FT loses its motherloving mind with ill-advised rap-themed front page opinion piece

"Stay Middling And Retire Disappointed"

The FT has an incredible front-page opinion piece today. The print version has the headline "G-Dawg splashes out tax cuts like P Diddy with Dom Pérignon in his blingiest giveaway". Really:

The actual piece – which I so wanted to just cut and paste, because, wow - has more:

George Osborne could reinvent himself as a rapper if politics loses its appeal. He sprinkled his Budget – sorry “Autumn Statement” – with shout-outs to his posse (the MPs for Hereford, Burnley and Thurrock)… Giving back to his homies, the chancellor splashed out with tax cuts like P Diddy dispensing Dom Pérignon to a thirsty entourage…

Mr Osborne also talked up the soljaz on the street, if the small businesses who are the backbone of our nation may be described thus…

Having laid claim to the business ‘hood

– A short break here to point out that marvellously, even when writing in faux-hip-hop slang, the FT style guide still insists on a leading apostrophe in the word "hood" –

Having laid claim to the business ‘hood, G-Dawg was free to pursue his beef with its most disrespected inhabitants: the banks…

For [small businesses], life is currently a case of Stay Middling And Retire Disappointed rather than Get Rich Or Die Tryin’.

As an art form, rap is loud, but lacking in substance.

– A second parenthetical to point out that that sentence was the pull quote of the entire piece –

That was the problem with Mr Osborne’s Autumn Statement too… To critics, Mr Osborne still resembles Boy George more than 50 Cent.


Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

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Autumn Statement 2015: George Osborne abandons his target

How will George Osborne close the deficit after his U-Turns? Answer: he won't, of course. 

“Good governments U-Turn, and U-Turn frequently.” That’s Andrew Adonis’ maxim, and George Osborne borrowed heavily from him today, delivering two big U-Turns, on tax credits and on police funding. There will be no cuts to tax credits or to the police.

The Office for Budget Responsibility estimates that, in total, the government gave away £6.2 billion next year, more than half of which is the reverse to tax credits.

Osborne claims that he will still deliver his planned £12bn reduction in welfare. But, as I’ve written before, without cutting tax credits, it’s difficult to see how you can get £12bn out of the welfare bill. Here’s the OBR’s chart of welfare spending:

The government has already promised to protect child benefit and pension spending – in fact, it actually increased pensioner spending today. So all that’s left is tax credits. If the government is not going to cut them, where’s the £12bn come from?

A bit of clever accounting today got Osborne out of his hole. The Universal Credit, once it comes in in full, will replace tax credits anyway, allowing him to describe his U-Turn as a delay, not a full retreat. But the reality – as the Treasury has admitted privately for some time – is that the Universal Credit will never be wholly implemented. The pilot schemes – one of which, in Hammersmith, I have visited myself – are little more than Potemkin set-ups. Iain Duncan Smith’s Universal Credit will never be rolled out in full. The savings from switching from tax credits to Universal Credit will never materialise.

The £12bn is smaller, too, than it was this time last week. Instead of cutting £12bn from the welfare budget by 2017-8, the government will instead cut £12bn by the end of the parliament – a much smaller task.

That’s not to say that the cuts to departmental spending and welfare will be painless – far from it. Employment Support Allowance – what used to be called incapacity benefit and severe disablement benefit – will be cut down to the level of Jobseekers’ Allowance, while the government will erect further hurdles to claimants. Cuts to departmental spending will mean a further reduction in the numbers of public sector workers.  But it will be some way short of the reductions in welfare spending required to hit Osborne’s deficit reduction timetable.

So, where’s the money coming from? The answer is nowhere. What we'll instead get is five more years of the same: increasing household debt, austerity largely concentrated on the poorest, and yet more borrowing. As the last five years proved, the Conservatives don’t need to close the deficit to be re-elected. In fact, it may be that having the need to “finish the job” as a stick to beat Labour with actually helped the Tories in May. They have neither an economic imperative nor a political one to close the deficit. 

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.