I was asked to speak at a fundraiser for The Cuts Won’t Work campaign tonight. This is roughly what I said.
I always think it’s good to interrupt a comedy gig with some discussion of political economic history. So I’m going to chat for a bit about the last century in the UK.  In 1910 100 years ago this year, people demanded a basic state pension so that no one had to be terrified of poverty in old age. The Tories said we couldn’t afford a basic state pension. They fought tooth and nail against it.

But our great grandparents disagreed. The people of this country came together, and finally, they beat the Tories. They forced through the people’s budget, and laid the foundations of the welfare state. They showed that the Tories were wrong.

In 1945, our grandparents, the great generation, returned from the WW2 and insisted on a fairer Britain. The Tories said we couldn’t afford public services. But our grandparents said that our country could no longer afford to allow people to die from preventable illnesses because they are poor. And so the generation who won the war came home and built the NHS and council housing: They built them for their children, and their children’s children. The Tories said we couldn’t afford basic public services. They were wrong.

And every step of the way, the Tory Party opposed every public service. So when today’s Tories say we can’t afford public services, that’s what they told our grandparents, and that’s what they told our great grandparents. And they were wrong then. And they are wrong now.

Because the welfare state isn’t money down the drain, but an investment in the civilisation on which our economy is built.

An investment the Tories have always opposed.

Tories saying we can’t afford public spending is like Robbie Williams saying he can’t afford to go into re-hab.

Like Robbie with his crack, they are addicted to the cut and thrust of unfettered markets which destroyed our economy. Never trust an addict when they say they’ve given up. Never trust a Tory when they say we need cuts.

Like Robbie, we can afford to spend. We have one of the lowest levels of debt to GDP in the Western World. As private companies become increasingly risky bets, people are desperate to lend to Governments. So the government can borrow at very cheap rates. Before the election, the Tory justification for the cuts was that government borrowing would get more expensive. Lefties asked where else the markets would invest their money and argued that borrowing would get cheaper. We were right. They were wrong. And now even the IMF and OECD have admitted it.

And like re-hab, public spending isn’t the cause of this crisis, but the solution. The reason we have a deficit is unemployment. Fewer people in work means fewer people paying taxes and more people claiming benefits.  And you don’t solve a deficit created by unemployment by cutting jobs. As many of the world’s top economists – including those who predicted the recession like Joseph Stiglitz and David Blanchflower – have argued, we need to stop obsessing about the deficit. Because spending, creates jobs, which helps build our way out of unemployment.

Because once again, the Tories are wrong. They are wrong, and they are destroying the welfare state that our grandparents left for us. But when they were wrong in 1910, our great-grandparents beat them. When they were wrong in 1945, our grandparents beat them. And so the time has come for us to beat them again.

Adam Ramsay

About Adam Ramsay

Adam is Co-Editor of Open Democracy UK and a green activist based in Edinburgh. He co-founded Bright Green in 2010.