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Age of austerity

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Nick Robinson | 13:10 UK time, Thursday, 23 April 2009

The age of abundance is over. Welcome to the age of austerity.

For years politicians have argued about how to spend the proceeds of growth. For years to come they will have to argue about what should be cut.

They are, however, very wary of how the public will react.

Alistair DarlingThus, the chancellor simply refused to use the word "cuts" when I interviewed him this morning (see below). This despite the fact that he used the word "cut" very liberally to describe less severe Tory plans made at the last election. He persists in implying that "efficiency savings" will be enough to produce the tightest squeeze on spending since the war. It won't.

Even now projects to rebuild further education colleges, schools and hospitals have been cancelled as capital expenditure has been chopped. What's more the whole of the public sector is bracing itself for a squeeze the like of which few have experienced before.

The government promises that schools and hospitals will not be affected. What about old people's homes, social services, prisons, colleges not to mention transport schemes, defence projects, the police and all the other costs? They may not fit neatly into the false distinction which is often made between spending on nurses and teachers ("good") and spending on Whitehall bureaucrats ("bad") but if they are cut people will really notice.

None of this is meant to imply that cuts are or aren't a good thing. I simply point out that the public are not being told what's in store.

The opposition parties have also been mightily reluctant to spell out what they might cut. This week the Lib Dems hinted that Trident might be for the chop along with the target of sending 50% of young people to university and tax credits for those on above average incomes. The Tories refuse to go beyond their old favourites - scrapping the ID card scheme and regional assemblies.

The think tank Reform came up with its own proposals for cuts this week.

Who'll be the first politician to offer their own proposals?

Update 1607: You can see below the full version of my interview today with the chancellor; I began by asking him about the levels of borrowing.

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Comments

Page 1 of 3

  • Comment number 1.

    I sat down last night to watch the budget, ready to take notes about how much extra was going to be put into our desperately underfunded social care system....and I waited....and waited....and waited.....

    Was I naive? Maybe...I know there is a recession on, but with the government green paper on social funding out any day soon, I had hoped to be listening to how the changes would affect carers and those needing care. Not to be....

  • Comment number 2.

    'None of this is meant to imply that cuts are or aren't a good thing. I simply point out that the public are not being told what's in store.

    The opposition parties have also been mightily reluctant to spell out what they might cut.'

    Nick, your hypocracy knows no bounds.

    For 12 years on Labour misrule, the BBC has more or less beheaded anyone who spoke of public service cuts. Beyond the pale is one way of putting it.

    Now, your Lord and Masters have made such a complete hash of running the country (not surprising as not one of them has ever even run a whelk stall) and savage cuts are inevitable, it's 'I'm not saying it's right or wrong'! And you wonder why opposition politicians aren't prepared to say where these cuts will fall? You would have murdered their electoral chances for the last 12 years.

    Hypocracy at it's height. But that's the BBC from head to toe these days.

  • Comment number 3.

    The Liberal Democrats have also proposed scrapping ID cards and the DTi (now sometimes called BERR)

  • Comment number 4.

    Since the Tories can't formulate until they "see the books", it looks like Nick is going to have to stick to asking questions of the government

    Actually get them to tell you where these cuts are going to fall because they are the ones in charge of the purse strings.

    I would also question the age of austerity since Darling has put off most things until "after the next election"

  • Comment number 5.

    I don't suppose that this government would recognise an efficiency saving if it bit them on the bum.

    Having said that, maybe I'm wrong.

    Brown wanted to do away with the inefficient method of paying allowances to MPs, justified by expense claims and receipts, in favour of a streamlined "just give them the money" approach.

    A saving that doesn't work it's way down to the bottom line is NO saving at all. But I bet these folk will keep bleating on about Tory or LibDem proposing "savage cuts" to front line services.

  • Comment number 6.

    The people are ready for cuts in public services. E.g. is there really any need to employ someone to go around business ensuring that their smoking shelters are no more than 50% enclosed?
    That'll save £20,000 straight away for my council.
    Time for change.

  • Comment number 7.

