THE Tories persistently peddle the mantra that because the 2008 financial crisis left the nation with such a punitive and costly deficit austerity was not only necessary, but also (reverting back to the sacred words of the Blessed Margaret) that there was no alternative. That of course is not only a barefaced lie, it is patently stupid.

Austerity is both an ideological and political concept: ideological because it is based on a very narrow and specific way of thinking, and political because it involves a series of quite deliberate choices that are the result of that specific way of thinking. It is part of a belief system that is itself rooted in the entrenched and ever-present class warfare that is the essential characteristic of the United Kingdom.

Britain is based on privilege, entitlement, and exclusion, and the Tory approach was neatly summed up by the Blessed Margaret who categorised people by whether they were “them” or “us”. The notion that there is no alternative is a totalitarian concept witnessed by a Tory government that refuses to allow a vote by either parliament or the British people on the Brexit situation, and has refused to allow any input by the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly, or any political institution in Northern Ireland other than the appalling DUP. Thus, Britain is governed by a set of ideological politicians who simply refuse to even pay lip service to democratic norms. They are both natural and ideological authoritarians who must get their own way, another legacy of the Blessed Margaret.

READ MORE: SNP calls for Budget to halt 'Tory decade of decline'

One of the primary targets for the Westminster war against democratic institutions was local government. Local governments have suffered an average 60% cut in their budgets since the last election and local government has been effectively crippled. With respect to democratic imperatives, a liberal democracy requires a system of limited government with defined independent centres of power.

To establish her control, Thatcher launched an aggressive war against such independent centres of power and her primary targets were Britain’s system of local government and the trades union movement. Both have been effectively crippled, allowing central government to do pretty much what it wants, which was her primary aim.

Democratic governance requires legitimacy and representation and as wide a dispersal of power as is necessary. The principle of local government is designed to satisfy such requirements and if such local responsibility were to be replaced by centralised administration from London, such local individuality of approach would be sacrificed to uniformity, and that the adaptability of local decision-making would give way to rigidity and the centralised imposition of a bureaucratic “there is no alternative” way of doing things. That is exactly what has happened in the UK.

If local government enjoys a degree of autonomy from the centre, the power of the state is therefore fragmented and limited and that is anathema to authoritarians like Thatcher and her successors, leading us to remember the political truism that the elimination of local government is generally taken as a symptom of totalitarianism. Thus, we must reflect that austerity is not inevitable, even given the disaster of the financial crisis. Politics is the art of choosing between alternatives and the Tories (and their reserve team of the Labour Party) made the classic fundamental choice between imposing cuts or raising taxes, which was of course, completely ideological.

It is therefore accurate to say that the Westminster parties are quite deliberately dismantling our system of politics and remodelling it in their own image. If our peoples allow them to do that, then they will get exactly what they deserve.

Peter Kerr