This is a brilliant book that does not pull any punches. To be fair, you can pretty much tell how much you are going to appreciate the book just by reading the title. However, don’t think that the author just picks on the Tory party – the Labour party and all politicians in general come into the firing line, over a long period of time.
Points raised include:
• the impact of intrinsic government relationships with the media, the police, big business, the financial world
• how risk and costs remain with the state whilst profit heads towards the private sector
• the different ways in which the rich and poor in society are treated by government
• the close ties between politicians in government and right-wing think-tanks that allow ideas to be floated that politicians could not raise themselves without risking the wrath of the people (eg privatisation of the NHS). These policy ideas – if taken up by politicians – would just happen to nicely benefit the backers of the think-tanks. It is hard to determine the precise motives of these think-tanks as they do not widely publicise where their funding comes from. Despite that it is clear that a core principle is to roll back the role of the state
• the sense of entitlement felt by members of the Establishment and how politicians felt free to fiddle expenses, as if they are envious of the people who have become rich on the back of the policies they have introduced.
A note about the narration of the audiobook version: in general this is very well read, adding just the right amount of vitriol when necessary but I found it a bit irritating how the narrator tries to differentiate the written text and quotes. Quotes from men are all in the same gruff voice and he manages women with only moderate success. To throw in some inconsistency he tries the odd impression of some of the more well known characters in the book and attempts some foreign accents.
As I write this it is the day after the 2015 UK General Election. The expected hung parliament / coalition government outcome did not come about – instead the Conservatives managed to win a majority. The Scottish National Party won nearly every seat in Scotland and the Liberal Democrats were nearly wiped off the political map despite being the minor partner in the previous coalition government and holding a number of the Cabinet ministerial positions. The Labour and Lib Dem leaders resigned this morning, as did the leader of the UK Independence Party. I mention this because the result must surely make the Establishment believe that they now have no opposition, that they are invincible. The outcome of the election is that a lot of the people who actually have experience of running the country or holding high-ranking positions in the opposition are no longer around. A new, more inexperienced generation of politicians will now be in power. I suspect that the Establishment will be able to run rings around this fledgling bunch and that ties to the Conservative government will only get stronger.
The bottom line: if you live in the UK you should read this book.
• The Guardian: Owen Jones
• The Guardian: “The case for cuts was a lie. Why does Britain still believe it? The austerity delusion” by Paul Krugman
• Spare Cycles: Review: Treasure Islands: Tax Havens and the Men who Stole the World (Audiobook)
• The Guardian: General Election 2015