Former Tory adviser uses 130,000 austerity deaths to argue against coronavirus shutdown

Steve Hilton

Steve Hilton helped to kickstart Britain’s austerity era. As David Cameron’s “closest adviser” until 2012, the Independent once called him “the advertising wizard who packaged and marketed” Cameron to the public. But now, Hilton has used the deadly austerity regime he nurtured into power as an argument against taking strong action to deal with the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

Sorry, what?

On his weekly Fox News show, Hilton argued that the US should not ‘shut down’ to deal with the coronavirus crisis. Why? Because ordinary people would later ‘have to’ suffer through austerity to pay the price. To demonstrate his point, he mentioned how at least 130,000 people died as a result of the UK Conservative Party’s ideological austerity.

Hilton suggested that “the cure is worse than the disease”, saying “this total economic shutdown will kill people”. This is clearly the hard-right’s message in the US at the moment. Because on the same day, Donald Trump tweeted “WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF”. But Hilton took an odd turn in order to explain why, arguing that:

A UK study calculated that 130,000 people died avoidably from austerity there between 2012 and 2017. The years of austerity for America to pay the cost of this shutdown will be worse.

As journalist Mehdi Hasan pointed out, it was particularly ironic for Hilton to invoke austerity deaths in his argument:

Austerity was always unnecessary

Since 2010, the billionairebacked Conservative Party and its allies have inflicted devastating, unnecessary austerity on the UK. This intensified both regional and economic divisions. It also starved the NHS while severely reducing public funding for education, social welfare, the justice system, councils and housing. It sparked a rise in poverty, foodbank usage, and widespread suffering for some of the most vulnerable people in Britain too. One recent report, meanwhile, revealed what one expert called a “national scandal”, with life expectancy slowing and health inequalities widening between the wealthiest and poorest parts of England.

Allowing things to get this bad was a political choice that the Conservatives made. It was not a necessary result of the 2007/8 capitalist crash. Political elites simply exploited the crisis to further their own interests. They chose to bail out the banks and inflict crushing austerity on ordinary people. Indeed, as US presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders pointed out recently, they can always find billions upon billions to protect banks and wage wars; just not for protecting ordinary people and their interests.

A people’s bailout is completely possible – and necessary

Governments don’t have to follow doctrines that lead to thousands and thousands of deaths. Hilton may not like it, but there is a different path. Over 500 international academics and public figures, for example, recently joined calls for governments to support people with an “emergency universal basic income” (UBI). This would see governments give all citizens a regular amount of money to cover essential living costs. The academics said UBI “should play a central role in the emergency response” to the coronavirus crisis. One Oxford economics fellow stressed that £1,000 per person would cost £66bn a month – “a fraction of the nearly £500bn bailout the UK needed to stay afloat during the 2008 financial crisis”.

In short, we don’t need to listen to right-wingers who were fine with bailing out banks and letting ordinary people die under austerity. We can, and must, ensure that any coronavirus bailout is a people’s bailout. Anything less is unacceptable.

Featured image via YouTube – Fox News

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us