Brian Monteith: The bare fact is that there isn’t any money

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George Osborne should have been a drag artist not a Chancellor of the Exchequer. On Tuesday, instead of putting on a Savile Row suit he should have put on a frock and a pinnie, grabbed the rolling pin and marched off to Westminster.

There, in the pit of the House of Commons, he could have played the pantomime dame that he so obviously resembles, Old Mother Hubbard.

For on Tuesday when he gave the autumn statement, Osborne made it as plain as could be – the cupboard is bare.

There is nothing there, no bone for the dog, no mullah for those public sector pensions – in fact such is the state of the finances that he is going to have to reduce the government workforce by 300,000 more souls than he originally planned and borrow more than he expected – just to keep everything the same as it is now. That’s because the cupboard is bare.

Did anyone hear his message? Apparently not, for the next day the trade unions claimed two million people went on strike over the changes being made to their pensions. The militants just don’t get it. The cupboard is bare.

This week a report came out criticising the Government for its handling of the Royal Navy’s aircraft carrier contracts, you know the one that is going to be built but will have no aircraft to fly off it and the other that will be launched and then, er, immediately mothballed. The critics just don’t get it. The cupboard is bare.

On the telly the union bosses queue up to say how their members have had a pay freeze and are now only getting a one per cent pay rise next year and are paying 3 per cent more towards their pensions. Osborne had just told them 700,000 public servants would lose their jobs by 2017 – you don’t get a pay rise or have a pension if you don’t have a job. The union bosses just don’t get it. The cupboard is bare.

Look around you and see the private businesses that have gone, the shops that have shut – their workers didn’t have a job for life, the luxury of no compulsory redundancies or the comfort of an early retirement package. They were simply told that’s it, game over. People marching down the streets that have to pay more but still have a job and a pension most people can only dream of just don’t get it. The cupboard is bare.

There are still politicians that want to raise taxes and soak the rich ignoring the fact that the rich don’t live here any more because they object to paying more than half their earnings to governments that squander it all. This summer Jim McColl, who supported the SNP at the last election, sold Clyde Union Pumps for more than £750 million and now lives in Monaco. The green-eyed politicians just don’t get it. With taxpayers leaving the country in droves – the cupboard is bare.

The national debt is expected to reach £1.4 trillion by 2015, that’s £1,400,000,000,000 in real money. It’s already £982bn but still Ed Balls wants to borrow more! Arguing we should take on extra debt to solve the debt crisis just does not make sense. Ed Balls just does not get it. The cupboard is bare.

Despite all the tosh talked about obesity, alcoholism and smoking people are living longer and the average life expectancy is still rising. People passing away in their 60s are now said to have died “young”. The cost of meeting guaranteed public sector pensions is growing and we shall soon reach the point when more people are drawing from them than contributing to them. The public sector strikers just don’t get it. The cupboard is bare.

The only way public sector pensions can survive is if everybody that derives no benefit from them contributes towards them – even if they have no pension of their own. It’s called a taxpayer subsidy and represents a huge transfer of wealth from the poorer-paid private sector worker to the higher-paid public sector worker. The general secretaries of the TUC and STUC just don’t get it. The cupboard is bare.

The only way this nation and this government, indeed any nation with any government, can deal with these circumstances is to raise the pensionable age and to adjust payments to try and catch up. Old Mother Hubbard knows this, because on Tuesday I turned my telly on and the anchorman sat up and reported: “Old Mother Hubbard went to the cupboard to give her poor dog a bone. When she got there the cupboard was bare and so the poor workers got none.”

Does our nation get it? The cupboard is bare. What will it take before people realise that as a nation we are broke and living on the goodwill of our creditors?

Workers asking for five per cent of nothing need to do their sums, it equals zero.