When Mervyn King, the governor of the Bank of England, let slip that whoever wins the election would subsequently be out of power for 30 years, he was speaking with inside knowledge. King knows better than anyone the real state of the country’s finances – and it doesn’t make bedtime reading.
It’s the stuff of nightmares, with a budget deficit that is so huge that it threatens to overwhelm the state’s finances. What’s happening to Greece (with Portugal, Spain and Italy next in line) is a warning of the events that follow when a sovereign debt gets too big to pay off.
What King is indicating is that the scale of the cuts in public spending that will be implemented after the election – if Britain is to avoid the fate of Greece – are so vast that the anger of those on the receiving end will destroy whatever government emerges after May 6.
Of course, if the leaders of the major parties acknowledged what King was talking about, you might have to pay people to vote next Thursday. Instead, the political class are bound by an omertà. The Sicilian oath of silence, which became associated with the Mafia, is the only way to describe what’s happening with less than a week to go to a general election that is at best fraudulent and at worst a major deception at the expense of the British electorate. It only confirms what a joke the Parliamentary system has become with its claims to democracy and to represent the “will of the people”.
For example, today Lord Mandelson, asked if there was a hole in last night’s TV debate on the issue , the business secretary told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I refute that."
He then wittered on about New Labour’s “deficit reduction plan”, and claimed: “I don't think it's fair to say we have left the public in any doubt about the size and scale of the turnaround and what's involved." Pull the other one. Everyone from the Financial Times to the Institute of Fiscal Studies is saying the exact opposite and I know who I’d rather believe.
Extending the Mafia analogy a little further, you could say that messrs Brown, Cameron and Clegg are making us an offer they think we cannot refuse. But why lend any of them our votes when they will use them to claim a mandate for destroying living standards? In a sense, the opinion polls point towards a general desire not to hand any single party a clear mandate. Such is the uncertainty and fear in many voters’ minds about what’s likely to happen when the dust has settled.
The crisis that is unfolding in Greece is now being compared to the sovereign equivalent of the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008 which precipitated global financial turmoil. The Greek people are resisting dramatic cuts in living standards that are a consequence of the collapse of a global capitalist economic model driven by debt. Naturally, the measures imposed by the International Monetary Fund will intensify Greece’s economic catastrophe as people have less money in their pockets.
Similarly in Britain, capitalism can only “return to growth” on the basis of a scorched earth policy founded on an unheard of reduction in living standards and jobs. May 6 will settle nothing. All the election will do is draw up the battle lines between government, the state and ordinary working people.
The struggles that are soon to unfold will quickly assume a social character that raises the question of questions: how do ordinary people achieve the power to call a halt to capitalism’s meltdown. These are the kind of issues we will take up at our conference on May 22.