    Was it an age of abundance though? Wasn't it just a big bubble of credit?
    Oozelum birds come to mind.

  • Comment number 8.

    It doesn't matter which word you use to describe the 'cuts' - they need to happen and soon

    I frankly don't care if they are 'efficiency savings' or 'cuts' just get on and make some, but please don't waste the money saved on another pet social engineering project!

    Put it to better use - i'm sick of having taxpayers money wasted on stupid projects that deliver little but cost billions

    Just protect our little island, keep the trade routes open and the streets safe: That's all you're supposed to do!! Stop trying to micromanage all our lives

  • Comment number 9.

    Hi Nick,

    As he is going to push through efficiency savings at some point after the next budget, did you think to ask him:

    1. If the systems are currently inefficient, then why wait to correct them?

    2. Why was inefficiency acceptable up until now?

    See you in the pub.

  • Comment number 10.

    Listening to Alistair Darling being interviewed on Radio 4 this morning I was so glad I had heard him properly introduced as I would have taken him to be the Shadow Chancellor. You know how often they are asked by Commentators; well, what would you do if you were the Government? Then the ridicule they are subjected to when they quite rightly reply; I can only give you a definitive answer to that once I see the "books".
    Well Alistair sounded very much like a man who has never opened the "books", he couldn't say who else agreed with his growth figures but, kept repeating; others are predicting higher growth figures. Who? where?
    Repeatedly he was asked what about the black hole in finances that will still be there in 2013, where are your proposals to tackle that? At this point his "needle" got stuck as he repeatedly told the Interviewer, in these challenging times, I can only produce a budget for the coming year.
    Mercifully the interview ended at this point and Alistair was able to get back to writing his memoirs, aptly titled; How Gordon dropped me in it as the Shadow Chancellor. I made that last bit up, just like Alistair's growth figures.

  • Comment number 11.

    More worrying was

    a) the brevity of the Budget Speech (if you aint got anything to say - say it fast)

    b) Mandleson repeated use of "eh" these days.... every other word !!!

    c) Forcast recovery

    John Reid explained that the swift recession, meant that manufactures **WOULD** not have cleared stock and be-able to quickly recover....

    But as they manufacturers have laid-off staff and suppliers stopped building components - how can than happen as fast as the recession occurred.

    Even if today - all banks made available credit (needed to restart the economy) - re-hiring staff will take months, restarting imports will take months....

    Yet more unemployment today, so more expense.....

    Darling just said today, recovery by end of year, and next year growth thats ***Modest*** - but his story is that growth next year is 3.5% - that not modest....

    Its hard to maintain and unbelievable story, or to support the unsupportable

    thats why "eh..." become more apparant in speech, as the brain struggles to provide justifications for the unjustifyable.

  • Comment number 12.

    Even as someone who believes that we should retain a nuclear deterrent I would be in favour of axing Trident. A strategic submarine launched system requires a massive support infrastructure, the same job could be done with cheaper, air and sea launched cruise missiles. The Navy's Tomahwak and the RAF's Storm Shadow missiles can be adapted for the nuclear role, we are never likely to be facing a nuclear exchange with China or North Korea so why do we need Trident? The only plausible threat is Russia and we are likely to be in a unilateral way against them. As a member of NATO we also have the explicit promise that America would come to our aid if we were attacked.

    There is plenty of room for cuts in the public sector, I work for a public sector agency and there are dozens of people, usually contract staff who are employed purely to build up the little empires of middle managers and who spend most of their days on Facebook and Bebo, all at public expense. I promise you that I could selectively cull in a literal sense over 30% of all public sector workers and, (if the media agreed not to report all the bodies in the streets!) you would not notice the difference! Professional public sector workers are increasingly seeing the amount of waste that Labour has allowed to build up by the creation of non-jobs. I suspect that a sizeable proportion of them will vote Tory out of anger at Labour's wasteful ways!

  • Comment number 13.

    As usual a true observance about your sycophantic abilities failed to pass the moderator. Fear of the truth is a terrible affliction, as this abysmal government will soon find out ! This is a marginally better report but still manages an anti tory sneer at the end. When will you be objective ?

