There has been some excellent journalism on the back of Tom Harrisâ€™ rose-tinted blog about the economic joys of modern Britain. I marvel at how much he does not understand â€“ his political sense was as lacking as his economic knowledge.
The trouble is, we have a generation of politicians brought up in the soundbite-ridden, spin-doctor-controlled, pager-message-driven world of Blairite vacuity. It says on the Labour pager weâ€™ve never had it so good, so he writes it on his blog. Does he not read the emails and letters from his constituents, telling him how the shoe is pinching? Doesnâ€™t he go out knocking on doors and hear how frightened people are of the Council Tax Bill, the home energy bill and the visit to the filling station? Has he no idea how difficult it is to manage, when the prices of basics are shooting up 1970s-style, whilst most peopleâ€™s incomes are heavily constrained and even more heavily taxed?
Worse still, the spin doctors and allied message makers clearly know little economics. They ignore the way the UK has been falling further and further behind the fast growing lower tax countries. They forget the 5.5million people of working age without a job. They watch helplessly as the twin deficits, government and balance of payments, balloon. They assume the UK government can carry on living on credit at exactly the same time as the private sector is being strongly squeezed to curb excess borrowing.
Itâ€™s not just a minor figure like hapless Tom â€“ he speaks for the whole government. They all talk in sound-bites, crafted by marketing people and based on extensive polling. Tomâ€™s mistake was to flesh out the approved sound-bite that the â€œgovernment has presided over continuous growth and created economic stabilityâ€ a little too much so the gulf between what the government wants us to believe and the reality of daily life in modern Britain becomes so huge.
Itâ€™s a rum kind of stability, if you saw the way the authorities lurched from feast to famine in the money markets last year. Itâ€™s not that stable out there if you are an estate agent, in commercial property, or a housebuilder. It doesnâ€™t feel like growth if you are running a small shop or other service business at a time when peopleâ€™s disposable incomes are being squeezed. The soundbite rolls on. The more they say it, the more people disbelieve them. When one of them tries to unpack it and give it some more life, you see how ridiculous the whole thing is.
Labour have created an edifice of warm words which have grown further and further away from the reality of the country they are governing. That has increased peopleâ€™s impatience and cynicism about politics. Now we learn that the Prime Minister does not want a full Parliament next time in the unlikely event that he wins. Has he learnt nothing from the Blair resignation debacle? Does the UK really deserve another PM who invites challengers for his crown because he says he wants to quit but wont name the day? Is there anyone in Labour capable of responding to the challenge?