Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Will Darling's PBR Dupe Voters?

The general election phoney war is about to hot up with Dreadful Darling's dumbed-down pre-budget report. It's all hands to the pumps of the sinking ship with a blatant package of politicking and posturing. But lurking beneath lies the dreadful state of the public finances. Beleaguered Brown's hopes of hanging on to power rests with the PBR. Will voters be convinced?

The public could be forgiven for thinking it's just business as usual. Nothing of the sort. Tomorrow's pre-budget is all about the election not public finances. Until the struggling Supreme Leader names the day, everything has to be taken with a pinch of salt.

What is needed is a clear, bold message on how to tackle the country's obscene deficit and lay bare the full horror of the country's dire economic mess. Instead a one-off tax on bank bonuses has been mooted along with ubiquitous 'efficiency' savings, which will bring in peanuts for the overall debt burden.

The pre-election budget will be more about shoring up New Labour's collapsing vote. Destined to go down as Darling's last joke on the public, the over optimistic government and past treasury forecasts are set to be exposed.

The key to cutting debt is cutting public spending. But there will be no public spending review until after the election. What the government would actually do is under wraps. Any 'cuts' are set to be hidden in election hot air.

Moody’s 'AAA sovereign monitor', published today, shows the UK hanging onto its triple-A credit rating by the skin of its teeth. The UK entered the crisis in a vulnerable position and is now facing an “inexorable deterioration of debt affordability,” warned Moody.

The UK’s fundamentals are dismal and don’t support the ratings,” said Citigroup's Mark Schofield. “Only if some pretty draconian fiscal measures are in place will the UK keep hold of its AAA rating.”

But Darling has already signalled he will put off much needed measures to slash the biggest budget deficit since the War. Shockingly, the government doesn't have a convincing plan for getting out of its own fiscal mess.

Cameron is right. “If you have a government that doesn’t have the courage to tackle the deficit, that’s the risk of the double dip,” he said. "The country has been the first in and the last out of recession of the major economies because of the policy errors of the last decade or so."

Dreadful Darling is fighting a lonesome, losing battle sorting out the fiscal mess inherited from Brown. Caught between the spinning devils and the deep blue sea of an incompetent treasury, Brown and his sidekick Balls call the economic shots. In the bunker, Mandy and Campbell control the spin.

The PBR package will have been been well-crafted with populist voter appeal and a dash of Brown sauce, aimed at drawing a well worn line between 'fair' New Labour and Cameron's Conservatives only interested in helping 'Tory toffs'.

The Struggling Supreme Leader is playing for short-term gain, paying lip service to cuts, going heavy on measures to strengthen the spinner's narrow dividing line.

Campbell's simplistic class warfare jibes, bashing 'Tory toffs', is a masterclass in exploiting public anxiety about the Tories only out to serve vested interests.

With Tories painted as on the side of a privileged few, Brown is trying to appeal to New Labour's core vote and tap into public anger at the fat cats.

The 'Eton' jibe plays well with New Labour's core voters but not to a savvy electorate. After all, Harman, Darling and Balls were all privately educated at toffee-nosed schools. Blair's own privileged public school education was kept under wraps.

What will stick in the throats of voters is any party which is seen to be on the side of vested interest, be they the political elite, the fats cats, the cronies, City bankers or country landowners. Darling's PBR is part of that plan.

The Tories have already begun the fightback with a debt ticker beamed onto the side of Battersea power station to switch the PBR focus back to that horrendous debt. Something the Orange Party was suggesting way back in February.

New Labour's general election focus will be on Tory voters who deserted the party in droves to follow Blair's hyped up hope and promise of a promised land.

But the politics of false hope lies in tatters. The discredited government is trying to salvage something from a decade of disaster and failure. Oborne has already delivered a damning indictment on a "rudderless economy and a once great Treasury that's now not fit for purpose."

"Darling", he said, "should be forced to own up to the Treasury's consistent failure to grip the nature and scale of the economic recession. This failure is on such a scale that it amounts to negligence."

Brown has been even more misleading. As the only G20 nation in recession, the PM and former chancellor has built up a disreputable reputation for not telling it straight. Anything ministers say will not be believed.

With Malcolm Tucker aka Alastair Campbell now back in the Downing Street fold, a line from The Thick of It springs to mind:

A dying government? Cabinet minister Nicola Murray was in no doubt: "Dying? You bet. Its hair is falling out. It's coughing up blood. And the kids are trying to change the will."

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