  • Comment number 14.

    someone please give maggie thatcher a ring to find out how she got us out of labours economic mess 30 years ago and then apply liberally her successful solutions!

  • Comment number 15.

    I think that all the British people really want is this: a political party to stand up and tell it as it is. You'd be surprised at how easily and readily people can take and deal with bad news when the writing is on the wall. What we cannot abide is a bunch of mealy-mouthed charlatans spewing out catch-phrases that they think we want to hear, all aimed primarily at holding or taking power for power's sake ... whilst our socio-economic circumstances spiral into oblivion.

    We're crying out for competent, honourable leadership; can't the Westminster dolts see this?

  • Comment number 16.

    I saw your piece with Darling and was pleased you pushed him, especially when you pointed out to him you had just given him the opportunity to pledge they would not redude the £150k earnings limit for the 50p tax to less. That made him uncomfortable but you didnt quite get an answer out of him. I would much prefer this type of questioning and unpleasant facts being put to labour ministers by yourself in the future.
    I dont think the public (in my opinion) will accept the excuse that avoiding a question is politics. More journalists asking the questions that force a yes no answer and destroy the waffle please, we deserve it.

  • Comment number 17.

    Brown inherited a golden set of circumstances from Clarke in 1997 - it has all been frittered away and squandered, leaving the public finances in a God Almighty mess!

    NuLabour should have done what they promised they would do before being elected - they should have reformed the Welfare State to cut dependency and they should have invested in those things which make economic activity more productive, especially the transport infrastructure. If concerned about the environment, they should have set about creating the circumstances where we could get reliable power generation from carbon neutral sources, including nuclear. Instead, we are left with the worst transport infrastructure of any advanced nation in Europe and because NuLabour did not get a coherent policy together on clean power generation, the lights will start going out in about 5 years, as our existing nuclear capacity nears the end of its life.

    We are in a dire situation and the present mess has been created by Culpability Brown!

    This Budget is a flipping disgrace, a testament to short term politics - we need an election now!

  • Comment number 18.

    Maybe they are thinking, irresponsibly, of not making cuts and then trying to blame the Tories for stifling economic "recovery"? If Brown could try "Saviour of the World" instead of abject apologies as one of the key architects of the disaster none would be surprised.

    Personally I think the number of Quangos - that Labour used to decry - must be a huge opportunity as they often just seem to exist to firewall the politicians.

    ID cards gone.

    But can we afford to fight in Afghanistan and can we, and the US, afford not to fight?

    Would the US discreetly fund some of the UK expense?

  • Comment number 19.

    It's far worse than that. The debt figures are going to be far worse then Darling told us because his growth projections are fictitious bordering on fraudulent. Remember the figure: £1,000,000,000,000 because that's going to be the national debt soon.

    We need a proper debate on what spending to cut - ID cards and aircraft carriers for a start - but until Labour are honest about the mess we're in we simply can't have one. Only Vince Cable seems to be talking sense on the subject (as usual).

  • Comment number 20.

    Nick

    It is Tory cuts and Tory boom and bust, but it is Labour efficiency savings and the Americans' recession. Now get that straight or you will be sent for re-education.

    It would be typical of this government to cut expenditure without telling anyone. I would hate to be working in the public sector now as probably nobody knows where the next cut is to fall.

    Reminds me of Thatcher, but without the imperious logic.

    As I have said elsewhere the only politician with a straight tongue at the moment is Vince Cable. This is an opportunity for a strategic re-examination as to what we want from government. We cannot afford what we have and so we need to refocus on what we can afford. Then we can organise the taxes accordingly. That sounds a reasonable strategy.

    What we have at the moment is an abdication crisis: the government has abdicated any responsibility for anything. It is all a bit like watching Gordon Brown smile - unreal!

  • Comment number 21.

    Who checked the Budget analyser before uploading it - category WIDOWED was missed off. So I am unable to use it correctly.

  • Comment number 22.

