How Gordon’s laundry list just shows the dirty washing.

Gordon Brown’s “tractor production statistics” do not persuade a country which is unhappy about the current situation to suddenly break into joy and applause when he recites the “achievements”. The latest list on the Labour party website is instructive, as it shows just how big the gap is between what we are all experiencing, and what Labour thinks we ought to be grateful for.

The top fifteen items on Labour’s list of “achievements” is given below, along with a commentary on why they do not bring “feelgood” with them:

1. “The longest period of sustained low inflation since the 60s.” This is presumably based on the heartily distrusted European measure of the CPI. Have they visited a petrol pump, been to a food shop or read a council tax bill recently? At least indexed contracts are still linked to the RPI which gets a bit closer to the galloping price increases we are experiencing on day-to-day items.

2. “Low mortgage rates”. They don’t mean people feel better off, because those who have mortgages have to pay them on much inflated house prices, while those who would like them are finding they are now severely curtailed by the Credit Crunch. Either too much of your income goes on the mortgage, or you cannot afford your first flat.

3. “Introduced the National Minimum Wage”. Because there is – and always was – a cat’s cradle of in work benefits, many people on the Minimum Wage are little or no better off – especially after the tax increases hitting the lower paid. It is popular with some trade unionists, but it did not transform the lives of those on low incomes, because it did not give them more spending power.

4. “Over 14,000 more police in England and Wales”. These have been needed – and more besides – to handle all the extra paperwork and to tackle the political correctness agenda which has been Labour’s hallmark in office – and , oh yes, needed to offer security to certain Ministers when they want to go to the shops or visit their constituencies.

5. “Cut overall crime by 32%” – but not some of the types of crime people fear most.

6. “Record levels of literacy and numeracy in schools” – as assessed in the endless tests Labour has introduced, so pupils now are good at passing tests but have little time left over to receive an education.

7. “Young people achieving some of the best results at 14, 16 and 18”. Why then is the proportion of state school pupils going to the elite universities still so poor, when those universities are falling over backwards to welcome more state school pupils of a suitable standard?

8. “Funding for every pupil in England has doubled” Gordon’s favourite lump of money fallacy. What matters is what you can buy with the money. Gordon’s public sector pounds have been devalued by rotten spending.

9. “Employment is at its highest ever”. Yes, the government has been very good to the large number of migrants that have arrived to work. Pity there are still 5.5 million people here who have lived here for longer of working age living on benefits.

10. Written off up to 100% of debt owed by the poorest countries. A good thing, but done by further huge increases in the UK debt.

11. “85,000 more nurses”. You need more nurses in part to cater for the growing population, but more are welcome. All governments employ more nurses.

12. “32,000 more doctors”. Is that all? These would be needed to compensate for the reduction in doctors hours.

13. “Brought back matrons to hospital wards” Why then do so many people die from MRSA and C. diff in our hospitals?

14. “Devolved power to Scottish Parliament”. Is that why we now have an SNP administration in Scotland seeking full independence?

15. “Devolved power to Welsh Assembly”. A further part of their policy of breaking up the Union, creating a lop-sided devolution which is grossly unfair to England.

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8 Comments

  1. DBC Reed
    Posted May 24, 2008 at 9:09 am | Permalink

    The comments at #2 about people paying too much of their incomes out on mortgages re-payments or, because of unofficial Credit Controls (did n't the Conservatives abolish these at the beginning of the 70's?), find they can't access a mortgage at all ,are very much to the point.
    But there is nothing in Conservative policy which would help in either case or present an alternative.They have created a brand identity which appears to exploit a deep streak of snobbery in particularly English society which centres around the disdain owner-occupiers have been encouraged to feel for renters , though renting provided the social mobility that enabled the modern set-up.The working class institions like building societies may have encouraged this,what might be called, petit bourgeois sentiment, for want of another term, by helping the better class of workers to buy their own houses so they could get the vote , then restricted to property owners.( Abbey National started off with these explicitly political aims).
    It is also hard to see the Conservatives doing anything about the banks which are ignoring the wishes of the Government that the supply of cheap credit resume.There is a Who runs Britain? issue here.As Heath found with the miners, it is certainly not the P.M. I'd nationalise all the High Street banks.We're close to it already by replacing their worthless private sector reserves with rock-solid public sector funds.
    If you want to see what makes the continuance of the status quo uncertain, and one cause of the present discontent ,take a look at the House Price Crash blog for today(Saturday).There is a geezer there whose friend has bought a house in Wokingham (1950's big plot: 39ft x100ft) . Paid half a million for what amounts to the site value alone.And the irony is that these sites were originally dished out free to employees of Heathrow Airport to self-build their own houses.
    Looks like a case for LVT-man!
    It is not as if the market will clear itself by the Invisible Hand or what have you.Or by blaming everything on Gordon Brown whose main fault has been in shadowing the Tory policy of not interfering in the land market and hoping things will sort themselves out.

