Thursday, 14 January 2016

It may be Armageddon, but at least it won't be the Tories’ fault

“The worry for the UK,” David Blanchflower told the Guardian, “is that the government failed to fix the roof when the sun was shining over the last five years or so.”

That’s curious. George Osborne constantly assures us that, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, this has been a key priority. He repeated it in June last year: “We must act now to fix the roof while the sun is shining.” Its the kind of homely and simplistic phrase he likes: he used to talk about the (previous, Labour) government having “maxed out the national credit card” until it became clear that his bunch was going to preside over a far higher level of debt still (presumably they got the card limit extended.) Today the debt’s double what it was under Labour, making Osborne Britain’s first trillion pound Chancellor.

So who’s right? Blanchflower’s a former member of the Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee and now a professor of economics at the Ivy League Dartmouth College in the United States. More to the point, he’s one of only a handful of economists who correctly forecast the crash of 2008.

George Osborne, on the other hand, has distinguished himself in his tenure as the British minister of finance by a string of notable achievements that I list, in full, at the end of this post. They have put the economy, he tells us, in a strong position to face the future, for which it appears he deserves great credit. It’s true that he also points out that the economy faces terrible threats and risks for which, on the other hand, he is not even minimally responsible.

Heading for another crash? And will it be Labour's fault again?
Just how bad the threats are it’s hard to tell. The Royal Bank of Scotland has been telling people to sell, sell, sell, as disaster beckons. Albert Edwards of Société Générale, who seems to have become doommonger-in-chief to the banking sector, has proclaimed that Armageddon, in financial terms, is just around the corner. Many other commentators, David Blanchflower among them, are more muted in their predictions: tough times but nothing to panic about yet.

Blanchflower may be right, or he may be wrong. It’s always difficult to know what the future holds. Still, it seems likely that we’re in for torrid conditions. Last time, in 2008 and 2009. Gordon Brown was in office and the Tories have never stopped insisting that the fault for the crash – which was global, just like today’s difficulties – was all down to the Labour government he led.

In all the fog of uncertainty now, at least one thing’s completely guaranteed: however bad things turn out, George Osborne and his Tories colleagues will bear none of the blame.

In fact, they’ll probably still try to pin it on Labour. Who lost power – to them – six years ago.

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