A great deal of fuss was made when Brown used the C word at the TUC conference a fortnight ago. Finally, the man stops obscuring the issue about public spending cuts when the truth is staring us all in the face, and in his own Budget to boot (see angry posts from June, onwards).
That was meant to be a warm up. But in his main speech all we got was . . . another long list of Brown “I will delivers”. If you had stepped into a time machine in 2007 and stepped out here, you would be utterly unaware that £600bn extra debt had arrived on our near future.
Brown, like Liberator magazine, seems to think that accepting the logic of fiscal arithmetic is a political choice. It is not. Sure – there are plenty of failings of classical economics (read the excellent Skidelsky for many of them). Sometimes spending now can create income later. But in no way does that failure mean that future policies don’t have to be costed. That’s maths, or accounting, not politics. And if, like Liberator, you got out there calling for ALL policies to be included (including the dreadful Scrap Tuition Fees pledge) no matter what, you have just sent out the message that you’re not a party of government, you’re a student collective playing fantasy politics.
The Times put it best on Brown:
The most astonishing omission was a serious acknowledgment of the need to cut public spending. A section berating the Conservatives for refusing to show their hand might profitably have been followed by the Prime Minister showing his own. Instead he announced a string of new, unfunded spending programmes, as if this was the moment to be adding to what Government does. Naturally, each of his announcements will need to be carefully examined, and it remains to be seen if the more populist proposals stand up to scrutiny. But even if they do, it is hard to see how they can be afforded.
What amazes me is how little commentary can otherwise be found on this astonishing omission. Take Liberal Conspiracy, for example. How many posts are there about the lack of maths? Then, how many are there about Pills?
- Marr wrong to ask about pills
There’s also loads about PoliticsHome being a Tory front. This is all about retreating to a comfort zone, not facing the big questions. Unfortunately, the Tories are going to have an easy ride of it next week. Not because of pills but because on the Left no-one is forcing them into making their tough choices explicit. Because, like Liberator, half the commentariat think making things add up is a political choice that you can reject.