Thursday, February 23, 2006

Buying Votes

Fraser Nelson has an excellent article in today's Spectator on state dependency:

"The secret to everlasting left-wing government was discovered in Sweden decades ago. First raise tax and employ as much of the electorate as possible. Next, offer generous welfare and bribe the middle classes with childcare. Soon, a critical mass of voters becomes part of the government project, and votes for its expansion. Higher private sector earners may squeal at the tax rates, but are easily outnumbered. Eventually the right-wing opposition grows tired of losing elections, and starts pledging to outspend the government, if elected. Then victory is complete."

He's crunched the numbers to show just how far vote buying has come:
  • 52% of the electorate now state beneficiaries: "state employees (15 per cent of the electorate), the out-of-work and on welfare (11 per cent), benefit-dependent pensioners (18 per cent) and pensioners with independent means (8 per cent)".
  • One in four employed people now works for the government: "The official count of 5.8 million state workers leaves out the likes of university staff, GPs and anyone who is subcontracted. Include them, and the true figure is 6.8 million people — a staggering 784,000 more than there were in 1997".
  • 4.51 million out of work and on benefits: "At 5.1 per cent of the workforce — 870,000 people — Britain’s official claimant count is about half French and German levels. But this is just a tiny part of a far larger story. Among those not included in the unemployment figures are the 2.7 million on incapacity benefit, some 790,000 on lone parent benefit, and other schemes like the carers’ allowance".
  • Pensioners on benefit: "The Department for Work and Pensions calculates that more than two thirds are now dependent on benefits for half their income".

With our escalating tax bill, this is clearly unsustainable. But for obvious electoral reasons, Nelson is gloomy about the prospect of the Tories gripping the problem. While it's true that just seven of the 200 most welfare dependent constituencies are Tory, the party has to win outside the heartlands. No wonder Nelson concludes: "Thatcher declared that New Labour was her greatest legacy and the Prime Minister can step down knowing his victory has been just as profound: to have Cameron abandon the quest for small government and join him in pushing forward the frontiers of the state".

Which means there's really no alternative. Break out those pitchforks and scythes- we peasants are marching to the Palace to make our voices heard.

No comments:

Post a Comment