Morrissey: "I nearly voted for UKIP"

The singer unburdened himself in a recent interview with Loaded.

In an interview published in the latest edition of Loaded magazine, Morrissey has described David Cameron as “gratuitously violent,” and expressed his desire to see Yvette Cooper “thrown into the sea”. In the most politically charged interview of his career, Morrissey also said he felt it was difficult to imagine Ed Miliband as Britain’s Prime Minister, and spoke of his admiration for Nigel Farage and UKIP.

Sensing Morrissey was in the mood to talk politics, interviewer Ian Edmondson invited him to pitch his manifesto for the country, to which the singer replied:

I’d naturally scrap the Honours List because it now exists only for anyone who supports the monarchy. I’d outlaw the craparazzi, who infringe upon the new stalking laws and who are a social danger; no third runway at Heathrow because, as we all know, it would be another kick in Mother Nature’s teeth; abolish DST/winter clocks because the affect of shifting time disrupts public safety, medical devices, travel, sleep, entertainment, sports, energy, all computer settings – so why bother? I’d outlaw vivisection but I’d allow anyone who supported animal experiments to put themselves forward in place of the animals. I’d ban zoos and circuses and anything similar that causes misery; I’d re-introduce red and green rear-platform Routemaster buses nationally, and have them re-powered with modern euro engines and exhausts – clippies and conductors are as essential to British life as the NHS; I’d ban foie gras from it’s final smugglers cove at Fortnum and Masons; I’d hang on to sterling, yet withdraw from the Europe Fan Club, and I’d plough the wasteful cost of being euro back into the NHS; I’d stop foreign aid because we’ve been nice enough in that department, and I’d allow the British people to hold on to their own money.”

Morrissey, a known republican with fierce anti-royal views, then began his now commonplace attack on the royal family:

“The royals must obviously resign and retire in the interests of the country, because they have proven to be an unfailing global embarrassment and they alone make England seem like a silly place to live. They are the laughing-stock of the world and their hold has gone.”

Morrissey’s opinion of David Cameron and Margaret Thatcher was equally as scathing:

As far as I understand it, he shoots stag for fun. This strikes me as being more gratuitously violent than anything that took place in riot Britain of 2011. If I kicked a dog I’d be fined £200, yet we’re asked to accept Cameron shooting down a majestic stag just for a hoot. Weird world, isn’t it? There are people doing life terms in prison who have done less damage than Thatcher. She was deeply unjust, and she hated anyone who didn’t fit in with her own philosophy. She hated the Irish freedom fighters, she hated the miners, she hated the English poor, she was the only European leader who opposed a ban on the ivory trade, she had no wit, no interest in the arts, and I just don’t think she has overcome all the hatred she aroused in people. If you were unemployed in late 70s Britain, Thatcher made you feel much worse about yourself, and she was certainly responsible for much of my depression when I was 20, and you feel repercussions from that period throughout the rest of your life. Even Heseltine couldn’t stand her, so how were the rest of us to feel?

He continued his dissection of British politics by pouring scorn on the idea of Labour leader Ed Miliband ever becoming Prime Minister:

As for Ed Miliband I don’t think anybody anticipates that time [becoming prime minister]. In fact, I even forget that he’s there, and if vocal clarity is an essential for any political leader, then I’m afraid Ed is screwed. It’s a shame Claire Short lumbered after Blair into the Iraq abyss because I thought she was otherwise quite sane.

Then came the line which has grabbed most attention on Twitter: his admiration for Nigel Farage and UKIP:

I nearly voted for UKIP. I like Nigel Farage a great deal. His views are quite logical – especially where Europe is concerned, although it was plain daft of him to applaud the lavish expense of the Royal Wedding at a time when working-class England were told to cut-back, shut-up and get stuffed.

Morrissey rarely gets through an interview without promoting animal rights, and this was no exception, this time comparing the meat industry to Auschwitz:

My main concern is what’s known as the meat industry, which is of course the death industry, and is destroying the planet in several ways, its destroying people’s health in several ways, and is a modern Auschwitz for the animals. As long as the abattoir exists in modern society then the human race is not humane at all. If you think animals are slaughtered humanely then you should try it for yourself sometime – you won’t be laughing.

