Monday, November 24, 2008

Another Fine Mess They've Got Us Into

Staggering government incompetence and mismanagement were laid bare today as 'Laurel and Hardy' were finally forced to admit: "It's a fine mess we've got you into". 

The astonishing scale of damage inflicted on the country was hard to swallow. The answer even harder - borrow more and get the country deeper into debt. 

If a government could be charged with criminal negligence for the economic mess, Brown and Darling today set out the case for the prosecution. 

Government borrowing is quite unbelievable - more than double to £78 billion this year and £118 billion next year, as Darling slashed economic growth forecasts for next year from 2.75% to a record-breaking  minus 0.75% to minus 1.25%.

Even a fool looking at the figures would ask the obvious. Why didn't the government balance the books in the boom years? Why go into recession with such high levels of borrowing when even that fool could see it coming a mile off?  

£37 billion of taxpayer cash is being used to prop up the banks, £33 billion for PFI. Borrowing is set to be more than even the Conservatives dared in the 1990s and more than under the last true Labour government of the 1970s.

The government had to come clean sooner or later. Brown is after votes. Battle lines are now drawn as the pre-leaked, pre-election, pre-budget Budget from Santa's Little Helper had little to do with economics and everything to do with posturing politics. A General Election manifesto in all but name. 

This was a bankrupt Budget from a bankrupt government for a bankrupt country. Santa's Little Helper did nothing to ease pain and suffering with a calculated nest of pointless Christmas giveaways clawed back by borrowing, rises in beer, fags and petrol and tax rises later. 

Yesterday's leaked paltry VAT cut was a sop to woo voters. A few bob off the price in the shops is pointless and will do nothing to help the economy or help people struggling with debt.

Rises in income tax for high earners, which only kick in after the next election, are insignificant. Nothing is being done about disgusting tax loopholes and tax advantages enjoyed by the very rich.

The leaks were testing the water, leaking to Brown's BBC, changing the message strategy for political advantage, in a desperate effort to grab headlines. Those shameless stunts won't come cheap.

Shadow chancellor, George Osborne, in what many agree was a magnificent commons rebuttal, accused Darling of "bringing this country to the verge of bankruptcy" by doubling the national debt, echoing the well-planned Tory slogan: "However Gordon wraps it up, it's still a tax bombshell".

The chancellor had the bare-faced cheek to tell the commons and the country it would be "perverse and damaging" to stick to government borrowing rules in the current crisis - so they would be temporarily suspended.

That arrogant statement in itself must be challenged politically and bring into focus what the Orange Party has said all along as this debacle unfurled. Such measures require a full commons debate and a fresh mandate and that requires a general election. 

Brown, Darling and the New Labour government have set out their stall but it should be up to voters to decide if they want to buy into this. 

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