    Given that the Conservatives are potentially the next Government, I'd welcome rather more in depth questioning about their plans - not just to go as far as the Government proposes on spending cuts, but a good deal further.

  • Comment number 23.

    It seems to me that the social cost of allowing our dear financial hoo-rah henries free rein to do business without proper regulation, scrutiny and control will turn out to be absolutely massive.

    As society reels from this harm and injury, there will surely be a backlash. I already note the increases in crime - what will be next?

    People will pay for the light-touch of financial regulation in reduced social and health care for themselves and for their families, in unrepaired roads, in increased umemployment, in more bankruptcies and in so many other ways.

    I wonder just who will really think it was worth it?

    Perhaps a former, well pensioned, bank CEO and the like?

  • Comment number 24.

    Gutless. Do you honestly believe a word these people say to you Nick? There is not one labour politician at Westminster that has the kahunas to tell it like it really is, It's all about party loyalty over the best interests of the Country every time. That was a party political budget yesterday, nothing more, nothing less. We will all suffer, my children will suffer for years to come long after I've gone and they're not responsible for any of this.

  • Comment number 25.

    What happens if the budget doesn't work. That is the predicted growth does not happen, and our debt is not bought, or at least not enough of it. RPI might well be zero or less on official figures but for much of the older population real inflation is already here as their patterns of spending do not include some of the elements used to calculate RPI. My own feeling is that inflation or a real reduction in the value of the pound in your pocket is inevitable, especially given that the actions of the BoE/Treasury/Debt Management office have been to encourage inflation to avoid the spectre of deflation, and there will be a lag between the timing of these actions and their effect. If I had the nerve (and ability) to do it, it might be a good idea to borrow as much as I could now, buy shares in alternative energy sources and pay off the debt in 10 years time with a couple of weeks income.

  • Comment number 26.

    "I swear by my Life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for the sake of mine."

    Where's John Galt when you need him.

  • Comment number 27.

    "Welcome to the age of austerity."

    For some people in this country austerity never went away. Try and remember them as well, eh Nick?

  • Comment number 28.

    The one person who hasn't got the message on all of this is the BBC's Political Editor. Compared to all the other news outlets the 'ten o'clock' last night was so complacent as to be unbelievable... a disgrace. NR is as deluded as GB. Anyone deep in debt is owned by the owner of the debt. We as a country will now be owned for the rest of my life and a great chunk of my children's and grandchild's. I am deeply ashamed. We are witnessing a catastrophe, unseen by the BBC's Political Editor.

  • Comment number 29.

    Brown is planning to half government investment.

    From the budget on pdf:

    page 226: 44 billion pounds net investment in 2009/10, the peak, halving to 22 billion in 2013/14.

    page 224: a minus 9 billion pounds revision to net investment compared to the 2008 pre-budget report.

    It seems that Brown has caught himself out using the labour-will-invest-through-the-downturn-versus-cutting-conservatives slogan.

  • Comment number 30.

    Nick

    Your inability to say anything positive about the government, alongside your inability to find anything credible to criticise the opposition with really sums things up very well.

    Labour are completely shot.

    Unfortunately this means the public will just do nothing until the new government are in, that is when the recovery starts -- labour are delaying the recovery, but delaying their exit from office.

  • Comment number 31.

    where is Fred the Shred..................
    It's gone very quiet concerning his pension.

    I felt sorry for Darling yesterday because he is having to deal with Browns 11 years of incompetance and now bears the brunt of everyones critisism.

    Brown sat their yesterday with a smug grin on his face while big Dave piled on the pressure.
    The man (Brown) is as much incompetant as his ex boss Bliar was a liar.
    Brown knows all to well that while we are left to pick up the pieces of his mess he will go off into the sunset on a nice retirement plan.

    No justice is there.

    Brown is still adament today that he is not heading for the sack come May 2010.
    If he's so confident, he should go to the polls................we can wish can't we?????????

  • Comment number 32.

    It seems to me that not many people have grasped the reality here. We are in a position analogous to 1930 i.e. after the 1929 crash. Except that the UK government, and Gordon Brown in particular, has acted with courage and foresight to act nationally and internationally to lessen the impacts.

