Friday, March 10, 2006

Buying Votes- 2

So now we have the official verdict on the government’s attempt to prop up Rover just ahead of the last Election. According to the National Audit Office report, that extraordinary £6.5m "loan" made after the company had gone into administration, was never likely to secure a sale to Shanghai Automotive:

"SAIC's own internal deal team had been stood down...Given the messages coming from SAIC's advisers the prospect of achieving a going concern sale was remote. We therefore doubt whether the Department obtained sufficiently good value for the loan, of which £5.2m will probably not be repaid."

All they achieved was a further increase in the bill we taxpayers were already facing, principally the £170m aid package for those who lost their jobs, the loss of £18m tax the government had allowed Rover to defer and which we now won't ever see, and the £3m for investigating the whole mess. But at least that extra loan meant the administrators, Price Waterhouse Coopers, got to be paid for another week's work- £1.2m. Which is a comfort.

We all know the West Midlands is stuffed full of marginal seats, so we can hardly be surprised that Blair, Brown and Hewitt would spend yet more of our money bunging the voters. They’re politicians- it’s the nature of the beast.

For half a century, the motor industry has been a massive recipient of taxpayers’ largesse from politicians of both parties. You will doubtless recall the agonies suffered by “the Monk” himself as he dished out billions to Austin-Rover in the early years of the Thatcher government. And it was no less than the appalling Byers who insisted on BMW "selling" Rover lock stock and no-job-cuts to Phoenix, rather than rivals who might have made a go of a smaller company- a decision that cost taxpayers £250m. It used to be called “picking winners”, which has to be one of tax history’s best ever examples of doublespeak.

This bribe may be particularly blatant, but it is one small element in a much larger pattern. Labour has built a huge and expensive programme of vote buying- as we discussed here.

Vote buying may have been OK in eighteenth century Old Sarum, but in twenty-first century Britain it is not something we should tolerate.

No comments:

Post a Comment