We need to talk about last week’s budget and how it was timed and spun to hide the blushes of a DUP under pressure.
Last week was a bad week for the DUP. Or it should have been. Checking with illegal paramilitary organisations on the content of the deal with Sinn Féin. Increasing recognition of this deal being good for the DUP but thrown away because Foster has no convictions to have the courage of. Foster judged to have acted illegally in denying victims their rights. Further probing of dirty donations during the election campaign. Yet by Friday it was all self–satisfied grins. Instead of being under pressure, the DUP finished the week on the spin of delivering extra money through a Westminster budget. All very handy.
But, the tiniest bit of scrutiny revealed that in real terms this is putting coins in a metre in the red to keep things ticking and prevent devastating crashes in public services.
Since 2010 we have lived under the brutal Tory ideological policy of austerity. Austerity is not a word, it’s a punitive regime where workers and poor are punished for existing, and public services decimated. The average working person see less money available for dignified lives every month. There has been a slash and burn of benefits for our poorest. And because it has gone on for so long, this nearly seems normal.
We did not vote for austerity. None of us. Of course, now the DUP is supping from the Tory cup, they are sustaining it. Do you remember when Martin McGuinness wouldn’t allow Executive meetings to be held because of the initial introduction of benefits cuts? How the DUP howled that there was “no choice” and Sinn Féin needed to “get in line”? And then when mitigation measures for the North were eventually negotiated, the DUP boasted about how they protected us all? But that was just spin. The heavy lifting was done while the DUP were bending over. Well those mitigations run out in the life time of this parliament. The DUP haven’t negotiated a continuation of mitigations in return for support of this regime. The DUP fundamentally believe in austerity.
To give further cuts and rates increases cover, we were spun that this budget means there is a significant boost to the health budget. Actually the deal, which keeps the party of austerity in situ, only delivers short–term mitigation to the devastation of NHS capacity caused by year on year disembowelling of the NHS by the Tory party since 2010. It does not add any services, or even relieve current pressures, it just makes sure it doesn’t get worse. For now. The additional money will not cover expected pressures. Don’t take my word for it. Read the Department of Finance statement.
When considered with a rise in rates and the real time cuts to other departments, it looks like winter really is far from over.
Those citizens needing funding for legacy inquests and restitution to the survivors of institutional abuse were not mentioned in this budget. The violations which they and their families endured were under direct rule. The funding for the remedy of those harms should come directly from Westminster. But the DUP/Tory austerity axis does not allow for that.
Last week’s announcement by Karen Bradley allowed the DUP to project themselves as heroes despite the month/year that was in it. There is a political metre also running on red. Spin and self-gratuity will not keep that one from packing in.