FILM MAKER Martin Durkin explained the full extent of the financial mess we are in last night on Channel 4: an estimated £4.8 trillion of national debt - and counting…
His programme focused attention on the fact that the UK’s public sector now spends more than all British companies and individuals put together and that, despite the Coalition’s spending cuts, National Debt, in 2015, will still be more than it was last year.
Government cuts, it is argued, are too little, too late. And it is difficult not to agree.
Martin’s programme does tend to gloss-over a number of pertinent facts – although the case he makes is perfectly sound. He does mention, in passing, that two World Wars were responsible for the UK Government taking on vast loans to support the war effort – and to rebuild Britain’s infrastructure during the peace that followed. And he does correctly show the relationship between taxation and economic growth. But, in his choice to provide Hong Kong as his comparison to what can be achieved if only the rich are taxed, at a minimal rate of 20%, he does not mention that the island’s amazing growth over the past 50 years is only measured by the fact that, in the 60s, it was almost exclusively composed of shanty dwellings with most residents living in abject poverty.
He also fails to point-out that Hong Kong manufacturing benefits from cheap materials supplied by mainland China – and that Hong Kong has no armed forces or world-wide obligations to finance. Furthermore, in justifying his case by citing Russia and old Eastern Bloc countries as further examples of what can be achieved by adopting the Hong Kong model, he fails to mention that their resulting economic growths were also accompanied by substantially increased levels of organised crime – to which Hong Kong is also a victim.
Today’s TV journalists and documentary producers are faced with an insurmountable problem. Just as their newspaper colleagues are faced with squeezing their articles into the available space between adverts, TV producers are faced with time constraints and the necessity to compete for the viewer’s attention against a channel’s other programming; but, unlike their newspaper counterparts, they do not have an overall editor whom can balance their piece by counter-posing it alongside another with alternate views.
That same problem is present with online newspapers, and Blogs; because the technology focuses attention on a single article – without providing a balancing argument in the reader’s peripheral view. Visitors are drawn to an article; read it, and then, more likely than not: go away with biased opinions.
If the Canvey Beat is anything to go by, few readers click upon an article’s body links to read alternative and supporting pieces, which all good Bloggers and journalists painstakingly provide.
The problem is a subtle one; but, it can be argued that it is this very loss, of easily obtained perspective, that has resulted in the increased divisions in British society in the last thirty years. People no longer buy, and read, the Telegraph AND the Guardian to form their views. Now they are more likely to confine themselves to reading their preferred newspaper online, and picking those headlines that appeal to them – thus shutting-out alternate perspectives.
The predominance of TV and the new online media has, many would say, been responsible for polarising society.
Martin Durkin’s programme will inevitably be cited by the Tory Right as confirmation of their call for reducing taxation and the size of the State. The Coalition, led by the Conservatives, will point-out that it exonerates their deep cuts. And the opposition will simply dismiss it as Tory propaganda.
Politicians, over the last thirty years, have become as polarised in their views as the citizens that elect them.
If Martin’s programme exposed anything, last night, it was surely the ignorance of backbench MPs and the concrete mind-set of union leaders.
Let us hope, like Martin, that his programme forces everyone to rethink their entrenched attitudes and realise that the solution to all our problems does not lie in the biased ideas of a minority; but the intelligent application of all proven means and good ideas from across the House.
In the meantime, all politicians could do worse than take the Telegraph and the Guardian each day – and read them…