The campaigns about the state of Britain's parliamentary democracy are not only designed to hide the fact that real political power is concentrated elsewhere. It also serves to distract attention from the deepening economic crisis.
While the media have been convulsed with concern over the Westminster circus, events in the real world of the capitalist economy have continued to show the inexorable worsening of the crisis. There is occasionally talk of the green shoots of the recovery being visible or that there might be signs of the beginning of the end of the recession. But you can't help thinking that if there was any confidence behind these tentative thoughts they'd been shouting them from the rooftops.
More reliably, during May the Bank of England was reported to be worried the "UK's banking system is heading for a third wave of crisis that could snuff out fragile signs of recovery in the economy" (Financial Times 8/5/9). Accordingly they pumped another £50 billion into the economy, ignoring recent buoyancy on the stock market. The brute figures, the statistics of how we live, are still getting worse.
The official figures for average wage levels have fallen for the first time in at least 45 years. Workers have been accepting pay cuts rather than lose their jobs. Unemployment rose for the last reported quarter at the highest rate since 1981. The number of people who lost their jobs in March was the biggest in the post-war period. It's not just limited to the private sector as councils are already making cuts that will grow as government policies take effect. The possibility of 3 or 4 million officially unemployed in the UK in the coming period seems more and more feasible.
The latest attacks on living and working conditions follows a previous period in which things were already going down a one-way street. As The Guardian (8/5/9) reported "Britain under Gordon Brown is a more unequal country than at any time since modern records began in the early 1960s, after the incomes of the poor fell and those of the rich rose in the three years after the 2005 general election. Deprivation and inequality in the UK rose for a third successive year in 2007-08"
While the papers have been feeding on the carcases of shamed or discarded politicians, the impact of the economic crisis has continued to be felt. In mid-May BT announced that it would be cutting the jobs of 15,000 workers, 10% of its workforce, making 30,000 over a two-year period. When the front pages are full of chatter about moats and duck islands there's not so much space for that sort of news
There's also the importance of the bankruptcy of General Motors. GM bought Vauxhall in 1925 and so for more than 80 years the British branch has not been immune to the fluctuations of the US economy. With tens of thousands of GM jobs lost in the US it is obviously a very worrying time for the more than 5000 Vauxhall workers at Ellesmere Port and Luton. Either one or both plants could close, and remarks about ‘restructuring' from Peter Mandelson indicate that jobs are bound to go, but he doesn't yet know how many.
The froth over MPs and elections will sooner or later be replaced by the next campaign from the bourgeoisie, as interest in Britain's Got Talent is replaced by the latest series of Big Brother. The ruling class will even make a spectacle out of its own corruption, anything to divert the attention of the working class from the effects of capitalism's economic crisis.