I don’t really follow mainstream politics these days. So many of the big issues are not debated. Should our health provision be nationalised? Should we privatise schools? How come only the government substantially owns roads? Why is our currency fiat,? What is the point of a central bank? Will Iraq be fixed with more killing? Why are there victimless crimes on the statute book? Why are the government entitled to half our cash? Why are we disarmed? Why don’t we have robust reliable energy supplies? Why can’t we quit the EU, the UN, NATO? Why do we even need national trade agreements in the internet era?
There is almost no debate on these gigantic subjects; the political settlement having run aground on the social democratic rocks. So it doesn’t much energise me.
However, I did catch some of the Labour conference this week, and it looks like they have stopped trying.
We had Sadiq Khan who wasn’t quite sure of what he thought about bombing ISIS. He wanted to “see what the Prime Minister said” because independent thought was obviously a bit tricky. In fairness to him, the coverage is a joke; the so-called Arab coalition extends in some cases to allowing use of air space and not much else.
Then we had Rachel Reeves who is apparently shadow work and pensions secretary who didn’t know what the basic state pension was (sic) nor apparently did she have any understanding of how it was derived. I had to read the report twice to see if I had misread it. You cannot be taken seriously as a frontline politician without at least a basic grasp of your own brief.
Ed Balls did not disappoint announcing the ludicrous ‘mansion’ tax which will be nightmarish to administer and won’t raise the cash they think. And you might question why someone who lives in a leafy Southern suburb and has done for years should suddenly have to fork out an additional £15K a year. Avoidance schemes aplenty will abound. Plus he was going to “close tax loopholes” how do they say this stuff with a straight face? Oh and cut the deficit of course along with all the extra spending pledges. Balls it seems to me was going to cut the deficit by borrowing more. You will recall what borrowing too much money has done to Greece.
Then we had the organ grinder himself saying he was going to spend the mansion tax cash on the NHS (which is curious because on Monday Rachel Reeves was spending it on reducing the deficit) and this was of course cheered for some reason which completely escapes me. Maybe there is this weird school of thought which says “Large bureaucracy – good, give more money to with no thought of actual results or even goals”
Labour were asked how many cuts they had identified to eliminate the structural deficit. It turns out they amounted to £400m. The structural budget deficit is £75B. So all their efforts in opposition have identified just over half of one percent of the cuts need to balance the budget. And this is blown away with all the extra spending you know they will do.
Also Ed didn’t talk about the deficit in his speech, because you know how popular financial reality is with Labour party delegates. This is “dog-ate-my-homework” stuff. You forgot?
This is not serious politics. They aren’t trying, they are just making noises which sound nice to the hard of thinking, but which evaporate when you look at them in any detail.
Lest you think this is an invitation to vote Tory, it’s not. Osborne may try but will clearly fail to balance the budget if the Tories are re-elected. Balls and Milli won’t even try.
This is going to end in either sovereign default or an orgy of QE regardless of who is elected because the debt and the interest payment keeps going up. This means more and more of the government’s tax receipts are spent paying the interest on the debt. No-one wants to take the hard decisions, nor even has a philosophical basis for doing so, much less any chance of being elected if they tell the obvious truth (which is being stubbornly ignored by the electorate).