Panic Petrol: A Tory blunder

March 31, 2012

On Question Time this week, the frankly embarrassing Liberal Democrat Minister for Children and Families, Sarah Teather blamed the Unions for the panic buying of petrol that we’ve seen this week in the UK. In typical Tory fashion, she could think of no other reason why people might rush to the petrol pumps, than to blame the Unions for actually doing nothing of any significance. Unite has ruled out strike action over easter. The union seems more likely to focus on talks, than threats. All the fear, has come directly from Downing Street.

I take a different view, and I think, a view shared by those of us who aren’t living in Tory-land.

Today has been damning for the Tories in this whole dispute, because whilst on Question Time, Teather seemed disgusted by the suggestion that this was all political on the part of the government, a memo has been leaked from Downing Street stating:

“This is our Thatcher moment. In order to defeat the coming miners’ strike, she stockpiled coal. When the strike came, she weathered it, and the Labour Party, tarred by the strike, was humiliated. In order to defeat the coming fuel drivers’ strike, we want supplies of petrol stockpiled. Then, if the strike comes, we will weather it, and Labour, in hock to the Unite union, will be blamed.”

– This is about as damning as it gets. A lady suffers 40% burns, because the Tories want to win political points over Labour? Playground politics turned tragic.

I think there are three reasons why the Government issued several warnings in the press this week regarding the possibility of a strike, and Teather played along with it on Question Time. When asked who is to blame for the panic buying, she said “The Unions are to blame, for calling this strike“. Now, the Union hasn’t called a strike. In fact, as we speak, there is very little chance of their actually being a strike. Sarah Teather played the typical Conservative line; blame unions at all costs. Which includes lying. Teather is in the cabinet, she knows the unions have not called a strike, so why say it? This is reason one. Conservatives are usually very good at making unions look bad. This was another opportunity. During the public sector pension strike, Conservatives issues statement after statement about how hard working families are struggling, how private sector pensions are much lower than public sector, how economic times are woeful, and how the unions are making it worse. All of which, have been absolutely caused by Tory/Lib Dem economic austerity failure. The message seems to be “We expect you to just sit back and take it“. For Liberal Democrats, this is utterly disgraceful. For Tories, we know this is what they do. We know that even if economically speaking, the Country was strong, Tories would do the same thing. Slash, burn, destroy, and immiserate.

So, point 1) Take another opportunity to make the unions look bad; link the Labour party to the unions.

On the second point, and I think the most significant. The OECD pointed out that in the last quarter of 2011, the economy shrank by 0.3%. The OECD then pointed out early this week, that they believe the first quarter of 2012 will see a drop of 0.1% in growth. This means the UK is in recession. This is a terrible indictment on the absolute failure of austerity. They cannot blame Labour for this anymore. They cannot blame the snow. They cannot blame unions. They cannot blame Europe. The Tories and the Lib Dems only have themselves to blame. The “budget for growth”. Remember that? What we have is stagnation and failure. What they have done, is risk an economic and social engineering program that has led the country to ruin. To avoid a recession, by propping up spending at the end of the first quarter of 2012….. induce panic buying. Tell the country that you are prepping the army to deliver oil in the event of strike. Needlessly tell the country you are having meetings of the crises response team “Cobra”. Tell the country to fill up cans of petrol and take them home. For what reason? IN CASE of a strike? Strikers must give seven days notice. Ben Fenton at the Financial Times tweeted something similar:

There is absolutely no way we will be in recession after all this #pasty #petrol buying, though. What a brilliant tactical ploy.

There is one problem with this theory. To buy back 0.2% of GDP growth, consumer spending would have to top £800mn over the past three days. This is quite a stretch. Be interesting to see 2nd quarter growth figures.

Point 2) Prevent double dip recession in the most cynical way possible.

Going back to the point about lack of growth here is what the Government’s “budget for growth” has achieved. You see the green bar? That represents government debt as a share of GDP as outlined by the Tories on how they thought the austerity measures would work. The blue line, is what has actually happened. No amount of spinning this can make it positive.

And lastly, Bad press attention over the past week. First, a budget that cut the top rate of tax for the highest earners, whilst continually hitting the most vulnerable, especially pensioners was announced. Secondly, cash for access promises to be the scandal of the year for the Conservatives. Every employee in the country might not be too pleased to know that the man who wrote the government report on the need to strip workers of their rights when it comes to unfair dismissal, Adrian Beecroft, donated over £500,000 to the Tory Party. I’m not sure it’s right that very wealthy Tory donors should be allowed to create government policy. As well as the Tories not having a mandate to do any of what they have so far done, the public certainly didn’t vote for an odious little turd like Beecroft to oversee certain policy making endeavours.

Ed Staite, a former media advisor for the Tories is accused of trying to sell policy to the highest bidder. He is filmed by undercover reporters that they can use their money and influence to affect government policy in a way that helps their business, by pushing for the sale of Royal Mail. How does Staite defend himself? Well, on his website he says:

I was suggesting a transparent approach to generate new ideas which may well never become Conservative Party policy. That is how the policy formulation process works.

– How this is a defence, is beyond me. Policy is generated, he is suggesting, by selling access to very wealthy individuals? How is that a defence? And these people have the nerve to attack the Labour Party for its ties to unions? Unions represent hundreds of thousands of people. The one or two that speak to despicable advisors like Staite, represent their own private business interests. It actually disgusts me that these people are allowed anywhere near power. It seems, even though they did not win a mandate, like vultures they are attempting very successfully to use government to enrich themselves and their friends. This is corruption on a horrendous scale.

