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The election result alters the social attitudes that underlie the profession


Conservative policy leading up to the election was based on three deliberate fallacies, says Tony Fretton

Mismanagement by the previous Labour administration caused the recession. In fact the real cause was an international failure of the banks, and the economy was in better shape under Labour than under Conservative Chancellor Kenneth Clark.

Steep reductions in public spending were necessary to put this right, when history and eminent economists such as Lawrence Summers and Paul Krugman showed the exact opposite to be true.

Austerity brought the country out of recession, when in fact it actually slowed down a recovery that was already under way.

The motivation was not economic but political. It allowed the coalition to take credit for a recovery that was not of its making and to portray the Labour party as a threat to its continuation. With the aid of the press it worked, as Conservative voting friends of mine have told me.

The deeper political motivation is even more serious. Cameron, Osborne and Johnson, along with some Lib Dem members of the coalition have indicated their aim of permanently shrinking the social state and transferring wealth to those who already have it. In their cruellest moments they have contrived to blame to recession on unemployed and disabled people.

If you are an architect you are relieved that there are good levels of work and hoping for continuity. If you are a teacher in a school of architecture you will have less job security and work longer unpaid hours. If you are a cleaner or security guard, you will be wondering how you are going to live. If you are an unemployed person or disable your life is being made a misery.

How does this affect architecture? At a fundamental level it alters the social attitudes that underlie the profession and makes life much more difficult for compassionate Conservatism, moderate Liberalism, Green thinking and the Labour project of social security and opportunity for working people.

Worse, under the new government there is a serious possibility of departing the European Union and Scotland succeeding with considerable economic and social fallout. Guiding us through these travails will be politicians who combine amateurism and social emptiness with an overweening sense of entitlement, a type that the post war social settlement aimed to replace with more representative governance, but who seem to have nonchalantly returned and persuaded the population to vote against its own best interests.


Readers' comments (3)

  • Well I'm very glad that Tony Fretton still leans left but I disagree with him on this. The problem with the Labour party is that in 1997 following repeated frustrated attempts at getting elected it, led by Tony Blair, decided that a lean to the right was necessary to achieve success. Tony justified this to himself by adopting the Tory belief in Wealth trickling downwards and by telling himself that UK politics is a 2 part system where Labour -in any form- are the de-facto champions of social justice. Ed Miliband realised that the party under Blair had lost it's soul and tried to build it back in the last campaign, but he was never convincing because he himself never convinced the Blairites that surrounded him. Just look now how they are preparing for another lean to the right. The only saving grace of the Blair government was the high level of public investment but how much of it will actually turn out to be substantive in the long term and how much of it was actually 'bread and circuses'?
    If you're an architect today you bemoan the fact that both New Labour and The Conservatives have conspired to solidify the UK as a nation of shopkeepers. Making money is the only thing that matters and is doesn't matter how one does it. This attitude is anathema to architecture which one of the last arenas where values trump prices, and this is why we are at such a low ebb. Blair and Cameron have given us a generation of architectural graduates who'd be financially better off doing almost anything else, and a generation of our brightest and best science and maths graduates heading straight for the City of London or Wall Street rather then to engineering and research careers. 13 years of New Labour made leftist politics impossible in a two party system and made the Tory's 'mission' easier. The trend is set to continue unless we change the system to Proportional Representation. Of curse we mustn't forget than this move to the right (which is always talked about as a move to the centre) is driven by the public who vote, who tend to be conservative in nature. Lefties tend to be young (before they become well off) and don't tend to vote. It's great that people like Fretton remain true to their values despite changing life circumstances, but then architects tend to do that anyway don't we.

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  • Kieran Gaffney

    Good on you Tony Fretton. It's very good to hear these three fallacies voiced so clearly and simply..

    It was obvious that the Tory party was absolutely delighted at the recession as a chance to shrink the state for the ideological reasons.

    Now as someone in my timeline tweeted I 'can't help but see Cameron and Osborne smirk' as they now have at least two years of criticism free legislation.

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  • Long on analysis, short on solutions. Its a' we was robbed' story. How does Labour's socialist offer and the SNP success fit into fit into your analysis Tony?

    When will the people who know best conclude the public can't be trusted with electoral power. Given the comments, least some architects are travelling in that direction.

    Perhaps someone will point to another political system that
    has faired better in terms of welfare than the UK in the last 5 years. Bring back the revolution! right on!

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