Yesterdayâ€™s debate on the rising cost of living reminded us just how driven by soundbites modern Labour politics is.
Ministers stuck doggedly to their task â€“ to put the word â€œworldâ€ or â€œglobalâ€ in front of anything unpleasant that is happening to the economy, and to claim endlessly that everything being done in the UK meant we could ride out the â€œworldâ€ storm better than most. They failed to engage with any of the points and questions raised.
I asked them what the true UK borrowing and unfunded pension liability total now is. I suggested it is a massive Â£1500 billion. There was no denial from the Treasury bench.
I asserted that the Bank of England had been gravely damaged by taking away its responsibilities for banking supervision and debt management, leaving it unable to control or understand the money markets. There was no reply.
I argued that the Monetary Policy Committee was far from independent, as the government overruled it with a change of target and refused to explain why some members were reappointed and others were not. Again there was silence.
I pointed out that they had raised taxes on North Sea oil fields, yet now had the temerity to go and tell other oil producers to raise output, when their actions had reduced potential output from the North Sea. There was no response.
I questioned why they had spent 11 years dithering over whether to have more nuclear power stations and other non carbon power generation. Wouldnâ€™t we be in a better position if we had more non carbon capacity now? The comments went unanswered.
I asked why they had failed to reform the Common Agricultural Policy so farmers grew more corn and has less set aside, to help with food prices. There was no substance to the response.
The Minister responding to the debate was one of the more intelligent ones. She must have been told to keep her head down and not be drawn on anything different, so she did just that and spoke like someone reading from the whips pager. The only Labour backbencher to stay during the middle section of the debate expressed surprise that I had produced an interpretation of the UK Credit Crunch and the poor conduct of the authorities that was entirely new to her. Some of her colleagues who had heard my case looked as if it were not permitted to use arguments outside the prescribed spin doctor approved list. The arguments are those I published in the Conservative Economic Policy Review and have frequently voiced on this blog and occasionally in the media. Analysis so often gets crowded out by the fatuous soundbites of the spin doctor clash.
The Conservative front bench stuck to the line that the government had failed to mend the roof when the sun was shining, to which the government had no economic answer. It confined itself to pointing out that it had mended some school and hospital roofs, deliberately evading the point of the metaphor that they had debauched the public accounts in a time of plenty. The Lib Dems (Vince Cable) promised a demolition job on the seven Conservative proposals to improve the situation. I only counted Mr Cable dealing with five, and agreeing with at least two of the five, so it was a bit like being savaged by a hamster. There were no Lib Dem proposals on offer yesterday to get out of the stagflation that is now upon us.