What part of “You can’t afford it” don’t they understand?

Most of us know there are limits to what we can afford. We manage our daily budgets with an eye on our income. We know that the taxman has the right to grab loads of money first. We know we have to pay the mortgage and whatever ransom payment the local Council and the utility companies demand. We concentrate on trying to balance the rest of the budget so we don’t end up with a large overdraft or credit card debt.

Ministers in this government think they can behave totally differently when it comes to spending the nation’s money. This week-end there has been no question about whether the taxpayer can afford to take on risks from yet another mortgage bank, just an attempt to spin that this time will be cheaper because it is “not a bail out”.

Meanwhile in their personal conduct some ministers show the same lack of respect for taxpayers money. It’s not just the questionable claims for their own living expenses, which attract so much attention. It is the whole army of extra “Parliamentary” assistants, case workers, secretaries and the like charged to the taxpayer, along with the massive expansion of the civil service and quangoland. The biggest increases in the costs of MPs have come from a big expansion in the numbers and pay bill of Parliamentary staff, and the new army of auditors and box tickers that have been employed to chronicle it all. It is all symptomatic of a governing party which thinks public money grows on trees, and they own the orchard. Or maybe now it’s just the result of their discovery that printing money takes the waiting out of wanting.

Parliament has become a perfect mirror to Labour’s public sector. More cost, less delivery.


  1. Blank Xavier
    March 30, 2009

    Adam Smith Institute write that Government spending has doubled, from 300,000 million pounds to 600,000 million pounds, in the last ten years.

    You think – that extra 300,000 million pounds being extracted, every year, from the economy. What’s that going to do to economic growth, jobs and business?

    More fundamentally, is it even ethical? at what point do you look at the amount of money being taken from people and ask – is it *right* that so much is being taken?

  2. Mike Cunningham
    March 30, 2009

    While I agree in part with Mr. Redwood’s commentary upon the free-spending habits of the Government on our cash, What, may I ask, would the Tories implement if they got into power?

    There are large numbers of Tory M.P.’s who get large amounts of money for speaking engagements, would they be forced to relinquish all these earnings. The Labour argument is that they don’t get paid enough, without the extra money from their second jobs, directorships, after-dinner speeches, etc,; would the Tories be happy to rely on their salaries alone?

    The money for being an M.P. is considerable by any standards, and all know exactly what they are taking on when they apply for a seat. Don’t M.P.’s know how much they earn whilst on the job, as it were?

    Let’s hear it from the Tories, and then we might start to hear about a real Opposition!

    Reply: MPs of all parties have other jobs or earn fees for speaking engagements. There are no plans to change this. I think it a good idea to have some outside interest to widen your interest. The MP’s job is based on the proposition that you should have time to be a Minister as well, so if you are not a Minister there is time to do something else constructive.

    1. mikestallard
      March 30, 2009

      This is such an important point! Mr Hague, for instance, spent his time studying a couple of great people from history and making a lot of money in the City and by speaking engagements. This must have brought him into touch with normal people. Our host on this blog has been in finance and therefore speaks from experience. Ken Clarke loves jazz and smoking.
      By banning all that what do you get?
      How about the Labour Front bench?

  3. The Economic Voice
    March 30, 2009

    According to Mr Cohen Labour MP for Leyton & Wanstead, it is all the fault of the Tory minister John Moore in the 1980s.

    1. Stuart Fairney
      March 30, 2009

      That would be the Mr Cohen who rates himself as a better MP than former wartime PM, Winston Churchill (Yep, he really does).

  4. oldrightie
    March 30, 2009

    Standards in Society have continued downwards since the sixties. They accelerate this trend under Labour social engineering and cronyism, less slowly but still downwards under Tory regimes. The depression will arrest this as people discover hunger and deprivation, on a huge scale over the coming decades.
    A new socialist movement will grow from this. A Conservative Social Democratic party. It will be well received. It will not be “global” or “European” but British.

    1. alan jutson
      March 30, 2009

      Old Rightie

      You could well be correct with your perspective of a new Party emerging if nothing is done to arrest the declining standards, and fill your pockets while you can culture of some of our representitives. Let us hope poeple do not turn to the BNP in frustration.
      I agree that it would appear that Standards of some of those in Public Life have gone down so far that we are now near the gutter with some of them.
      The latest round of exposures of expenses just shows how far it has all gone.
      No I am not talking about Adult movies, but the culture of claiming for everything possible (even a 89p electric plug) if the press are to be believed, so as not to spend a single penny of your own money.
      It really does begger belief that some of our representitives can trouser such huge amounts of money (over £300,000 for a second property for one MP according to the Press) without paying any sort of tax (income or capital gains) at all, without it would seem much form of audit.
      The rest of us who try to run a business in a normal competitive environment get the run around either from the Inland Revenue or Customs and Excise if we have inadvertantly claimed just a few pence over the normal allowance.
      John I am very well aware of your thoughts in your blog last week, and your thoughts on cleaning up this mess, but it needs looking at now, not in 9 months time as suggested by G Brown after pockets have been filled to bulging.

  5. Brian Tomkinson
    March 30, 2009

    We live in very dangerous times. Our economy is in a dreadful condition; we are governed by a mendacious government supported by MPs who put party before country: actions are taken without reference to Parliament; many of our representatives in Parliament appear to think they should pay for nothing and enrich themselves at the taxpayers’ expense. With each day that passes this condition deteriorates and yet we seem unable to stop the relentless slide into penury. There is a need for an early general election to rid the system of an incompetent and malfeasant government and MPs and to allow the people the opportunity to express their views which have so far been ignored and denied. The longer this malefic and corrosive situation is allowed to continue the greater the danger to our democratic system which is itself now in grave jeopardy.

