Allow me to introduce the finalists for Labour's Got A New Leader*
Today's revelations of Labour ministers flouting the rules governing the proper use of taxpayers' money ought to shock us.
According to Jonathan Baum, General Secretary of the First Division Association, which represents senior civil servants (and of which Tyler was once a member):"Labour ministers rammed through hundreds of millions of pounds of spending on pet projects before the election against the explicit advice of senior civil servants. Senior mandarins throughout Whitehall resorted to the ‘nuclear option’ – writing to demand written orders from ministers because they disapproved of the decisions."
‘This is very much a nuclear option in government departments. ...it is very clear that the permanent secretary was very concerned about the spending decision but was overruled by the minister. When a permanent secretary asks for the letter of direction from a minister it is because they feel a serious decision is being taken which they feel is not right.’We don't yet have all the details of precisely which decisions were rammed through like this, but the bottom line is clear enough - Labour ministers abused their power in a desperate last-ditch attempt to buy votes... with our money. Shocking. Absolutely jaw-droppingly breath-takingly shocking.
And yet... are we really shocked? Can we any longer be shocked by what that appalling bunch did during those 13 abysmal years?
From the very start they lied and cheated their way through office. They systematically abused our trust with their Enronised debt figures, their bubble economy, their illegal war, their fiddled dumbed-down exam results, their fudged crime statistics, their gross distortions over immigration, and their unbridled pillaging of the public purse.
As the indispensable Jeff put it last week (and please do read it if you haven't already):
"Unemployment is higher today than in 1997, as are taxes. The pound is worth less than 13 years ago, as are many private pension schemes. Personal insolvencies are at record levels. Worst of all, the state is borrowing one pound in every four that it spends, and our collective debt is set to double by 2014-15 to about £1.4 trillion, equal to one year's GDP.
The "success" of New Labour's economic expansion was a sham, based on a simple formula: spend more than we earn; pass off consumption as investment; wallow in self congratulation. Through the "boom" times of 2003-2007, all of Mr Brown's budgets involved massive borrowing. He told us we were getting richer, while in effect making us poorer.
In those five years alone, he clocked up £160 billion of debt. These are harsh, unavoidable facts. The legacy of that profligacy will bear down on British taxpayers for generations. As Niall Ferguson, professor of history at Harvard, has concluded, Mr Brown's stewardship of the economy was a "disaster".But look, we are where we are. It's too late to wish away 1997. The main thing now is this: when the Brothers Millipede next appear arm in arm on the stage, glottal stopping in the limelight, and singing their saccharin ditties of progressive consensus and fairness for all, just remember.
Remember that Labour always always wreck our economy. Remember they always wreck our public finances, and they always leave a gigantic mess that someone else has to clear up and we have to pay for.
There are no exceptions. From Ronald McDonald, to Jerusalem Clement, to Wislon, to Uncle Jim, to Bliar, to Brown, it is always a disaster.
So please - one last time - never ever give them another chance.
PS Today's inflation numbers are once again very unsettling:
And sterling? Well it paused for breath today, but it still looks very groggy. As we blogged yesterday, getting a grip on our public spending problem will be good for sterling in the longer term. But in the short-term it may actually make sterling a bit soggy since lower spending allows the Bank to keep interest rates lower for longer. Of course, if the Bank were suddenly to realise the jolly old inflation genie was out of its bottle again, then rates would go up and sterling would firm.
So what happened to the point that sterling would collapse if we didn't cut spending? Well, it's still there. If George doesn't cut spending, HMG will have to borrow more, a chunk of it from abroad. Which is fine as long as investors remain confident that they'll get repaid, and as long as we give them a good rate of interest. But if for some reason, confidence cracked - like for example, the markets suddenly got the crazy idea the coalition couldn't actually agree on spending cuts - then there'd be a rush for the exit. The point is that currencies are driven by a whole raft of different pressures, and they are just about the least predictable of all the key asset prices: someone once described them to Tyler as "the balancing residual in the global financial system". But what we do know from our own experience is that confidence is key. Which is why these cuts are vital to the value of sterling.
*Footnote Talking of Enron, did you see that the award winning (here) British play of that name (pic above) has just bombed on Broadway. It closed after two weeks losing an estimated $4m. The British theatre establishment are aghast, blaming those low-brow insular Yanks for not appreciating good art. Another explanation goes along the lines of US audiences not being prepared to stump up $120 a seat to watch a bunch of anti-capitalist anti-American propaganda cooked up by a state-funded theatre company from an irrelevant socialist country thousands of miles away. And come to that, who said it was OK for my taxes to be used to put on the play in the first place? If people want to watch anti-capitalist anti-American propaganda, fine. But they should pay for it themselves.