It’s the politics, stupid.
We seem to be in a real mess.
So what does Mr Brown have in mind?
He tells us that he need to take the banks into “temporary” public ownership. They can rebuild themselves with some public capital and assistance, and a rash of guarantees against past mistakes. Then they will be floated off, with the shares being sold at a “profit”..
Can he really believe this? I do not know any Minister prepared to say the bank shares can be sold before the next General Election. Is Mr Brown really so altruistic that he thinks he can tidy the banks up , give them a lick of paint, so a future Conservative government can have the pleasure of selling the shares off after a year or so in office at a healthy profit? I doubt it. Looking at the state of the banks he has bought, that is a very unlikely scenario.
What Mr Brown has in mind is altogether very different. Prudence and adherence to Conservative spending plans was a useful device to persuade voters in 1997 that the economy would be safe in Labour hands. After the 1940s and 1960s devaluation crises and the 1970s IMF crisis Labour needed to change the polling which said consistently Labour governments end with too much borrowing and spending in a collapse of financial stability.
By 2000 the polls told him that spin job was done. He started to increase the spending and the borrowing, breaking his own sensible rules – for those rules were just political, they were not meant to constrain him once he wanted to flex the national credit card for real.
When the enormous spending and borrowing started to go wrong the government needed to spin itself out of trouble. The first line was that people should not “talk us into recession”. All would be well as long as no-one forecast a downturn. When that was overtaken by events, we were told “The UK is the best placed to weather the storm, and will have a lighter version of it”. When that fell to bits they concentrated on spinning that they will “do whatever it takes” to get us out of it, meaning there will be a rash of initiatives and mega buck spending.
Throughout they have told us this is a “global problem”, without pointing out that the downturns in Japan, Germany and China are very different from the downturn here. They don’t have the same excess of too much borrowing and very broken banks. Their downturns result from the UK and US crises, because they were too dependent on exporting and lending to us. They told us the crisis was made first in the US, glossing over how a British bank, Northern Rock, regulated by a British Regulator and lending to British people experienced such a catastrophe.
They now think the crisis gives them cover to do what they have always wanted to do: spend limitless amounts of money on everything they want to do in the public sector. They will borrow as much as they can. Frightened that maybe the markets will rumble them and deny them too much lending, they have now decided to buttress their position. They will instruct the banks, especially the ones the taxpayer owns, to lend more to the government itself. And they now have instructed the bank of England to buy up government debt to keep the price up. In other words they will now print as much money as they like to spend as much as they like in the run up the election.
Taxpayers – and the incoming government – will be left to clear up the mess.
The economic stragey has ended just as one feared – in too much debt, a vioent boom/bust cycle and a weak pound.
The politicians think they can ignore that cruel reality by the spin cycle. We will be told the government is on our side, has done all it can and should. This government believes it can buy votes with taxpayers own money, and now believes it can buy votes with money it simply prints.
The government may even be happy now. It thinks they can spend and spend their way to the election like there’s no tomorrow, paint the Tories into the cuts corner, and await the applause of a delighted and subsidised electorate.
The polling and the electoral responses suggest many voters see it otherwise. They know the reality is a broken economy, a massive debt , and years of lower living standards as we wrestle with how to pay it all off.