Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Costa Packet

“Cost of living.” Say it out loud. What does it actually mean? Given the ease and lack of any kind of competence required to create life the cost and in many parts of the world the value of life itself is infinitesimally small. Being one of 7 billion is hardly laudable unless you’re maybe a virus, or a brain cell where the teeming multitude works together to produce results. As an answer to the meaning of life simple duplication is bleak and the ability to do it is a piss poor performance indicator; almost anybody is capable and in economic terms that puts a very low value indeed on the cost of life.

But no, you say, that’s not it at all, it’s the cost of LIVING that is in crisis. Well, that isn’t expensive either – as proved by those who subsist their entire lives on what they can beg for in the streets of Mumbai or working the fields in Laos. The financial cost of maintaining life is meagre indeed and apart from the often man-caused conditions which result in mass starvation in the far-off lands that only exist for us on our television screens, humans manage to stay alive with remarkable tenacity.

And in our hearts we know that. A generation or so ago, our affluent circumstances were regularly held up to scrutiny; “You’ve never had it so good.” And “There are starving children in Africa who would be grateful for what you’ve left on your plate.” But for many years now we seem to have taken our good fortune for granted and while we have created a grievance industry and, bizarrely, food banks take the place of personal responsibility for some, it is estimated that some fifty percent of bought-and-paid-for food is thrown away.

That sense of entitlement – that whatever our choices we are somehow deserving of equality of living standards – is the last remaining weapon in Labour’s electoral arsenal. Ed Balls’ latest attempt fuel envy and fan the flames of econogeddon is spectacularly poorly timed and he knows this, but it’s all they’ve got. The so-called ‘cost of living crisis’ is nothing of the kind and they know it, but somehow a ‘standard of living squeeze’ sounds less emotive and more like simple greed. Despite all you hear from the partisan press, far from struggling for life itself the distended bellies you see on our streets are the result of the very opposite of starvation.

“Do you feel better off since the coalition came to power?” the Eds ask. Well I don’t; not by a mile. I worked out recently that I’m around £80k worse off than if the 2008 slump hadn’t happened, but that isn’t the coalition’s fault. And if Labour refuse to accept any responsibility for the damage that was already done by 2010, I hardly see that puts them in any position to gripe about the current government getting a grip and cutting back. For all Labour’s tough-on-benefits talk their plan is to revert to the same old borrow-and-spend pattern. Yes, the coalition may have borrowed more in four years than Labour did in 10, but imagine how much more Labour would have had to borrow as a result of its own mismanagement. It really is like taking dad’s car, trashing it, handing back the keys and then blaming the subsequent repair cost on mum.

Given that inflation is down, employment is up, wages are rising and the UK is leading the rest of Europe in economic growth, talk of a cost of living ‘crisis’ is just a cynical attempt to play the politics of envy. And while those who are unemployable can afford the smart phones, fags, weed and Playstations that responsible, low-paid workers have to choose to do without then our benefit system is continuing to be abused. This is what Labour’s legacy is; not the creation of an admirable welfare state, but its perpetuation beyond any sense of proportion. Yesterday, in further evidence that Labour have lost the plot, Guido Fawkes reports that they have appointed a Shadow Cost of Living Minister.

The perfect metaphor for Labour policy - on anything.

What next, Labour? Shadow Secretary of State for Flogging a Dead Horse? Spokesperson for The Bleeding Obvious? Crisis Creation Minister? In four years none of the gimmicks from the policy unit has even suggested that you hold the electorate in anything other than utter contempt. Come back to us when you’ve regained your sense of shame.

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