Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Prime Minister's Questions and the Comprehensive Spending Review

At Prime Minister's Questions last week Ed Miliband was light on his feet and David Cameron's inner Flashman began to surface. Labour MPs left with a spring in their step.

They won't have been feeling so happy today. Cameron found the right tone this time, managing to patronise the Labour leader without sounding bullying. And Miliband's attempts to point to dissension within the cabinet (quoting Kenneth Clarke and Chris Huhne) were made to sound petty as a result.

Then came the Comprehensive Spending Review. George Osborne's approach, as one commentator said, was pure Gordon Brown. He bombarded the House with statistics. Before his listeners had time to consider a figure, they had been hit around the head with another six.

In his pomp Brown would appear before the Treasury Select Committee and not give them a chance to ask any questions. It was figures, figures, figures all the way. Osborne has not yet reached that level, and today he struggling to get through his speech as Iain Duncan Smith's frog had taken up residence in his throat.

And then came Alan Johnson. As a tweet from the Sunday Telegraph's Patrick Hennessy said:
AJ sounding a bit like Frankie Howerd - "Deficit? Oo-err missus" etc - but, amazingly, it's working!
I am not convinced it did work, and it certainly won't do in the long run. Johnson is endearing, but he is no one's finance director. He is the boozy regional sales manager who is not always too careful with the paperwork.

All this is about personalities and not the ishoos, but the problem for Labour (and for dissident Liberal Democrats, come to that) is that they have not yet formulated any alternative economic policies. Osborne's claim that his cuts in departmental budgets are lower than those Alistair Darling would have made my be sharp practice, but it does make the point that a re-elected Labour government would have done something very like this.

So over to you, Mr Miliband.

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dougf said...

"All this is about personalities and not the ishoos, but the problem for Labour (and for dissident Liberal Democrats, come to that) is that they have not yet formulated any alternative economic policies."

And that is far from being merely a coincidence. You simply cannot live forever on someone else's money while making no effort to control your excesses. The reason there has not been an alternative offered is very simple ---- there isn't one.

Things are bad now -- they will get worse until the UK starts to make stuff again. And by stuff I don't mean financial instruments either. Think of the situation as being like Rome. All imports -- no exports but with the difference that Roman Legions were until the collapse started, always bringing home booty from the conquests.

No booty available for you, I fear.

Jonathan Calder said...

No, look. I'm shaking my booty now.

Frank Little said...

I liked that joke about Ed Miliband not having bottom while Ken Clarke had. Did you see that Eric Pickles was on the same end of the government bench? I'm surprised it didn't tilt.

dreamingspire said...

Coming at us from behind is the tottering boom in China. Have heard two reports about that this week. The Chinese govt, I hear, has let go too many of the reins, and simply pulling on the brake lever doesn't stop the stagecoach in the way that it used to. But I have no clue as to how a Chinese crash would affect the western world. It might, though, seriously affect the developing countries, because China is both buying raw materials from them and helping to quickly improve their infrastructure. Chinese manufacturers are offering to sell us railway trains - but, sadly, yesterday George had to admit that DfT has not finished its business plan, so we have to wait until next week. Maybe on Tuesday DfT should have been at its desk instead of gawping at the German ICE train that had crept silently into St Pancras - a brutish looking thing, alongside the too pretty Eurostars (next version ICEs have been ordered instead of French trains in order to bolster the Eurostar fleet for those longer forays far across Europe, causing much French chagrin).

Anonymous said...

The fact that Labour would do something similar (and raising taxes still takes money out of the economy) - just shows their Armageddon scenario is scaremongering.
And in any event IF there is a double dip or slowdown well there might be no way to avoid it. Browns pumping in money may just have put of the evil day (until conveniently after the election).

We can argue about the detail of the cuts 'til the cows come home.
Sadly the money is not there, we cannot live beyond our means indefinitely.

dreamingspire said...

The point of quantitative easing seems to be that it converts otherwise non-convertible assets into readies - so the money becomes there until inflation and the reduction in credit rating (aka higher interest rates on govt borrowing) nibble away at its value.

Michael said...

Fed up of David Cameron and Nick Clegg pretending to be best buddies!