    Whereas governements did nothing between 1929 and 1931 to address the banking failures, we have done some things that give us a better chance of avoiding a 30's-like recession.

    Darling has been honest. We're in it deep, he has said, and we are going to have to dig like fury to get out. How deep and how long? Nobody knows, but here's a best guess, he says. Other guesses may be as valid, but they are still guesses.

    So the question now becomes: which party is best in a recession?

    Having lived through the 1970's, 80's and 90's recessions, the answer is obvious. Labour cares more about protecting people and jobs and services, the Tories care more about tax cuts and service cuts. Also, the Tory economic philosophy of not interfering is precisely the wrong philosophy to have in a recession. Lastly, labour is more econmically competent than the Tories, as shown by the record of both parties in governemnt since 1945.

    The most interesting thing about the budget presentation yesterday was the complete lack of alternatives offered by David Cameron and George Osborne. Just shouting "It's dire!" isn't an economic platform for recovery. But they have nothing else to offer.

    So. The crash has happened on Labour's watch, but still Labour offers the best chance of recovery and of cushioning the majority of us from the worst effects of the downturn.

  • Comment number 33.

    As others have said, Nick has not caught up with what Vince Cable has been saying.

    The truth is, and it will come home to roost in politics as truths quite often do, that either we pay for the Government's economic policy mistakes or our children do. We elected that Government. We know it is fairer that we should be the one's who pay in lower services, and in higher taxes.

  • Comment number 34.

    Darling and Brown are fiddling as Rome burns. They hope that by some miracle Joe Public is stupid enough to vote them back in in 2010 - and to help this along they are avoiding doing anything that might cause pain. The one problem is that bu standing around and doing nothing the critical patient may/will be terminally ill by then.

    So, for goodness sake will some right-minded Labour Grey Suit pull Brown to one side and order him to go and call an election. This way at least we will then get a government in that will fight the fire now.

    The problem is that Blair kept Brown out of power for so long that Brown will cling on to the very end rather than act for the good of the country. Brown has been so corrupted by his lust for power that his judgement is shot and his moral compass has packed up.

    Thus if there are no men in Grey Suits with the guts to act, then the only way he may act is if Labour is totally wiped out in the local and European elections. So, the message shoudl go out - vote for ANY PARTY but Labour and save Britain

  • Comment number 35.

    The problem seems to be that we are more dependant than many countries on the service industry in general and the banking industry in particular. I wonder who is responsible for us having such a small manufacturing base and if we had a better balanced economy whether we would be better able to withstand what is predominately a financial crises.

  • Comment number 36.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 37.

    One thing is certain , what will not be cut is the Westminster gravy train, or the size of the state employment circus. Removal of 50% of the governments non elected employees, and local government non jobs cut by the same amount is something else that should happen but won't. The health service also needs to be pared down to a maximum medical staff minimum clerical staff organisation, this won't happen either. General practitioners , who we employ, must be told how they must operate , they must not be allowed to dictate their terms of employment. If they don't like it , let them try doing something else. Scrap ID cards, close our Borders to anyone entering without a visa including from the EU (even if it upsets Brussels ) and remove all immigrants who do not have gainful employment, with their dependents. Welfare systems must be totally overhauled and benefits cut to people who have never worked and have no intention of ever working if they can get away with it. The money saved can be used to help those who lost their jobs through Labour's incompetence , rather than giving it to the growing army of obese layabouts who have no intention of working.

  • Comment number 38.

    Nick - and fellow readers

    Please be under no illusion - the forecasts for recovery are wrong. Very wrong. The recession (depression) will last for quite a few years and we won't see growth in our economy possibly for a few more after the recession has finished due to the debt we are being forced to take on.

    We need to have a manner to get out of this. To see a way forward. Ultimately we - the people - need the opportunity to decide. I just wish the Labour MPs would have some courage and do the right thing. They may be less punished were they to do this.

  • Comment number 39.

