Friday, April 25, 2008

House Points: Vince Cable and Jeremy Browne

My column from today's Liberal Democrat News.

Fairy tales

Vince Cable was right, of course, and the Labour backbenchers were wrong. Little Red Riding Hood was eaten by the wolf. True, a hunter comes along to cut her from the beast’s stomach afterwards, but there is no doubt she was wolfed down.

And that misunderstanding is typical of Labour’s travails these days: they have no narrative.

Jeremy Browne put it well in his speech on the second reading of the Finance Bill on Monday:
Many people, including those on the Labour Benches, when they heard this year’s Budget, will have been entitled to ask, "Is that it? Is that what it was all for? Is this what our great party has become?" It was the thinnest, most unambitious, managerial Budget that I can remember.
Part of that thin, unambitious managerialism was the abolition of the 10p tax band. Another of Labour’s problems is that their luck has run out. This tax rise for the poor was debated on the same day that Alistair Darling announced a £50bn package to help out the banks.

Over this time to Vince Cable:
British banks have, over the past few years, lent too much, too quickly and too carelessly. The correct course of action, which the markets now anticipate, is that the banks should make a rights issue to their shareholders to raise money to offset the losses that they have to own up to.
The problem is that chief executives do not want to go to the markets because they face the sack, so they rattle the begging bowl to the Government and hope that the Government will help them out, which they are doing.

But Labour’s real trouble - more serious even than bad luck or not knowing their fairy tales - is that the economy has turned against them.

Some will try to pin the this on Gordon Brown, but the truth may be more chastening. When the economy is going well politicians - and bank directors, come to that - praise themselves for their foresight and wisdom. When it turn bad, the politicians blame world conditions and the bankers appeal for government aid.

If you think they are much more in control of things than that, you really do believe in fairy tales.

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