Notes From the Margins…

A Message from the Chancellor

  • April 22, 2013
  • by

Hello everyone.   My name is George Osborne and I’m the Chancellor of the Exchequer.   It’s really a pleasure for me to show you round the new Britain that we have been building these last three years, in the hope that you will ignore the doomsayers and the naysayers, the negative credit ratings, the IMF, an ever-growing number of economists,  and come and look at the transformation we’ve achieved in just a few short years.

The first thing that any potential investor will notice about our country is that it’s a place where everyone works hard, and we’re doing our best to see that they work harder.  I don’t just mean our benefit reforms,  which are removing the shackles that have robbed generations of Britons of independence and initiative, and made them prefer to let the state pay for their children rather than bring them up themselves.

Or our attempts to liberate the disabled and the longterm sick by making them work even if they think they can’t.  Or our ‘workfare’  schemes that provide our youngsters with the invaluable opportunity to work for their benefits and gain essential experience of the work process.

To make sure that these jobseekers keep on their toes and don’t become seduced by welfare dependency, we’ve also created a unique phenomenon in British history, in which hundreds of claimants are living on food parcels while they wait for their first payment to arrive – a harsh but ultimately beneficial situation that we believe the taxpayer will approve of.

Have you heard of our ‘zero hour contracts’, in which workers are hired on a standby basis, with no guaranteed hours or pay?  Last year, the numbers of workers on these contracts rose by 25 percent, and they now include journalists, doctors and other professionals in addition to retail and low-skilled workers.

We think that this kind of flexibility is essential in these difficult times.  Our government abhores sloth and believes that work confers virtue,  and we want to make our citizens virtuous.

We are always looking for new and more creative ways to do this.  Last week our radical Education Secretary Michael Gove announced new plans to shorten school holidays and lengthen the school day, so that British schoolchildren can get ahead in the ‘global race’ with their counterparts in Singapore and Hong Kong.

In order to ensure that no one – absolutely no one –  is left out, we plan to make it possible for people in the future to work into their 70s and beyond.   This doesn’t mean that we plan to make old people ‘work ’till they drop.’   We merely plan to provide the  elderly with the same opportunities that we’ve given to the disabled and enable them to realise their full human potential.

We’re breaking taboos, and breaking down barriers, and we’ve found that companies like MacDonalds like to have a mixed staff of old and young people.    And given the fact that the Department of Work and Pensions believes that Britain’s employers will need to fill 13.5 million vacancies in 10 years,  we feel that a grey workforce is a creative solution to a problem that might otherwise lead to the recruitment of migrant workers – something that our government is determined to prevent – and it will also remove the necessity to pay them pensions.

In order to ensure that these reforms are implemented, we need efficient and well-remunerated managers.  Thus our flagship paper The  Daily Telegraph  reports  that 7,800 NHS staff were paid over £100,000 last year, eleven of whom were based at  hospitals at the centre of patient care scandals or are in serious financial difficulties.  These include Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, whose former interim finance director was paid £340,000 last year.

Nurses, meanwhile,  earn as little as £21,388-a-year, many of whom, like the nurses at Southampton General Hospital are ‘run ragged’ in hospitals where staff levels are so low that patients have been serving meals.   A  poll  by the Royal College of Nursing has found that three quarters of hospital wards in the UK are running at dangerously low levels of staffing at least once a month.

I’m sure you agree that this situation is intolerable – especially since real wages in the UK are falling to 2003 levels, according to the Office for National Statistics, and we intend to change it.  As an  editorial  in the Telegraph makes clear, this massive imbalance in pay is not inherently wrong in itself,  but a consequence of ‘the warped priorities of the NHS’ and the public sector in general.

Exactly right, and we plan to change these priorities, not by raising nurses’ pay, which would only encourage more people to follow their example, but by  further ‘reforms’ that will marketize the NHS and open it up to private competition.

We also plan to ensure that trainee nurses work for 12 months as ‘health care assistants’ before beginning their training – a proposal that the Royal College of Nursing has condemned as ‘stupid’, but which we believe will help staffing levels without having to recruit more nurses or pay them better.

Now, in order to make all this happen, our politicians need to be relaxed so that they can continue to engage in more blue sky thinking.   And it does help that the House of Commons sits for around 150 days a year,  including half terms, a six week summer break, two fortnight breaks at Easter and Christmas and three weeks off while MPs attend party conferences.

Labour MP  Margaret Hodge  has suggested that these hours are actually shrinking, and claimed that the perception that  MPs’ hours might be getting less during ‘the worst economic crisis of modern times’  might end up creating  a ‘democratic vacuum.’

We don’t agree, of course.   We believe that the ordinary decent people of this country know what we’re doing and approve of it.   And I hope that what I’ve told you will induce you to come to Britain and invest in a country that was great before, and with your help, will become great again.

After all, as our Prime Minister reminded the world only last week, ‘ We’re all Thatcherites now.’

We’re proud of that, and proud of the fact that this year there are a record 88 billionaires on the Sunday Times Rich List.   We hope that you will share their enthusiasm for what we’re doing, and come and invest in us.

They like it here, and we think you will too.


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About Me

I’m a writer, campaigner and journalist.  My latest book is The Savage Frontier: The Pyrenees in History and the Imagination (New Press/Hurst, 2018).  The Infernal Machine is where I write on politics, history, cinema and other things that interest me.

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