen to squander substantial sums of money elsewhere.

The most troubling part of her position is the manner in which her argument progresses from the economic sustainability concern to an attack on the fairness of free education, when graduates are said to expect higher earnings over their lifetime compared to non-graduates. Free education is either fair or it isn’t, regardless how much money self-helping politicians have thrown to the wind.

And perhaps the most baffling part of her position is the contention that the Scottish Government’s policy of free education is anti-Scottish. It is difficult to understand exactly what this is supposed to mean. How can it be anti-Scottish to promote a principle that has been distinctively Scottish for generations?

In his St Andrew’s Day message, Alex Salmond commented:

“Scotland is proud of its history of invention and discovery. We actually invented quite a bit of the modern world, from the telephone, to television to penicillin to beta blockers. However, perhaps – actually certainly – our greatest invention of all, the one that made all of the others possible, was the invention of universal free education.”

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George and Dave Meet Bob, Singing To Himself, on Desolation Row

George: “Ah, Bob! We were down here looking for you last week, but couldn’t find you.”

Bob: “What Was It You Wanted?”

George: “Can I confide in you?”

Bob: “Tell Me.”

George: “I…we are really struggling with this economy thing. What’s the solution?”

Bob: “God Knows”

Dave: “The thing is, Bob, we can’t seem to find a way out of this bloody mess. And it’s all Labour’s fault. Smug bastards. Not the Tories. It wasn’t us. We didn’t spend all the artificially created money. We inherited this mess. So what do we do?”

[Dave looks desperately at George and then both look desperately at Bob]

Bob: “There must be some way out of here, said the joker to thief.”

George: “Excellent. But which one of us is the joker and which is the thief. What are you thinking?”

Bob: “Wasn’t thinking of anything specific, like in a dream, when someone wakes up and screams.”

Dave: “You are confusing us now Bob. Keep it simple. We just want to know, is it really, really, really bad; is the economy completely f**ked?”

Bob: “Do I understand your question, man, is it hopeless and forlorn?”

George: “Yes! For goodness sake Bob, that’s exactly the question. We just want to know, have we reached our darkest hour yet?”

Bob: “Well, it’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there.”

George: “Ok, then, so I need to know Bob, what is the biggest problem with our economy? I can’t seem to work it out.”

Bob: “Everything Is Broken.”

Dave: “Spiffing…but that’s always been the case. That’s how this good old country works. And my chum George’s job is to make people think we’ve jolly well fixed it. He’s like the ‘Jokerman’…do you see what I did there?”

[Bob just stares into the vacuum of his eyes]

George: “Ok, anyway, I will lose my prestigious position and my nice little political perks if I can’t make it look like I’ve fixed this, quick smart. Dave will shuffle me around to a stupid little position, with very little power, just to keep the snipers happy. Can you help me with that?”

Bob: “Deep in my heart I know there is no help that I can bring.”

George: “Of course you can, Bob. You must have the answer.”

Bob: “The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.”

George: “And then there is also the problem of Vince Cable. He wants my job. How do I deal with him and make it look like I’m fixing the economy at the same time. What would you do?”

Bob: “I’d have paid off the traitor and killed him much later, but that’s just the way that I am.”

George: “I can’t do that, Bob. Dave and I are trying to build a big society to fool people into feeling good about the country and not notice what is really happening. They haven’t noticed yet, have they? People feel good, don’t they? We’ve had Royal Weddings, Jubilee celebrations, Wimbledon, and now we’re giving them the Olympics.”

Bob: “There’s a whole lot of people suffering tonight, from the disease of conceit.”

George: “Yeah, well, that’s Labour’s fault. And they have got the audacity to tell me to slow down my austerity measures. But I won’t. I am too proud to admit I’ve got it wrong. Why should I go back on that? I believe the plan is working. And so does Dave.”

Bob: “Well, there ain’t no going back when your foot of pride come down.”

George: “Yes, that’s it, Bob! No going back. You are a genius. I will keep pressing on with austerity. It is a credible plan and it will eventually work. I really believe that.

Bob: “If you really believe that, you know you’ve got nothing to win and nothing to lose.”

George: “Exactly, it’s no longer a gamble. It is a certainty to work. Thank you, Bob. I will think about you when I am making some nice tax avoidance deals with the famous, rich and wealthy, if you know what I mean…”

Bob: “Don’t think twice, it’s alright.”

[Bob finishes his drink, gets up from the table, singing ‘OK boys I’ll see you tomorrow’]

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The Despicable Art of the Politician

George Osborne suggested last year that there were only six weeks to save the Euro. You have to wonder what his motives were:


You have to wonder whether he was trying to make a subtle contribution to the pessimistic outlook attaching itself to the single currency, in order to hurry along a particular political agenda.

Particularly when both Osborne and Cameron recently criticised those who were guilty of open speculation about the Eurozone and its potential break up.


Politicians, intertwined with their media friends and public relations experts, are highly skilled at engineering situations that serve the ends of some of the world’s most powerful and wealthiest individuals. And that is quite sickening, but real.

It makes you cynical. It makes you question the underlying motives of politicians – the democratically elected puppets who pretend to be there to serve us, whilst their strings are being pulled by others behind the scene.

Thinking about the Eurozone crisis, you begin to wonder whether the countries that would have been damaged most by its break-up – UK, USA, Germany and others – understood that the only permanent solution, and one which would have benefitted their own economies anyway, would have been greater fiscal and political union.

A highly contentious issue for many countries and probably not wanted. But to plant the seed that there were only weeks to save the Euro, and indulge in the open speculation that they subsequently criticised, suggests that, for whatever reason, political union was perhaps the underlying motive.

After all, the ratings agencies, the men in dark suits, who ultimately control the interest rates that countries are required to pay on their debts, are perfectly positioned to nudge the figures up or down to engineer a crisis in the sovereign bond markets.

Given everything we know about politics, power and corruption, how easy would it be to create the perfect storm? How easy would it be to create the conditions which would either lead to global economic disaster – which nobody in their right mind would opt for – or a new political arrangement heralded as solving the crisis, but which actually served the elite particularly well?

Only a few well positioned individuals ever stand to gain from the political manoeuvring that takes place behind the scenes. We watch the pantomime play out in front of us. We get drawn into it. We live it. We cheer when we see the ‘hero’ triumph, and we boo when the ‘villain’ of the piece turns up.

And when things look like they are taking a dip, when our enthusiasm falters, there is always a large event of national importance conjured up to get everyone back on side. It is just like freshening up the cardboard scenery on the stage.

The pantomime is played out by very clever actors, masters in the art of deflection and distraction. We are all trained to clap and boo in unison, it is programmed into us – we are all in this together, after all.

And in politics, the villain of the piece is very rarely the character we are encouraged to boo with theatrical gusto. We are just made to think that way because it suits the underlying plot.

It is the despicable art of the politician, honed through years of working the circuit, playing the game and taking the standing ovation when it all appears to come together in the end.

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