NYT Victim Hunt: 'As Austerity Helps Bankrupt an English County, Even Conservatives Mutiny'

August 18th, 2018 6:44 PM

The New York Times can be relied upon to push government spending everywhere, in all situations, which explains how a story from Northampton, England makes it to its front page Saturday.

Reporter Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura visited the aggrieved county of Northamptonshire for her dispatch, “As Austerity Chokes English County, a Mutiny.” It’s part of the paper’s series, “Britain’s Big Squeeze,” whose chief villain is spending limits aka “austerity,” which the paper is obsessively trying to discredit. The online headline: “As Austerity Helps Bankrupt an English County, Even Conservatives Mutiny.”

De Freytas-Tamura took the same tone as writer Peter Goodman’s hard-left, fact-evading contribution to the series from last May. Goodman used the British town of Preston to disingenuously bash Margaret Thatcher, offering 180-proof leftism under the guise of front-page news.

Here’s De Freytas-Tamura, hailing from Northampton:

It was a seething, stomping protest in this ordinarily genteel medieval town: Throngs of residents, whistling and booing, swarmed the county hall. “Criminals!” they shouted. They held up banners that read: “Tory councilors wanted for crimes against people in Northamptonshire.”

The crime?

The bankruptcy of their Conservative-led local government, which has a budget deficit so big that councilors are stripping away all but the minimum services required by law. Inside the county hall, the besieged council debated the latest round of cuts -- it had already voted to close libraries and stop repairing roads -- as disgusted residents jeered.


Usually, local government finance is a dull affair. But Northamptonshire has become a warning sign of the perilous state of Britain’s local governments. A Conservative Party bastion, Northamptonshire is leafy and affluent, littered with aristocratic estates -- yet in February its local authority became the first in two decades to effectively run out of money.

Britain is already in upheaval over Brexit, its looming withdrawal from the European Union, with many experts warning of economic hardship ahead. But Northamptonshire is foreshadowing another potential fiscal crisis: Local governments drained of resources, cutting services to the bone.


The crisis in Northamptonshire is complicated and partly self-inflicted. But it has roots in the austerity policies and cost cutting that the Conservative-led national government imposed a decade ago in response to the global financial crisis. The Tories in London argued that austerity was the responsible solution to balance public accounts and encourage future growth.

Now some Conservatives, especially at the local level, are openly defying what has been a pillar of the party’s ideology.

Another reason why it’s on the front page: convenient Brexit-bashing.

The crisis is a political embarrassment for Conservatives, who are already divided into warring camps over Brexit....

Last November, the same reporter blamed Brexit for hate crimes.

There were hints that perhaps not everything in Northampton could be blamed on outside-imposed austerity:

In March, the inspectors issued a damning report.

Max Caller, the chief inspector who wrote the report, said that the county council’s troubles were self-inflicted and that the Next Gen approach did not have any “documented underpinning” that set out how it was expected to deliver savings.

“The things that they did were unwise,” he said in an interview. “You could say that they didn’t want to face up to the challenges of austerity, but all the other councils have.”

According to his findings, he said, Northamptonshire overspent by $130 million over three years and took no steps to rein in expenditure. “Everything has been a waste of money.”

Still, the Times has its playbook -- "austerity." An alternative view dug down and found local mismanagement to blame, not the reductions in funding for local governments coming from London.