He also saved some of his ire for Yvette Cooper and Theresa May, two politicians he claims refuse to answer questions directly:

Being a politician is all about concealment, and not enlightenment. The worst exponent of the filibuster is the shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper. I have seen her interviewed many times, and there are no circumstances under which she will actually answer any question put to her, yet she prattles on with her replies saying only whatever best serves her. Jon Snow for Channel 4 recently tried to demand either a yes or no reply from her, and it was quite incredible how she felt no obligation whatsoever to answer in a helpful way. She ought to be thrown into the sea. On the other hand, Theresa May for the Condemns will answer every question by saying ‘I’ve made it absolutely clear, and the government have been absolutely clear’ and she’ll repeat ‘absolutely clear’ within each response so that over and over we are hypnotised with Theresa May’s technique of being ‘absolutely clear’, even though she can’t be clear about whatever it is she’s certain she’s being absolutely clear about. It’s an almost sleep-inducing spell where the listeners will believe the words to be true if they hear them parroted out ad nauseam.

[As for politicians in general] whichever way you look at it, it’s all benefit fraud, but when done by MPs it’s given a softer name – as if our learned friend’s haven’t quite created the misery for themselves, and here they are carrying a burden that isn’t really their own. Meanwhile, an obese Wakefield mum who over-claims maternity benefit for Little Sacha gets the Fraud Scum treatment by The Sun, solely because she doesn’t have any friends in outer temple chambers. Imperious politicians robbing from the public purse is reported as being such a terribly unusual thing, when you really must wonder who’s at it right now and simply hasn’t been caught.”

Quite how a former left-wing feminist has ended up declaring his admiration for Nigel Farage in Loaded magazine is a mystery to many. While his position on animal rights will continue to please his fans, and his return to defending the poor will be welcomed, some of his views - such as our relationship with the EU and his desire to see the return of old-fashioned buses and clippies - seem completely out of touch with modern British society. However, it’s his position on foreign aid which is arguably the most disconcerting. For a man who has built a career out of writing sensitive lyrics that seek to include outsiders, the idea that Britain - one of the wealthiest countries in the world - should suddenly stop providing aid that is helping to save millions of children’s lives in some of the poorest countries in the world, is desperately sad. In fact, even for his most ardent fans, some of his views are becoming unacceptable.

Morrissey. Photograph: Getty Images

Rob Pollard is a freelance writer. You can follow him on Twitter @_robpollard

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We're racing towards another private debt crisis - so why did no one see it coming?

The Office for Budget Responsibility failed to foresee the rise in household debt. 

This is a call for a public inquiry on the current situation regarding private debt.

For almost a decade now, since 2007, we have been living a lie. And that lie is preparing to wreak havoc on our economy. If we do not create some kind of impartial forum to discuss what is actually happening, the results might well prove disastrous. 

The lie I am referring to is the idea that the financial crisis of 2008, and subsequent “Great Recession,” were caused by profligate government spending and subsequent public debt. The exact opposite is in fact the case. The crash happened because of dangerously high levels of private debt (a mortgage crisis specifically). And - this is the part we are not supposed to talk about—there is an inverse relation between public and private debt levels.

If the public sector reduces its debt, overall private sector debt goes up. That's what happened in the years leading up to 2008. Now austerity is making it happening again. And if we don't do something about it, the results will, inevitably, be another catastrophe.

The winners and losers of debt

These graphs show the relationship between public and private debt. They are both forecasts from the Office for Budget Responsibility, produced in 2015 and 2017. 

This is what the OBR was projecting what would happen around now back in 2015:

This year the OBR completely changed its forecast. This is how it now projects things are likely to turn out:

First, notice how both diagrams are symmetrical. What happens on top (that part of the economy that is in surplus) precisely mirrors what happens in the bottom (that part of the economy that is in deficit). This is called an “accounting identity.”

As in any ledger sheet, credits and debits have to match. The easiest way to understand this is to imagine there are just two actors, government, and the private sector. If the government borrows £100, and spends it, then the government has a debt of £100. But by spending, it has injected £100 more pounds into the private economy. In other words, -£100 for the government, +£100 for everyone else in the diagram. 

Similarly, if the government taxes someone for £100 , then the government is £100 richer but there’s £100 subtracted from the private economy (+£100 for government, -£100 for everybody else on the diagram).

So what implications does this kind of bookkeeping have for the overall economy? It means that if the government goes into surplus, then everyone else has to go into debt.

We tend to think of money as if it is a bunch of poker chips already lying around, but that’s not how it really works. Money has to be created. And money is created when banks make loans. Either the government borrows money and injects it into the economy, or private citizens borrow money from banks. Those banks don’t take the money from people’s savings or anywhere else, they just make it up. Anyone can write an IOU. But only banks are allowed to issue IOUs that the government will accept in payment for taxes. (In other words, there actually is a magic money tree. But only banks are allowed to use it.)