    22. At 2:10pm on 23 Apr 2009, gnomefan:

    Sure I'd like to know what the Tories are going to do, too.

    But, let's get real. The man in charge, 'The Right Honourable' Alistair Darling MP informed the House in December 2008 that the 2009/10 budget deficit would amoutn to £80bn. Bad enough.

    No more than 20 weeks later, he stands before the House and states the that 2009/10 budget deficit would amount to £175bn. And many beleive htis to be short of the mark. Armageddon.

    With a possible 12 months to the next election, please tell me how anyone knows what the situation will be when, at the last count, the increase is the deficit is increasing at a rate of some £5bn per week? And that's just the increase!

    So, pray tell, sir, what would you do now to close a budget deficit that no one has any idea will be when the election arrives in 12 months time?

    I think it would only be a fool who would open his or her mouth now.

  • Comment number 40.

    32. At 2:49pm on 23 Apr 2009, FatEck wrote:

    "It seems to me that not many people have grasped the reality here. We are in a position analogous to 1930 i.e. after the 1929 crash. Except that the UK government, and Gordon Brown in particular, has acted with courage and foresight to act nationally and internationally to lessen the impacts.

    Whereas governements did nothing between 1929 and 1931 to address the banking failures, we have done some things that give us a better chance of avoiding a 30's-like recession.

    Darling has been honest. We're in it deep, he has said, and we are going to have to dig like fury to get out. How deep and how long? Nobody knows, but here's a best guess, he says. Other guesses may be as valid, but they are still guesses."

    - you are having a laugh! This Budget was all about the short term electoral cycle and nothing to do with facing up to the serious structural problems facing this country - in particular its current account deficit.

    Massive cuts in public spending have simply been deferred until after the next election, regardless of which party is in power following it.

    We should have an election now to clear the decks, so we can get a Government which will take the long term decisions this country so desperately need!

  • Comment number 41.

    32:

    "It seems to me that not many people have grasped the reality here. We are in a position analogous to 1930 i.e. after the 1929 crash. Except that the UK government, and Gordon Brown in particular, has acted with courage and foresight to act nationally and internationally to lessen the impacts."

    You see comments like this and just despair. Life long class warrior repeating the party lines intended to fool the simple anyone?

    Go on then Mr (or Ms) Class Warrior, educate all of us who have "missed the picture" as to what precisely messrs Brown, Darling et al have done to lessen the impact of the recession. Could it be exposing us to insane levels of debt that will never be repaid? Maybe the perfunctory reduction in VAT that has cost the treasury millions, and apparently saved the average household over £1,000 (note, implied expenditure on VATable goods of around £6k, highly unlikely if you ask me). Surely not raising the 50% tax rate, which is so widely derided as being completely without value that it would take the absolute most narrow minded of zanu apologists to claim it was anything other than use of the budget for party politics.

    Please, tell us, what are these mythical measures that have been taken to improve our lot?

    "Also, the Tory economic philosophy of not interfering is precisely the wrong philosophy to have in a recession."

    Is this based on some kind of economic knowledge on your part? Or is it a random guess that you are hoping might be the case. No, don't answer that, its a rhetorical question.

    A recession occurs when a free market (Brown has been a big fan of this as he raked in the profits over the year) needs to make a correction. In this case due to the phoney boom caused by the housing price bubble. The markets correct themselves, it is a painful and sometimes brutal process, but a necessity for any market economy which is not perfect. This one will be painful due to the systematic missmanagement of the public purse perpetuated by Crash Gordon over the past 12 years. Further attempts to interfere in the recession are not only doomed to failure, but can only deepen teh recession by postoponing the effects to a later date. Brown's attempts seem to be a determined effort to reinflate the economy with borrowed money, which is exactly how we are in this mess in the first place.

    "Lastly, labour is more econmically competent than the Tories, as shown by the record of both parties in governemnt since 1945."

    Erm. No. Just no. There really is nothing else to say to that.