    1. mikestallard
      March 30, 2009

      Don’t you actually mean “MEPs”?

      1. Brian Tomkinson
        March 30, 2009

        No. They and the European Parliament should be included but we need to sort out Westminster first and without delay.

  6. Mark M
    March 30, 2009

    In answer to the question, they don’t understand any of it. Just listen to any answer ever given by Labour. It always involves how much money they are spending on various pet projects and social engineering, and never any explanation of where this money is coming from (the NHS, for instance, sucks up 15% of all tax money. Is that really sustainable?)

    I make the point on my blog today that Labour doesn’t understand it’s key supporters.

  7. figurewizard
    March 30, 2009

    It’s not just the government that is wasting our cash these days: take HBOS for example.

    They have three large headquarter operations in Edinburgh, Halifax and London. Not only are they now in receipt of billions of our money, their business has shrunk in scale not least because for them the securities business has more or less vanished. Why therefore are all of these three huge and expensive management operations still in being? Any normal business in the dire straits that this bank finds itself would have taken the axe to its expenditure by now. London presumably is a must which leaves either Edinburgh or Halifax as suitable candidates for the chop, therebye limiting our exposure to them.

    Is it that the injection of taxpayers’ cash has been conditional on not taking such a tough but necessary decision and could that be because it would seriously damage Labour’s future electoral prospects in either place?

  8. chris southern
    March 30, 2009

    The reason they don’t understand it, is the fact that they don’t understand Kensyian economics that well (although they like to quote it!)
    It’s good and well spending in the bad times, but to do that your supposed to save in the good times (like Chile did.)

    Also, whilst councils (now corperations it seems!) and other goverment departments (as well as police, fire and nhs) spend their entire budget on all sorts of crap just so that they get the same funding in the following year, we will continue to see public funds (forcefully extracted by the decree of parliment every April 5th) being wasted.

    The entire system needs changing, not just parts of it, something i hope the concervatives are going to make a major priority (i know you have addressed the problems John, but it’s the shadow cabinet that need to be ready to tackle properly)

  9. Robin
    March 30, 2009

    Oborne in the mail says BofE this Sunday writes “A sinister plot to protect the pension pot?” saying the BofWE pension fund transferred out of equities sold their equities at the end of 2006 into gilts.

    Oborne hasnt published this graph yet. But look on page 14 – there is a table you can screen grab (see below – for a summary).


    Have a look at this on page 14 …

    2008 2007
    £M % £M %
    Fixed-interest securities — UK 491.2 22.3 390.7 19.8
    Index-linked — UK 1,557.8 70.7 504.2 25.6
    Equities — UK – – 395.2 20.1

    1. StevenL
      March 30, 2009

      The graph shows the transfer from equities to gilts taking place between Feb 07 and Feb 08.

      That is a bit weird isn’t it when you look at the holdings of other public sector pension schemes and even managed funds that offer flexibility between shares, bonds and cash.

      The really interesting thing is that the money was all stuffed in index linked gilts, as if they are worried about inflation.

      Another quote from page 14 is:

      “There were no employer-related investments held at any
      time during the year.”

      What’s this supposed to mean? Why can’t government speak language we all understand? How can a gilt edged security not be an employer related investment when you’re talking about the Bank of England pension pot?

      1. Robin
        March 30, 2009

        If you look at this other doc for 2003/2004 you can see


        page 7 – for 2003/4 you can see UK equities made up 43%, overseas equities 30% of assets, indexed linked 8.3% and property 10%. Then by 2007 it all magically turned into gilts.

        It all smells a bit fishy.

        1. Steven_L
          March 31, 2009

          Well Guido has picked up on this now so it’s going to get around pretty fast.

          Maybe it was just a hedge against Gordon becoming PM.

  10. jim
    March 30, 2009

    I’m staggered that you say the taxman has a right to grab our money! I thought you were different, obviously I was wrong.
    I don’t suppose it matters, there is very little left to grab. People will be pushed into the informal economy, as that is all that will be left after Brown finishes the country off.
    Reply: I am different. I want to cut the amount the taxman takes from you. We all do, however, have to obey tax law, and in recent years the electorate has decided to elect by large majority a high tax high spend party.

  11. mikestallard
    March 30, 2009

    The trouble with parliament is that we all know that they don’t make 80% of the annoying laws that we have to live by. They just nod them through, when they can be bothered to turn up at all.
    But it is these laws – and then some – which the Police are enforcing now very heavy handedly. Look at the letter in the Telegraph today where a Councillor says, when heckled, that transexuals ought to tick both M and F boxes. Two hours of questioning.
    On the same page, a violent girl is not even arrested.
    Police are now in our local Comprehensive enforcing laws made for grown ups.
    Now no photography – on anti-terrorist grounds – of the coming riots.
    It all makes us despise the greedy politicians who set the targets and unctuously pass the ridiculous laws under which we suffer.
    I myself got a serious warning from the Police, who came out specially in a Squad Car a couple of days ago, for letting my dog mess in some grass beside the street. I was actually threatened with jail. It was like something out of “The First Circle”.
    Then we see profligacy, corruption, lying and cheating in the very people who cause us all this aggro. What is worse: they do not even show the shame and grovelling acceptance of their crimes that those of us who are threatened with arrest have to.
    And we all know that our taxes, which are already as high as those the peasants who caused the French Revolution had to bear, are just about to quadruple owing to the greed and incompetence of those very people.

  12. sm
    April 6, 2009

    Did you clean the dog mess up? or was this an oversight?
    Not a Murder 1, but in an overpopulated urban area not nice, when you have to encounter this.

    Very interesting re BOE pension investment calls.
    No one saw this coming!?

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