There are other factors. The UK has a huge trade deficit (blue), and that means the government (yellow) also has to run a deficit (print money, or more accurately, get banks to do it) to inject into the economy to pay for all those Chinese trainers, American iPads, and German cars. The total amount of money can also fluctuate. But the real point here is, the less the government is in debt, the more everyone else must be. Austerity measures will necessarily lead to rising levels of private debt. And this is exactly what has happened.

Now, if this seems to have very little to do with the way politicians talk about such matters, there's a simple reason: most politicians don’t actually know any of this. A recent survey showed 90 per cent of MPs don't even understand where money comes from (they think it's issued by the Royal Mint). In reality, debt is money. If no one owed anyone anything at all there would be no money and the economy would grind to a halt.

But of course debt has to be owed to someone. These charts show who owes what to whom.

The crisis in private debt

Bearing all this in mind, let's look at those diagrams again - keeping our eye particularly on the dark blue that represents household debt. In the first, 2015 version, the OBR duly noted that there was a substantial build-up of household debt in the years leading up to the crash of 2008. This is significant because it was the first time in British history that total household debts were higher than total household savings, and therefore the household sector itself was in deficit territory. (Corporations, at the same time, were raking in enormous profits.) But it also predicted this wouldn't happen again.

True, the OBR observed, austerity and the reduction of government deficits meant private debt levels would have to go up. However, the OBR economists insisted this wouldn't be a problem because the burden would fall not on households but on corporations. Business-friendly Tory policies would, they insisted, inspire a boom in corporate expansion, which would mean frenzied corporate borrowing (that huge red bulge below the line in the first diagram, which was supposed to eventually replace government deficits entirely). Ordinary households would have little or nothing to worry about.

This was total fantasy. No such frenzied boom took place.

In the second diagram, two years later, the OBR is forced to acknowledge this. Corporations are just raking in the profits and sitting on them. The household sector, on the other hand, is a rolling catastrophe. Austerity has meant falling wages, less government spending on social services (or anything else), and higher de facto taxes. This puts the squeeze on household budgets and people are forced to borrow. As a result, not only are households in overall deficit for the second time in British history, the situation is actually worse than it was in the years leading up to 2008.

And remember: it was a mortgage crisis that set off the 2008 crash, which almost destroyed the world economy and plunged millions into penury. Not a crisis in public debt. A crisis in private debt.

An inquiry

In 2015, around the time the original OBR predictions came out, I wrote an essay in the Guardian predicting that austerity and budget-balancing would create a disastrous crisis in private debt. Now it's so clearly, unmistakably, happening that even the OBR cannot deny it.

I believe the time has come for there be a public investigation - a formal public inquiry, in fact - into how this could be allowed to happen. After the 2008 crash, at least the economists in Treasury and the Bank of England could plausibly claim they hadn't completely understood the relation between private debt and financial instability. Now they simply have no excuse.

What on earth is an institution called the “Office for Budget Responsibility” credulously imagining corporate borrowing binges in order to suggest the government will balance the budget to no ill effects? How responsible is that? Even the second chart is extremely odd. Up to 2017, the top and bottom of the diagram are exact mirrors of one another, as they ought to be. However, in the projected future after 2017, the section below the line is much smaller than the section above, apparently seriously understating the amount both of future government, and future private, debt. In other words, the numbers don't add up.

The OBR told the New Statesman ​that it was not aware of any errors in its 2015 forecast for corporate sector net lending, and that the forecast was based on the available data. It said the forecast for business investment has been revised down because of the uncertainty created by Brexit. 

Still, if the “Office of Budget Responsibility” was true to its name, it should be sounding off the alarm bells right about now. So far all we've got is one mention of private debt and a mild warning about the rise of personal debt from the Bank of England, which did not however connect the problem to austerity, and one fairly strong statement from a maverick columnist in the Daily Mail. Otherwise, silence. 

The only plausible explanation is that institutions like the Treasury, OBR, and to a degree as well the Bank of England can't, by definition, warn against the dangers of austerity, however alarming the situation, because they have been set up the way they have in order to justify austerity. It's important to emphasise that most professional economists have never supported Conservative policies in this regard. The policy was adopted because it was convenient to politicians; institutions were set up in order to support it; economists were hired in order to come up with arguments for austerity, rather than to judge whether it would be a good idea. At present, this situation has led us to the brink of disaster.

The last time there was a financial crash, the Queen famously asked: why was no one able to foresee this? We now have the tools. Perhaps the most important task for a public inquiry will be to finally ask: what is the real purpose of the institutions that are supposed to foresee such matters, to what degree have they been politicised, and what would it take to turn them back into institutions that can at least inform us if we're staring into the lights of an oncoming train?