    The one ray of light in your post that a sane person might actually be able to agree with. I do feel very sorry for Darling in all of this. He has been handed the mess, and he is clearly not the qualified to dig anyone out of it. Listening to him being interviewed this morning, he actually came accross as sincere and honest, and he has clearly stood up to some of Brown's raving lunacy. However, the fact remains, he is there as a Brown patsy, GB remains the man with the purse strings in his hand, and Darling does not have the capacity to deal with this situation.

  • Comment number 42.

    Nick,

    I guess it is hard to have lived through years of Alistair Campbell and Co (with threats that you wouldn't be allowed access if you say or write the wrong stuff) without being a bit cautious about commenting on government positions.

    Frankly, I don't like cartels. But I'd welcome a coming together of the UK media (all types) to tell HMG that, rather than them being excluded from broiefing sessions, they won't attend at all unless spokespeople tell them things as they are. I know that can't happen.

    I'd also like the Tories and LibDems to simply not turn up for PMQs. Why? Because over the last several years there have been no PM Answers. So what's the point?

    I'm cautious about Cameron. But he asked Brown to confirm how many young people were out of work. Twice (at least), Brown said how many people were in work and how that figure had grown over the years. Interesting, but totally irrelevant.

    When Speaker Martin goes, I would like to see someone grasp the significance of that role and tell any PM (Lab/LibDem/Tory) to answer the b..... question or be suspended. Of course it's not very new, so not targetted at Martin or Brown. But in a way, the Speaker should be the voice of reason looking out for OUR interests, by making sure parliament conducts itself in a proper manner.

    (Well, perhaps it does implicate Martin as he tried to stop FOI release of details of MPs' claims for allowances...)

    The situation makes me very sad. Families or companies can get into trouble. When they do, they have to find ways to economise and look for people who believe in their proposed way out of difficulties.

    Governments are granted several years of free rein to simply extract cash from personal and corporate wallets, with NO option available to opt out. And there is no Advertising Standards Agency to check whether what they tell us comes within half a mile of the truth.

    I still recall Campbell strutting down a staircase to say he'd been "vindicated" when an appalling, out of touch Lord decided that the Iraq document had not been "sexed up". So a remark (apparently justified) by a journalist very early in the morning brought down the senior management of the BBC. It has NOT recovered yet.

    The BBC is NOT and should NEVER be the voice of government. It should be the most trusted news source in the world.

    I wonder whether all those folk over the water, who pay attention to BBC news realise that a large swathe of the UK population treats their "news" as wall paper.

    I read newspapers (and internet versions). It's pretty obvious which rag you're reading from the "tone" of comments.

    All I want from the BBC (including political commentary) is a fairly unbiased analysis of what's going on.

    I'm sure you try, Nick. But there is so much history of spin and obfuscation over the last decade or so that it gets tiring.

    When New Labour came in, there was talk of a bonfire of the QANGOs. What's happened? More of them. Some have been set up, considered useless and been dismantled again.

    That's a political story, Nick. Chancellor says one thing, does another, can't get it right, scraps it... What's the wasted cost? That's OUR money!

    Corporate governance in the UK is fairly dire. Political governance is appalling. But at least corporations have to find suckers to buy their products or services. Governments simply take OUR money and spend (or waste) it in whatever way they choose.



  • Comment number 43.

    oh, Hospitals not affected then - pity

    now I'm not a big fan of quoting Real World observations for two main reasons ...

    1. political insight is at its sharpest when not polluted by personal experience

    and

    2. as many people have pointed out, I don't live in the Real World

    but just this once ...

    I spent some time in Hospital quite recently (just visiting someone, so no flowers or anything thanks) and I couldn't help but cast my beady Clear Thinking Progressive's eye around the place

    was struck by two things ...

    1. there weren't enough Doctors

    and

    2. there were way too many Nurses

    the Doctors were run off their feet, whereas the poor Nurses were tripping over each other and appeared to be struggling to find useful things to do

    but, like I say, I'll take cold hard statistics over anecdotal evidence any day of the week - so, please, if anybody could let me know some comparative figures (say of now compared to 5 years ago) relating to the ratio of doctors to nurses in the National Health Service, I would be your friend forever ... yes, even if it's you, Robin

  • Comment number 44.