  2. Tony Makara
    Posted May 24, 2008 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    Gordon Brown's 'Radio Tirana' style list of so-called achievements every week at PMQs is becoming something of a music hall joke, especially his comments about full employment and low inflation. I wonder why the speaker doesn't intervene to stop this nonsense. Most comical of all is Brown's continual reference to unemployment figures of 25 years ago. Yes, those figures were high but what relevance are they to PMQs and the politicial business in 2008? If the opposition parties are smart they will mock Brown on this weekly bout of statistical alchemy which is a non too subtle blend of Ceausescu and Comical Ali. As we all know statistics are never what they seem, take for example the New Deal which I heard a Labour MP proudly claim had a staggering 30% success rate in his area, or more realistically put has a 70% failure rate!

  3. Matthew Reynolds
    Posted May 24, 2008 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    The VAT windfall caused by the higher fuel price can fund a 12p a litre fuel duty cut while the potty VED hikes that will not cut CO2 emmissions need to go . As many as possible of the 1,168 QUANGO’s should be culled via a simple Act of Parliament that would impose on them all a sunsetting clause meaning that without a vote that had the majority of Peers in the House of Lords any public body would expire after three years . This would force a major reduction in public sector bureacracy as powers either went to ministers or local councils and wasteful duplication was ended .

    As part of this sunsetting Act of Parliament the government would be legally obliged to use any money saved due to a QUANGO expiring to either cut taxes or pay down some public debt . No minister would dare go to the Lords asking for a public body to be preserved if it meant no tax cuts or a dangerously high PSBR . Likewise Ministers in the Lords would not have the time to persaude the majority of all Peers to vote seperately to bring back each & every QUANGO in the space of three years .

    This would mean greater accountability as QUANGO’s would have to have very very good reasons for enduring and Parliament would be a great tool for rooting out government waste and thus paving the way for lower taxes & a balanced budget . Taxpayers deserve protection from the kind of big government / high tax irresponsibility that has been going on since John Major as Chief Secretary started a massive public spending binge from about 1987 onwards . There have been some patches of public spending cuts & lower taxes in the last twenty years – my plan might well mean a lot more in the next few years .

    Just as Bank of England independence is really a good idea as politicians are like children in a sweet shop when it comes to monetary policy ( i.e. cannot be trusted to do the right thing – they just give into base instincts by gobbling the candy via a loose monetary policy when they should be fighting inflation ) we need a sound fiscal policy that is legally entrenched to stop cronyism costing hard pressed taxpayers too much money . New QUANGO’s should get a sunsetting clause so that they expire after two years with the money saved going on national debt reduction or lower taxes . Just think we could have an Eire style economic boom with ideas like this….

  4. John
    Posted May 24, 2008 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    Brown has borrowed record amounts to fund some of these "achievements", but now he appears to be living on borrowed time.

  5. Travis Bickle
    Posted May 24, 2008 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

    They started struggling with that list very early on, probably cobbled together over a very liquid lunch.

    I expect that most voters would apply Ed Balls favourite two word riposte to the majority of these points.

  6. Dan Baynes
    Posted May 24, 2008 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

    "I expect that most voters would apply Ed Balls favourite two word riposte to the majority of these points."

    I'm finding it hard to decide which version of the Balls riposte is more devastating.

  7. Travis Bickle
    Posted May 24, 2008 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

    Listening to Ivan Lewis on Sky just now it is very clear that they are trying to build the myth that UK was in dire economic straits in 1997, and that at some stage Brown has previously guided us through recession. (and for the first time he brought Brown's children into it, I do hope they are not so desperate as to start playing that particular card).

    It's about time that Conservative spokesman rebutted this nonsense every time it comes out of their mouths, instead of sitting there and allowing the lie unchallenged. The strength of economy in 1997 (already having seen several quarters of healthy growth I believe) is shown perfectly by the fact it took so long for Labour to screw it up. QED.

  8. mikestallard
    Posted May 25, 2008 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    Even my brother ( a lifelong military man and Conservative to his fingertips) is now complaining that the Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail are "Fascist". He is seriously thinking of going over to the Independent. He is getting fed up with all the negativity.
    Even my long suffering wife is noticing that petrol prices and food prices are skyrocketing.
    And, on TV, Mr Brown, without his black suit jacket when visiting that hospital, looked fat and old.
    Mr Blair looks more and more like Harold Wilson in his later years.
    It is the end of an era.

    BUT the huge question which the left are (rightly) asking is this:
    Can the Conservatives under David Cameron, do any better?

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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