Francis Maude made the entire media onslaught a thousands times worse by insisting that people stock up on fuel at home in jerry cans. It was made a million times worse when a woman in York suffered 40% burns after transferring fuel at home and setting herself alight. Maude should resign.

Party funding, should be public.

Point 3) An attempt to divert the horrendous press the Tories have received this week away from them, and onto the unions and the Labour party.

It is all political. If it isn’t political, then it is such vast incompetence, it is scary to think that these idiots are running the country. This wouldn’t surprise me, given the different messages coming out of Downing Street. Firstly, fill up your cars. Then, fill up your jerry cans at home. Then, only fill to three quarters. But don’t panic. There is no coherent message. When a government goes out of their way to tell the entire nation not to panic….then there is going to be panic.

And then there are those who blame the public.

“Well they should have used their common sense!”
What a ludicrous argument. What a weak defence of an indefensible and perpetually shambolic government.
People don’t have all the information.
People are told the government are in emergency meetings for this.
People are told to stock up on cans.
People are already struggling, so when they hear this, they react.
People are aware that governments are more informed than anyone else on the situation.
It just so happens, that the government weren’t more informed.
And it just so happens that they weren’t more informed….. on the week of a big cash for access scandal, and reports of double dip.

Here is a particularly favourite argument I have came across:

– I highlight this argument, because it seems to be quite common. And yet, it’s very contradictory. He is saying that people should think for themselves instead of listening to government. And then he’s saying (in regards to the riots), people don’t listen to government at all. I’m not sure what the overall point is.
‎”If the government advised people to chop their testicles off to reduce over population, do you think people would just blindly do it?
The “if the government said chop your testicles off blah blah utter bollocks” argument is as painfully uninspired as any other. Just a silly comparison. We know chopping a testicle off is detrimental. It’s common sense. There is no weighing up of pro’s and cons. But when a government who are privy to information we aren’t, on the proceedings of 1) government 2) economic conditions and 3) the possibility of strike action because they’re constantly updated on the threat ….. then people, who lead busy lives, or businesses that are struggling to cope, cannot be expected to spend hours wading through all the information and coming to a rounded judgement, especially when they do not have all the information and cannot possibly get all the relevant information. Of course people rely on official sources for their information. If you think a top Cabinet Minister going on TV and saying “we’re holding emergency Cobra meetings” and “fill up your tanks, take petrol home” is going to make people take a day off work so they can sit and read through all relevant documentation and information available, I think you’re expecting a bit too much. The government have a responsibility. They purposely caused panic in this instance.

Also, the riot analogy is just as weak. The riots themselves were not the result of sudden desperation and a fear of a lack of essential supply. There was an obvious economic and social undertone to the riots, and always have been when it comes to violent disorder. How he managed to compare the two, actually hurts my head. As I noted in a previous blog written just after the London riots:

The motives are of course opportunistic. There appears to be no political motive. It has purely brought out the violent and senseless mob who are achieving nothing but the destruction of their communities. But the social and economic situation in relation to these riots cannot be ignored. We must accept that when one person commits a crime, it is an individual problem. When thousands commit the same crime, on the same day, there is a deep social problem. Certain tweeters have said they watched people looting supermarkets of nappies and milk. The underlying issues need addressing. Many of the Greek rioters last year, were opportunistic in nature. But the economic pressures created an atmosphere where rioting was essentially inevitable. A government who go out of their way to initiate a shock to the system that forces unemployment up deliberately, whilst living cost and rising inflation also rise purposely, is a government that is committing economic criminality. It is similar in the UK. A study by the business information group Experian found that inner city poorer areas are not equipped to deal with economic shocks like that of austerity, because they are still dealing with the after affects of the economic shocks of the 1980s. It found that Elmbridge in Surrey was the least likely to be affected by austerity, coincidentally, Elmbridge in Surrey was labelled as the town with the highest quality of life by a Halifax Estate Agency, and the “Beverly Hills of England” by the Daily Mail. The looting of the public services and economic violence from the Government, will absolutely always lead to social violence and criminality.

An entire generation has been told that we must own stuff. That the purpose of life is to consume. We are given easy credit to fuel the debt needed to sustain an economy and a prevailing social wisdom built around consuming. People who have very little, who are told they will always have very little, living in areas where the opportunities are bleak at best and non-existent at worst, are still encouraged to consume. The materialist mindset that has dominated all other thought processes for far too long, must not be ignored as a contributing factor to the unrest; this can be seen quite evidently with the looting of non-essential, luxury goods. We are what we buy. And that is a problem. A generation of young people have had luxuries dangled infront of their faces by incessant advertising, only to be told they would never be able to afford them; well that temptation exploded and now they can get those desirable consumer items for free.

– To add to this. We live in a greed fueled culture. Humanity has many different traits. Our economic system is based on one trait; greed. Which isn’t always a terrible thing. But it does mean that that particular trait is quite obviously amplified, because it is rewarded. This is how the trickle down affect actually works. Greed at the top, will trickle down to the very bottom. This is when unrest becomes inevitable. Wealth trickling upwards, results in unrest trickling downwards. It isn’t a conscious phenomena, it is a product of the system that we live.

The petrol crises is the fault of the government. No one else. It was a cynical political game that has backfired miserably. People are still panic buying, petrol stations are closing, fuel is running low….. and there isn’t even likely to be a strike. What a total mess. Typical of such an awful government.