Stephen Hill on the confederacy of dunces atop the Labour party
When Gordon Brown was ousted, the nation breathed a huge sigh of relief, and didn't really notice what was happening in the busted Labour party: a man who had committed fratricide of his far more suitable brother by going behind his back to the trade unions and had left the Department for Energy and Climate Change with no coherent policy and another man who had left the Treasury stripped of its last penny and with a ballooning deficit were now the two leaders of new Old Labour. It had obviously engaged reverse gear so that Welsh Windbag Kinnock could gleefully cite an activist who said, 'We've got our party back again!'
As the incoming Osborne struggled manfully to bring the national debt and the banking system under some sort of manageable control, during the biggest global recession since the 1930s, the Two Eds said he should borrow even more and fight the global recession with other people's money – unbelievable economic nonsense.
Osborne stuck to his guns when the IMF gave the UK the most foolhardy advice, namely to loosen the austerity collar and go for growth, as the Two Eds jumped up and down on their beds and said, 'See! We were right all along! The IMF agrees with us!' A true confederacy of dunces, all right.
And during 2013 the economy slowly dug itself out of the ground and the Two Eds desperately looked around for a new message: 'Freeze energy prices! And rail tickets! It's the cost of living, stupid!' And the inevitable cry: 'Tax the rich! Oh, and borrow more, to speed up the recovery!'
The trouble with all this is that the economy is set to be going at full blast, nearly 3.0 per cent annual growth, by the end of the year, rising all the way to the next election on 7 May 2015. With unemployment falling every month, and deflation stalking the world but not inflation, the Two Eds are seeing their cost of living argument dissolving faster than a Silver Spoon sugar cube in their own mugs.
In desperation, as the Tories catch them in the polls, the Two Eds have reached for the devolution button for a transfer of, say, ’20 billion from Whitehall to the regions and cities. To some of us with longer memories, the names redolent with corruption, such as Middlesborough, slag-heaps, the Welsh Assembly, Strathclyde Regional Council come easily to mind.
But this policy is hard to explain, the assumed economic gains impossible to calibrate and even a salesman who could sell a farmer a dead horse would have difficulty turning this one into votes, as the Tories point to more jobs, rising wages and static prices.
And devolution of this sort isn't even their idea! The Mayor of London, Boris, has been arguing for this for some time, for control of stamp duty and housing and transport in London. And now Osborne has given the poorest hardcore Old Labour supporters a kick up the scale by raising the threshold of income tax to ’10,000, which doesn't exactly help the Two Eds either.
The 2015 election has already been lost by Old Labour. If you put a couple of dunces in charge of the ideas classroom, not much of any use comes out before the end of term is up. No wonder Osborne is looking smugger by the day.
It's only the nutters and fruitcakes that make up UKIP who are the obstacle to electoral success, with a nasty little test coming up on 22 May's Euro-elections. Europe! That dreaded issue again which manages to make fools of the Tories at every turn.