Thursday, April 15, 2010

Phoney Election

Would we have voted for this?

If you're anything like Tyler, you'll have mulled over some of those great "what if" questions from history. And one of the most intriguing is what if Britain had made peace with Hitler in the summer of 1940? It's generally reckoned that once France had fallen, large swathes of our ruling establishment were in favour of a deal, and Hitler seemed to be offering one.

But let's change the question slightly. What if there'd been an election after the fall of France? What if the choice had been between a war party under Churchill and a peace party under AN Other? How would we have voted?

Of course, with the benefit of hindsight and safe in the knowledge of our final victory, we'd have voted overwhelmingly for Churchill. But at the time, with most of Europe already crushed, the panzers massing outside Calais, and the mighty Luftwaffe buzzing the Channel, some belligerent old toff promising to have us fight on alone, street by street through our towns and cities, would likely have lacked mass appeal.

Indeed the whole campaign would soon have switched focus. Instead of blood, sweat and tears, we'd have had a debate about negotiating the best possible terms for British entry into the European Co-Prosperity Community. About how by being members we could secure a seat at the top table, and could influence policy making more in the direction of free markets and stuff. And how we would insist the Community made special arrangements to preserve the British Empire and our historic links with kith and kin across world. And most of all, how British Reichsmarks would still have the King's head on the back (King Edward's head, that is).

In other words we'd have slipped straight out of the phoney war into a phoney election. An election in which the really big issue -whether to fight while we still had a chance - would barely have got a look in.

And so it is we face our phoney cuts election.

When the campaign began last year, we did indeed have a war party and a peace party. But as it became clear that the panzers weren't coming straight on over, we punters began to go seriously cold on the idea of war. The war party trimmed its message accordingly, and all that remains now are a few general hints that they will cut spending a bit more quickly than the peace party, but nothing like the blood curdling New Age of Austerity once promised.

Because peace is so seductive. Last night, Tyler attended a debate at the IEA, in which the SDP's Lord Skidelsky lectured us on why cuts are bad and Keynesian deficit spending is all that stands between us and another Great Depression. As he put it, "it's the economy, not the deficit". An attempt to cut the deficit now will result in mass unemployment and a return to the dark days of that evil woman. Is that what we want?

And you know, it's kind of hard to mount a killer argument against that line. The economy no longer seems to be plunging down, and those much feared bond market panzers generally seem to have remained parked in their bases. We seem to have escaped the fate of lesser European nations, so why rock the boat?

For sure, you and I understand it can't last. You and I realise that the government is spending far too much and that large chunks of it are just been flushed down the bog (eg see this post). You and I watch what's happening in Greece and shudder (see today's excellent piece by Ed Conway). And you and I understand that our debt is mounting at dizzying speed (half a billion a day), and that our debt interest payments are going through the roof (by 2014-15 ,even on the government's optimistic projections, they will be £3,000 pa for every single household).

One day we know there will be a terrible reckoning.

But out in the bright Spring sunshine, it all seems so far away. Skidelsky and his SDP fellow travellers seem like reasonable men, so why not just trust them? As punters, we certainly don't want to contemplate the pain of swingeing spending cuts, still less tax increases - or at least, not unless the pain falls on someone else, such as the undeserving rich or those piggy bankers (we're not alone in this - see this on the entirely similar US situation - HTP Ted Bromund).

So here we are with our phoney election. Producing in all probability a phoney result. A result that will not provide a mandate for the kind of drastic action needed, and which leads straight down that old primrose path to a full-blown financial crisis, and huge emergency cuts to meet IMF conditions.

We are not confronting the real issue facing us, and it is nobody's fault but our own.

Hey ho. Time for a walk in that sunshine.


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