Shall we raise one-and-a-half cheers for Oliver Letwin (or LeftWing) — the Man-who-would-be-Brown from the Tories’ “Modernizing” wing (read: the closet Social Democrats)?
In a widely reported series of interviews, wannabe Chancellor Oliver took his bowl, sidled up to the British people, and piped up, unsteadily:
“Please, Sir. May we NOT have any more…”
Now, Mr Leftwing should not be construed as some Poujadist radical, seeking to hand responsibility for large chunks of people’s daily lives back to the relevant agency — namely, those who actually who live them — but, at least, this first timid approach seems to have struck a chord and has shifted the debate away from boasting how much the government is going to spend and on to how effectively it is already spending the vast sums it does.
Indeed, it’s not only the Shadow who knows that while Culpability has been increasing spending faster than a fallen son of the manse in a Glasgow boozer, little in the way of value is being had from all his profligacy.
Of course, given the petulance of a British populace so steeped in the entitlement culture in which governments of all hues have immersed them for the past century or so, that they want to pay less AND have more from the Nanny State, Leftwing could hardly propose CUTS to public spending, could he?
No, the bold and imaginative Twist which our Oliver put on his first attempt at a policy was — how droll! — to INCREASE spending further, but to do it less rapidly than the economy as a whole grows and to somehow identify and then cut out all the inordinate waste, piled up in the Byzantine bureaucracy of the Blair-Brown Axis.
Thus, as the Telegraph reported, the Tories’ “Medium Term Expenditure Strategy” would purportedly, “over six years, reduce the proportion of national income consumed by the public sector from 42 per cent to 40 per cent” (Holy Swinging Axes, Batman!), “achieving ‘savings’ of 35 billion a year by 2012.”
Such “savings” are, of course, of the imaginary kind which your good lady makes when she goes to the shops for groceries, but comes back bragging of the 50 she just “saved” on the new pair of shoes she bought — and which she didn’t really need — because they were offered for 70, rather than the original 120!
In other words, Leftwing is applying that good old American three-card Monte by which spending more in real money, but merely less than the opposition has already pencilled in, is a “saving” for which we, the tax-paying milch cows, should be duly grateful.
“The choice at the next election will not be about whether government spending should rise, but about how fast government spending should rise and about how that money is spent,” Letwin declared proudly, but more than a touch unconvincingly.
He denied that the Tories were embarking on “slash and burn” cuts — nay, perish the thought! — and, to prove he has a heart, he immediately went on to pledge to INCREASE spending on health and education by nine per cent a year in the first two years of a Conservative government, and thereafter by five per cent.
What a way to start an economy drive — just like a debtor who promises to live within his means once he has exceeded his credit card limit!
All in all, however much fun the political pundits have with this ding-dong, do not be fooled into thinking this is anything more than a sham fight — more World Wrestling Federation than a mountainside bare-knuckle contest.
Essentially, all this hot air provides a sad testimony to the lack of political courage and the ignorance of the basic principles of economics displayed by our elected dictators, since the battle lines have been drawn up, in respect of this most fundamental of issues, not over the question of WHETHER government should be arrogating to itself all this power over us in the first place, but only over how effectively the MANAGERIAL process is being implemented thereafter by the petty Stalinists who will continue to intrude into our activities and to dispose of our a large portion of our hard-earned monies for us.
So, let’s hear it for the delights of parliamentary democracy and the two-party system.
Hip, Hip….. Yah Boo!!!
Sean Corrigan [send him mail] writes from London.