The cultural imperative for us to hate everyone and everything is damaging. Photo: Getty
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Westminster might be nerdy, but we should stop pouring juvenile scorn on people trying to make a difference

Defend the mouthbreathers!

“Well, there’s the goofy bastard, the posh bastard, the treacherous bastard and the racist bastard. And they’re all the same,” goes pretty much any given twentysomething’s analysis of the lead-up to this godforsaken election happening in weeks.

I’d know because, for at least the past month, most conversations with my friends have involved me trying to persuade them not to draw dicks all over their ballots. Whenever politics happen, the pressure on my generation to hate builds and builds. And the more political the politics, the more pressure there is to hate. And a general election is about as political as politics get.

So, in a strange contraption that defies the laws of physics, we spur each other on to be as jaded as possible. It isn’t hard to understand why we do this. We’re just about creeping out of a recession that’s left so many of us fearing for our futures and Ed Miliband is hardly The Answer.

But he’s also not not the answer. And that’s so hard for us to admit because of this post-adolescent cultural imperative for us to hate everyone and everything. I’ve been obedient to that imperative for too long. Hating is just so easy. “Haters gonna hate,” says Taylor Swift (and about a billion rappers well before she made that a thing that white people say). Scroll through your Twitter feed right now and count the number of positive sentiments. Especially if you follow a lot of people in their twenties, I can almost guarantee that they’ll be rare. And I’m not talking about inspirational quotes superimposed on a picture of a lake. Those don’t count. That’s just stolen positivity regurgitated by people who’ve been dead inside since Gordon Brown’s premiership at the latest.

Similarly, I’m not talking about hype. It seems that the only things we’re allowed to like publicly are those that have been deemed worthy by Guardian reading Twitter. Last year it was Serial and Kate Bush and ramen. Those were the only things we were permitted to endorse. And they’re all perfectly nice things, but they’re apolitical. For me, and so many others around my age, the fear attached to having anything other than “Ugh” to say about politics is huge. The problem is that showing anything other than the utmost disdain for Westminster is just so nerdy. And not the good kind of “I like graphic novels and David Attenborough” nerdy. I mean, straight-up mouthbreather nerdy.

In the realm of millennial Twitter, you’d be hard-pressed to find a good solid, “You know what? Labour aren’t perfect but they have some legitimately good ideas and Ed is an OK guy. And it’s not his fault he seems like he probably has a lot of allergies.” I mean, that would make a shit tweet and posting Vines of Miliband being a thundering dork is way more fun. But in an electoral race that’s consisted almost entirely of negging the other guy, I wish that more people could be brave enough to talk about the positives. I’m definitely not one of those brave people. I’m just as addicted to hating as nearly everyone I know. It’s a disease. I can barely look at a tree without being all, “nice branches, fuckhead. Where did you get them, Rubbish Branches ‘R’ Us?”

Just for once, I wish we could channel all of our angst into hating something that truly deserves to be hated. Like Sambuca or George Galloway. Only then can we begin to admit that some stuff is actually, sort of, slightly a little bit OK. And only then can we stop pouring juvenile scorn on people who are actually trying to make a difference.

Eleanor Margolis is a freelance journalist, whose "Lez Miserable" column appears weekly on the New Statesman website.

Photo: Getty Images
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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.