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South Shields premier political blog

“It wasn’t us guv.”

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Beware Brown’s plans

In my post two days ago I warned of the danger signals attached to an economy reliant on debt in a period of boom, and in a previous post suggested that it was a house built on sand, I also intimated that the Conservative’s David Cameron and George Osborne had tied their hands by aligning themselves behind Gordon Brown’s plans to deal with the “credit crunch” and collapsing world markets.

There is rather more at stake than simply being unable to pronounce alternative measures and formulate differing policy approaches, by being allowed to sit in Brown’s “Big Tent” they are in danger of being tainted if his “throw money at the problem” approach fails to deliver, and so far markets have not responded with the confidence he was looking for.

Matthew Parris takes the issue a little further today with a suggestion that my analysis was basic but on the right tracks, and that Brown may indeed be trying to sucker Her Majesty’s Opposition into silence by attempting to build some sort of government of national unity where he can arguably complain that it “had nothing to do with us, guv” when it all goes pear shaped.

This is how Parris wrote in 2004:

“Why? Why does there seem to be all this money sloshing around?..” “…Maybe the growing wealth so many of us feel… simply because each of us is prepared every year to set a higher valuation on our fellow citizens’ houses, is not a chimera. But I cannot but share… this nagging feeling that a nation of homeowners energetically bidding up the value of each other’s property, borrowing on the basis of the inflating figures, then spending the money in hypermarkets every weekend… is somehow riding for a fall.” I wondered if I was missing something, but wrote it anyway; was comprehensively demolished by fellow columnists; and, with a shrug of the shoulders, let the subject drop.

Yes, you were indeed right , and with Brown prepared to looking outside of the normal quarters for people to join his government last week, you may be right again:

Mr Brown’s real intention will be less worthy: to silence critics and bind political rivals into policies that they will not subsequently be able to criticise; to pre-empt their blaming him if things go wrong; to allow himself to slur those who voice disagreement in Parliament and the media as “unpatriotic”; to imply that any challenge to his own leadership is irresponsible; to stifle discussion of his own past role in the “Age of Irresponsibility”; and to go into the next election having effectively nobbled the opposition parties.

I wouldn’t put it past him, and Cameron and Clegg need to be very wary of the man who only yesterday was trying to claim the credit for bring down world oil prices (nothing to do with a recession depressing demand, don’t you think?). The Conservative Party right now needs to find a way to disengage from the bi-partisanship that it has formed with Brown and Darling which looks more like “it’s got nothing to do with us” than “we are all in this together”. By joining with the PM and the Treasury thay cannot now dispense alternative advice, nor attack the profligacy of Brown’s tax, borrow and spend years, they cannot point out that the burgeoning budget deficits have followed US trends (except that US spending has gone towards financing foreign military adventures, whereas Brown has spend on social and public policies). They cannot argue that the government had something to do with encouraging the debt society when it was the biggest borrower in the market.

All round, it was a hasty and unwise decision to try and look statesmanlike in the face of a “national crisis”, however, they ought to have known by now that Brown is the expert at creating crises in order to provide the solutions to them. Their decision to back the Prime Minister in his desire to “do whatever it takes” has simply handed the political initiative back to Brown. PMQs on Wednesday was probably the worst showing that I have seen from Cameron, but he only has himself to blame.

Parris argues that the next natural step is for the Opposition to become even more wrapped up in Brown’s plans:

How? The options are various. Invite Mr Cable and/or Mr Osborne to attend Cabinet discussion on the economy? Set up, outside Cabinet, a council to include them? Invite them into Mr Brown’s new National Economic Council? Institutionalise regular meetings with Mr Clegg and/or Mr Cameron?

Any or all of these ruses may be considered; and don’t entirely rule out proposals for a proper war-type national government. A Parliamentary Labour Party that will swallow Mr Mandelson must be persuadable.

Messrs Cameron, Clegg, Osborne and Dr Cable should view this with extreme wariness. The danger is huge. Say “yes” and they may be sucked in to complicity in failure to rescue economic growth. Say “no” and they may be blamed for aggravating the failure.

Simon Heffer also shares the same analysis in The Daily Telegraph:

Let there be no doubt about the extent of Gordon Brown’s culpability for the crisis. As Chancellor, he raised huge sums and borrowed yet more in order to build a client state of tame Labour voters on the public payroll – whether as employees or claimants. He pushed Britain to live way beyond its means not merely in this way, but by putting excessive amounts of money into circulation that banks could lend on with cavalier irresponsibility. He then failed properly to regulate those banks.

The debt mountain he created has yet to wreak its full horror on society. He spent so wildly that when things went wrong – not that he ever managed to predict that they would – we were desperately short of funds to make repairs. As a result, taxes will have to go up, and public services may have to endure damaging cuts. Finally, when the time came to clear up the mess, he dithered and brooded while the stock market went into free fall and banks went to the wall.

He is far more scathing in his attack on the Conservatives, asserting that their silence over the past couple of weeks and their jumping into bed with Brown over the financial crisis belies a lack of new ideas, and a dearth of alternative policies to deal with the mess.

I have said before that George Osborne, the shadow chancellor, isn’t up to it. That becomes more apparent with each day that passes. At some stage he will have to offer more than simply copying Labour, but that requires him to have a plan, or at least a clue. Gordon Brown is already, undeservedly, moving up again in the polls. If the Tories don’t soon show they are grown-ups rather than spotty adolescents when it comes to the business of governing, they might not get into the business of governing after all.

These are dangerous times, not just for the economy, but for the state of British politics, the biggest danger is that Brown is allowed to get off the hook and absolve himself of any blame for the past eleven years of his stewardship!  Once again Parris shows that his political antennae are in good working order, and Heffer reminds us that the Opposition is there to offer a real alternative, something they had better start to think about, before it’s too late!

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Written by curly

October 11, 2008 at 10:08 am

2 Responses

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  1. […] Original post by curly […]

    Curly’s Corner Shop

    October 11, 2008 at 11:21 am

  2. […] “It wasn’t us Guv.” […]


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