I eschewed an episode of Top Gear on Monday night in favour of the “Chancellors’ Debate”, a televised argument between the current holder of the public purse and his two would-be successors. Well, I say two, actually there is only one.
Vince Cable, the self-titled Financial Genius, is alleged to have won the battle of the bean counters by virtue of his insightful commentary on the hindsight that he possesses. Cable produced applause from the audience every time he stated the obvious about house price inflation and easy credit. Unfortunately Vince, elections are not decided by clapometer, unless I missed a meeting. My former neighbour and I use to have conversations over the garden hedge about how unsustainable the economy was. But we were in no position to do anything about it. The Lib Dem treasury spokesman proved last night that his party has as much power as a flat double-A battery.
George Osborne, on the other hand, had Old Caterpillar Eyebrows on the ropes on a couple of occasions, eliciting such eloquent responses as “Er”, “Um” and the classics “the economy needs to be managed by people with experience” and “our economy is best placed to weather the financial crisis”, whilst glossing over the not insignificant matter of how he and his boss got us into the crisis in the first place through their inexperience and mismanagement.
Osborne is also the only one to have actually produced a concrete policy ahead of the election, which is the reversal of Darling’s planned National Insurance increase, a rise that will cost employees between £150 and £750 per year. Labour and the Lib-Dems say that the increase is needed – to fund Darling and Brown’s £178bn of debt, remember – and is not costed. Osborne retorts that the reverse will be funded from savings. I think that when the Tories finally get to see the books and the state of government on May 7th, they will find that they can fund this tax cut and many more from efficiency savings and cuts.
And not that Darling or Brown has ever worried about where their spending will be funded from. Billions thrown at failed banks, who have then rewarded themselves with 7-figure bonuses; billions thrown at two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but still not enough to fight the wars effectively; £12 billion on a failed IT system for the NHS; £10 billion on a vanity Olympics project. Who are Labour to preach on prudent economics?