Monday, 24 November 2008

Budget, Fudge It

Can there be anyone at all left in the UK who thinks the British government is anything other than a very sick joke? The news has been so universally glum of late that I really haven't felt inclined to blog about it. I can't imagine that there's anyone left to whom evidence that "The World's Gone Mad" would come as any surprise, and watching Gordon Brown-Trousers strut around the world stage as though he knows what he's doing is grim beyond measure.

In fact, the only thing worse than watching the blundering buffoon that is our Prime Minister pretending he's some kind of ... well, anything, really ... is watching other world leaders nodding sagely and following his lead. If any proof were needed that the world is not only mad, but in very deep shit and sinking further by the day, it is the sight of other countries so bereft of ideas that the best thing they can come up with is to copy Gordon Brown-Trousers.

Still, copying him they are, and it is surely only a matter of time before he begins to shift away from pretending to be the "saviour" of the economic world and positions himself as its leader instead. World President Brown-Trousers, anyone? It's a nasty, terrifying thought, and one upon which I will not dwell for now. Our lunatic government has no shortage of terrifying ideas, and the current economic crisis has become to financial sanity and the free market what perceived terrorist threats are to privacy and freedom - an excuse to sweep them aside in favour of New Labour imposed ideology that will not work and cannot be maintained without constant state intervention and control.

Of course, state intervention and control is no bad thing - as far as the state is concerned, anyway. For the rest of us, it's a bloody awful way to run a country, but our leaders want to try it all the same. Having mismanaged the economy to the extent where banks have run riot and gotten themselves into the mire, Gordon Brown-Trousers has grabbed control of a large part of the banking sector in the name of stability. Maybe it was necessary, maybe it wasn't, but it's done now and there's not much we can do to reverse it until Crazy Cameron moves in to Number 10.

But things aren't stopping there. Like all power crazed dictators, one taste of control isn't enough for Gordon Brown-Trousers, and in the past few weeks I've heard him issuing stern comments and veiled threats to other large industries too; he expects utility companies to cut prices, demands that fuel prices should fall, insists that credit card companies behave well and so on. I've no doubt that people who are seriously struggling under the economic conditions that Gordon Brown-Trousers, as Chancellor and PM, has created are delighted to hear the proposals, but they won't forget who created this whole mess in the first place.

Moreover, it's no way to run an economy. More and more state control, be it direct intervention or subtle nods and winks, gestures towards how the PM expects an industry to behave and will legislate to achieve if necessary, is a very bad thing. For one thing, the only way to maintain that control is to impose ever more of it. For another, Gordon Brown-Trousers has a reputation for micro-management, and it is his will that is being imposed on a supposedly free market. It seems rather unreasonable that a man who doesn't even have a mandate to govern should seek to control every little detail, particularly when the results of his actions to date are nothing short of chaos.

Then again, that missing mandate is what it's all about, isn't it? Gordon Brown-Trousers wants to be a LEGITIMATE Primer Minister, with his own mandate to govern instead of a second-hand, badly worn mandate wrested from the grip of his predecessor. Hence the economic hero act. We all know that he's no hero - in fact, his years at the Treasury have left the UK stunningly incapable of coping with an international economic downturn - but it's a chance for him to pretend to serve some useful function and he's hanging on to it like a limpet.

The plan is clear enough - be seen to take a tough line with all those industries that are daring to make a profit by charging people for services, especially those industries that are commonly perceived to be "over charging" or whose bills are a source of irritation for the public. Yes, that's going to cost some money in lost taxes, but hey, it's only money and no price is too high to pay for power, is it?

Next, make some sweeping changes to "stimulate" the economy. Cut VAT, for example, that will hit the headlines. Yes, it will cost a lot more money in lost taxes and won't make much of a real difference to real people on the real street, but it will make an impression. Any anyway, some of the lost money can be recouped by stealthily hiking duty on petrol, alcohol and tobacco, and some more can be clawed back by changes to National Insurance, hacking down the personal allowance and introducing a new tax band for "high" earners.

Then announce massive government borrowing on a scale never seen before. The numbers should be so staggeringly vast that critics will be stunned into silence and won't be able to point out that a) the Chancellor's estimates for economic recovery seem stupidly optimistic; and, b) this Government has never, ever been right about borrowing estimates in the past, always overshooting by some considerable margin so why should they be right now; and, c) these estimates are made by the same people who totally failed to estimate in the last budget, just a few months ago, that by the end of the year the entire economy would be utterly screwed and would need such radical measures to keep it out of total meltdown, despite the warning signs having been blatantly apparent for at least 12 months.

None of these measures will - or could - have any real, lasting beneficial effects on the economy, but they might - MIGHT - mask the symptoms of collapse for a short time. Just long enough, say, for the public to be fooled into voting for New Labour at a snap election to be held early next year. Of course, all that borrowing will have to be repaid, and that means taxes are going to have to rise pretty sharply for a long time, but the beauty of it is that this will pretty much have to happen whoever wins the next election. Money will have already been borrowed, spending will be under way and a new government won't be able to do anything about that without imposing yet more financial hardship on the UK.

So even if Gordon Brown-Trousers loses an election, his successors will be in a very difficult position indeed. Pre-emptive revenge, and an incentive, maybe, to stick with the current regime on the basis that the worst of the damage is (you hope!) already done and the promises of jam tomorrow might just be true.

Of course, this all seems pretty sophisticated thinking for a man who, only a few weeks ago, looked incapable of keeping his job or keeping out of trouble for more than a day at a time. It's hardly the PM's style, but it does seem remarkably like the devious, twisted plots reputed to spin forth from the now Lord of Darkness himself. And if HE - or other spin doctors - are behind these bloody awful policies we should be even more worried. For spin is just smoke and mirrors without substance, designed only to look superficially good.

Darling, at the behest of his boss, who, in turn, is dancing to the tune of a master spin doctor, has just made the biggest financial gamble ever - with our money, yet - and, when you look at the reasoning behind it, there doesn't look to be any financial justification for the bet, just political expediency.

Grim, isn't it? No wonder Britain is in such terrible shape, so badly positioned to cope with an unexpected (to the government) international economic slowdown, when the first - and only - instinct of its leaders is to make themselves look good and manipulate the situation to retain their grip on power.

Billy Seggars.

No comments: