So here we are, on the eve of the 2017 general election. This will probably not be my final post on the matter but it will be the last one that can make a difference by giving a reader something they can use when going to vote.
So this week, a table was going round social media detailing how ‘life under the Tories has improved in the last seven years’. It started as a post from a Tory MP who had decided to boast about it since after all, the Tories encourage judgement on their record.
Now, there are many issues with this and I’m well aware that not everyone has the benefit of an analytical mind or understanding of economics but I DID expect most people to know what inflation is. Even if Theresa May herself does not (for more info on May’s ignorance of inflation and real figures, see my article The impossibility of realities). However, not only did this Tory MP display shocking mathematical ignorance, but so did a great many people who shared it, including several of my acquaintances.
In case it is not obvious, this comparison is worthless because of the change in universal price levels since 2010. Inflation is something that happens steadily each year. It’s the reason Freddos were 10p when I was a kid (in the early 2000s) and are now 30p. The non-percentage figures in this table for 2010 can all be accurately adjusted by simply using the inflation multiplier from 2010 to 2017. A quick Google search will tell you that is 1.23. And using this, almost all of these figures reveal themselves to be pro-Labour.
The minimum wage of 2010 was effectively £7.29. The NHS budget was actually HIGHER than it is now. The deficit was also higher but given this was off the back of the 2008 financial crisis, it was to be expected. The majority of these figures were incredibly dubious but using self-contained logic, even these did not work to the advantage of the Tories.
So when I confronted someone I knew about this, instead of accepting a mistake, he decided to embody Theresa May rather excellently and swerve to the subject of Labour’s promises and the classic ‘magic money tree accusation’. And while I said I wouldn’t rise to the bait…I did. And I’m glad I did.
Despite being a supporter of Labour, I was sceptical of Corbyn’s promises. He said he would nationalise the railways, the post office, the water companies, the energy companies and scrap tuition fees. He promised structured, national investment through a wide range of schemes. He promised funding into healthcare, education and security, and at least 10,000 extra policemen. That’s a lot to ask for. However, governments waste a lot of money on many schemes so of course he could do at least SOME of what he said. I was personally fine with a reasonable deliverance on the manifesto. I did not expect all of them to be achievable. So I did some digging on the big promises and here’s what I found.
Royal Mail was privatised for £3.3bn in the last couple of years. It was privatised under the coalition government and the final 30% stake was sold in 2015. So buying this back would cost just above 3.3bn. However, Labour only wants a majority of 50.1% and that’s estimated to be £2.15bn now. That’s really not as much as I expected.
Next up: Railways. The cost? Nothing.
How? Well Network Rail is the entity that owns the stations, tracks, and facilities of the rail industry and it is state owned. The operating franchises that have privatised the services will eventually lapse. Their contracts will expire and the railways will automatically be re-nationalized. 14 of the 25 franchises will have lapsed by 2023. Unfortunately this does not include the shambolic Abellio Greater Anglia, but does include utterly awful services such as Southern Rail, which expires in 2018. Only the fates of Heathrow Express and Eurostar are uncertain. This leaves only 9 franchises that will definitely still be privatised by around the time of the next election in 2022. Those may perhaps warrant further action. But so far so good. That’s about 60% of the railways nationalised just like that.
Abolishing tuition fees has been estimated at 10bn. This will be difficult to pull off. But consider the Lorenzo system for the NHS. A failed IT system that was only implemented in 220 of the several thousand NHS facilities, didn’t work, and cost £10bn. A complete waste of money that started in 2002 and inexplicably, was continued by the Conservatives. This sort of thing isn’t a one-off. For all the talk of cuts, this government has wasted immense amounts of money, like every single one before it.
It’s pretty clear that money can be found when a government wants it. It is worth noting that the Trident renewal is estimated at £179 billion over a few decades. A gradual, long-term program for weapons of mass destruction that we never intend to use.
You know what else is a gradual thing? Water and energy. This has been confirmed to be a long-term plan, unlike action on tuition fees, and estimated at £100-120bn. The widespread belief that Trident is supposedly affordable, but nationalising utilities is not, says a lot about this nation’s flawed priorities.
On a similar note, perhaps it would be prudent to stop bombing countries we don’t actively need to. I hear Donald’s favourite Tomahawk missiles cost upwards of a million dollars each, and he fired 59 of them at Syria on a whim. The UK is responsible for several such expensive air strikes and campaigns. Organising our foreign policy in a way that reduces the number of unnecessary wars would not only free up a lot of money but also do much to stop exacerbating problems of radicalisation and encouragement of retaliation and escalation. Crushing ISIS both physically, tactically, and ideologically is much more efficiently done by enhancing security at home, having more police around, and constantly foiling their plans, rendering them ineffective and incompetent. That’s not to say they shouldn’t be wiped out. But intervening constantly in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Libya? Unnecessary.
It’s also worth mentioning that there is a significant amount of money up for grabs through a clampdown on tax evasion and loopholes. Whether this can actually work remains to be seen. Another point is that these nationalised services won’t run themselves so money will be spent on maintenance of utilities and railways. But owning these services could potentially be extremely beneficial to the economy and the government. They are businesses after all. And not having to pay money to acquire large chunks of them is certainly a good start.
And now to corporation tax. Here is a comparison of the effect of corporation tax decreases over the last decade:
Corp tax 2015-16 at 20%: 44.4 bn (45.3bn adjusted for inflation, multiplier of 1.02)
Corp tax 2010-11 at 28%: 43bn (52.89bn adjusted for inflation, multiplier of 1.23)
Corp tax 2007-08 at 30%: 46bn (61.18bn adjusted for inflation, multiplier of 1.33)
The further back you go, the more you find corporation tax was worth. It is pretty clear that, contrary to popular belief, higher corporation tax does not actually make all businesses evaporate. Empirical evidence says it actually works. It is moves like Brexit which are much more concerning to businesses. Corporation tax rises however, don’t seem to have as much of a negative effect. Indeed, it seems we have lost around 15bn per year in government funding. Theresa May thinks an extra 4bn into education is a good initiative. Apparently, she thinks giving 15bn a year to corporations is a better one.
Telling the truth often isn’t always the best way forward for yourself, which is why only the best of us try. And nothing worth doing ever comes easily. The Tories have not only accepted that telling the truth doesn’t advance their cause but have tried to attack others on all their greatest initiatives. They have tried to slander people like Corbyn even when they are on the same page, as they have been on terrorism and security. This morning, Boris Johnson attacked Corbyn for his views despite voting the same way on various anti-terror legislation that was deemed to be extreme and poorly thought-out. This election is a power grab for the Tories and a possibly futile attempt at a better society by Corbyn. Amazingly, that better society isn’t as unrealistic as we would think. It just requires enough people to see through the haze of lies and push for genuine change.
The Tories have provided only lies when they have bothered to use results and statistics at all. They have pinned their hopes on empty soundbites and smears because they know that attempts at costing won’t help them. And Labour seemingly haven’t realised just how good some of their sums are. Perhaps Diane Abbott doesn’t know that Labour’s sums add up. But amazingly, I have discovered that they do.
Please do not waste your vote in this election. Many people I know are considering spoiling their ballots. This may seem like a good way to indicate your disenchantment with the system but by default, you have supported the Tories. They won’t care about your disengagement. My hope is that some people will use this information to be a positive force for change and progression. You do not realise how much power you have. You can change things for the better. Start now.