The anti-cuts movement has jumped the shark


fonzieThe term “jumping the shark” describes the moment that a TV series becomes a parody of itself, condemning itself to irrelevance. The origin of the phrase comes from an episode of Happy Days where the Fonz jumped over a leaping shark in a surfing competition. In all likelihood, Saturday will come to be remembered as the day that the anti-cuts movement jumped the shark, parodying itself so ridiculously that it can no longer be seen as a serious political force.

Consider the speeches given to the TUC march. PJ Byrne has written a fine article on the errors within these speeches, but even on a superficial level the speeches were ridiculous. Ed Miliband’s invocation of the suffragette, US Civil Rights and anti-apartheid movements only served to underline the speciousness his own cause. Where those groups had fought for freedom against government oppression, Miliband defended community centres and jobs for life in the public sector. The comparison is self-evidently ludicrous. Archbishop Cranmer's headline neatly summed it up: “Ed Miliband: I am Emmeline Pankhurst! I am Martin Luther King! I am Nelson Mandela!”

How unbecoming it was to see the British left, with its roots in honourable struggles for peace, universal suffrage and better conditions for the working poor, now little more than a mouthpiece for public sector unions. So, when did the British left stop caring about the poor and start caring about civil servants? When unions stopped representing the working poor and became a preserve of state workers. Today, only 15% of private sector workers are in a trade union, while 56% of public sector workers are (PDF source). The left can’t claim to be concerned about the poor while it's trying to protect relatively well-paid state workers from redundancy, which is a fact of life for workers in the private sector.

And, of course, there was UK Uncut's “occupation” of Fortnum & Mason and vandalizing of businesses around Piccadilly Circus. As Tim Worstall pointed out, Fortnum & Mason is owned by a charitable trust that donates about £40m every year to charity. Even the “tax avoidance” allegations against Vodafone and Boots are silly – tax avoidance is, by definition, legal. There's a good argument to be made in favour of simplifying the tax code to reduce avoidance, but to blame private companies themselves for acting lawfully is absurd. But the real point was class warfare, which is why the Ritz was also targeted. UK Uncut showed itself once again to be made of spoilt Marxist wannabes.

The campaign against the cuts was always unrealistic, but Saturday showed how much of the anti-cuts movement has lost its grip on reality altogether. The government should worry less about it, and cut faster and deeper without fear.