Don’t expect any humanity in the chancellor’s emergency budget

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Frankie Boyle

George Osborne has already achieved a lot in his austerity drive – now dystopian sci-fi only has to be set 18 months in the future

If George Osborne were in Game of Thrones he would be firmly House of Lannister, alongside Tywin.
If George Osborne were in Game of Thrones, he would be firmly House of Lannister (patriarch Tywin, left) Photograph: PR image/Getty Images
If George Osborne were in Game of Thrones, he would be firmly House of Lannister (patriarch Tywin, left) Photograph: PR image/Getty Images

Last modified on Thu 7 Mar 2019 14.47 EST

With Labour in disarray, the Tories are now free to focus on their real opposition: the common good. Today’s emergency budget, we’re assured, will turn us into One Nation. Unfortunately that nation is Greece.

There’s a lot of projection among our elites. Perhaps they have to imagine the people they prey on as having their own worst qualities, so currently we hear a lot about scroungers and parasites and frauds, as a class of yacht-owning, show jumping, off-piste-skiing, incestuous monsters projects the shame it feels at its own greed on to a population whose idea of decadence is probably bath bombs.

George Osborne has already achieved a lot as chancellor – for example, dystopian sci-fi now only has to be set 18 months in the future. To us he seems to be firmly House Lannister, if you overlook his terrible record on debt, but the true horror of Osborne is that he is actually one of the more human faces in the Conservative parliamentary party. He doesn’t even have that penetrating delivery that upperclass English people evolved to make themselves heard over musket fire and the screams of dying foreigners. His strained voice is more like the one you’d use to try to book tickets on an automated phone line, or in the final six months of a relationship.

Yet it’s important not to respond with our own projection and imagine humanity in people who feel none. Your ruling class don’t care about what happens to you. What seems like some enormous upset in your community is undetectable from a helicopter or a speeding motorcade. They are pitiless. Sitting down and trying to make a moral argument against austerity to our elites is like addressing global warming by opening negotiations with the sea. They don’t care about things like education. They feel there needs to be enough provision so that prostitutes are numerate enough to find hotel rooms, and that’s it.

The Tories are obviously attuned to word choice, which is why they gave us a couple of months’ notice of their emergency budget. So why do they feel so sanguine about the ubiquity of “austerity”? This isn’t austerity; it’s a transfer of assets from public to private ownership. One of the main advantages of the word “austerity” is that it suggests a gradual process, when, in reality, we are caught under the wheels of a chariot.

We live in a society that doesn’t even care to address the fact that the planet is dying. Establishment attitudes cover a narrow spectrum from survival being less important than growth to climate change being a hoax. Suggesting what? That the crafty international scientific community has got together to talk down the value of beachfront property? This is a budget that will result in people with disabilities dying, not as an unfortunate side-effect, but as a direct consequence of a system that is empirically indifferent to life.

Our ruling class are largely unaware of the struggles of unknowable muggle lives, but our desiccated culture has probably left us alienated enough to be able to empathise with theirs a little. I want you to try something. Imagine that you become a member of our elite. You have every success you’ve ever wanted but have to spend your time surrounded by the worst people on earth. It’s like being a Chelsea fan. You start to take cocaine, partly because you now socialise exclusively with people it wouldn’t be safe to fall asleep around. You buy a yacht.

Being on a yacht is, at best, like being in a Premier Inn during an earthquake. So why is it an entrance requirement for the super-rich? Because it provides a floating crime scene. You and your jaded friends can now take your parties into international waters. You can stop off at the Channel Islands and take onboard a consignment of orphans who will afterwards be thrown into the giant beak-like mouths of the blasphemous undersea deities that you all worship.

And then one day you find yourself sitting in the ruins of some charmless party, an arms dealer slurring at you that he’s made more money out of Africa than Bob Geldof, a couple of members of the Illuminati in a corner debating whether hinting at their existence on banknotes might be counterproductive. You suggest that the central bankers have Greece in a chokehold. “Stranglehold!” corrects a humourless former member of the KGB, a point that he insists on demonstrating on a resigned-looking waiter. Later, the boat rocks slightly and you assume that the body has been dropped overboard and something has risen to feed on it.

You step out on to the deck, where there is an eerie, humid calm. There is a thought in the heart of every addict. It is universal, but we all think it’s unique to just us. It is: “I am no damn good.” Every rich person has a secret thought at their centre too, and now that I think about it the two must be related. You reach for it here for comfort. It is: “The next thing I get will make me happy.”

Beneath the boat, and stretching out for miles on every side, there floats the monstrous eye of Ry’lleth, the Great UnMaker. The eye is obscene, unblinking, and the unique black of arterial blood. You would have said, if you didn’t know better, that it regarded you with something like pity.

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