    "Labour cares more about protecting people and jobs and services, the Tories care more about tax cuts and service cuts"

    Labour cares about protecting jobs in the public sector only, hence the number of new public sector vacancies versus the number of private sector redundancies. This is unsustainable and anyone with a very basic grasp of maths can see that.

    'service cuts' is also misleading - services WILL be cut no matter who is in charge of this economy in the next 5 years. Otherwise we will be bankrupt. Hard to take but ultimately true.

    Anyway, I'm slightly past caring - I have to get my head down and work hard to keep my job as I'm not working for a local council or government quango. I'd like Gordan Brown to be sacked as he is a sleazy little man and clearly responsible for a large proportion of this mess, but ultimately whoever is in charge we are going to suffer for many years to come.



    Still, sunny outside, isn't it?

  • Comment number 45.

    #19 abbforumwrote: Only Vince Cable seems to be talking sense on the subject.

    As an individual, perhaps (though I remain unconvinced). However, Clegg and the LibDems are still waffling about tax cuts when the dire state of our national finances require both tax rises and spending cuts. I realise that the LibDems assert that there are all sorts of tax dodges that could be closed to fund these tax cuts, but I'm sceptical. Red Gordon would have closed them by now if there were.

  • Comment number 46.

    Chaps,

    Did anyone else see the Prime Minister laughing at David Cameron when he answered the budget on behalf of her Majesties loyal opposition?

    If I were Cameron I would have paused and just looked at him, silence can be a powerful weapon. It is called the power of silence.

    To see him laughing, I imagine he was saying, that stuck it to the Tories that 50% tax for the so-called rich. We have them now!! Victory is ours.

    Oh dear oh dear EVERYTHING the man lives and breathes is all about his self image. Our Prime Minister is not fit to serve us.

    So....I have a cunning plan that even Baldrick [that well known Labour supporter] would think is smart.....

    Everyone should start telling pollsters that they will vote Labour after the budget. The Labour support would rocket...some would be lying of course [that depends]....but I think give GB his earnest desire...let us the British people spin him out of office. Convince him we think his budget [cause it certainly was not Darling's] is great and that we approve of his spending....Mandy tells him to call an election and then.....just then....we might get a change. Sooner rather than later!!

    Plan?

  • Comment number 47.

    And what austerity it will be!

    For those who say they would rather be taxed more than have public services cut perhaps they should have been asked if they would be happy to pay half of what they earn to keep the public sector as it is.

    I know what the reply to that one would be.

    The sticking plaster seems to be the only solution this government can find as the country plunges downwards at an ever increasing pace. This recession is only now just beginning to kick in.

    It will not only be the banks that need a complete restructuring it will be the country as a whole. This isn't something that will be done overnight.

    Again any forecasting that is done can only be described as guesswork for none of the economists can agree even now on what the future will hold. Too many anomolies waiting to spring out of the woodwork for that.

    The only thing they do agree on is that things are very very bad. How bad is where the guesswork comes in.

    As some commentators have rightly said those that enjoyed the good times are now picking up the bill. And what a bill it will be. Those that were poor and did not will very likely remain that way.

  • Comment number 48.

    Efficiancey savings is, as it always has been, in the hands of the delightful vaguely Civil Service.

    The politicians can ask for savings, but they dont actually have the power to make them

    So when people ask politicians (of any party) what saving would they make, they should actually ask what savings are you going to grovel to your civil servants to make.

    And of course, the civil servants that the Labour ministers will ask are exactly the same as the one the Tories would have to ask should they be in power.

    So, we are asking the wrong people. Can we please by-pass the silly MPs and get the real people on our screens and ask THEM what savings can be made?

  • Comment number 49.

    42 fairlyopenmind

    "I'd also like the Tories and LibDems to simply not turn up for PMQs. Why? Because over the last several years there have been no PM Answers. So what's the point?"

    Agreed. Perhaps the BBC Blog Moderators could take on the role of the speaker. All of Gordon Browns answers to the opposition are "off topic" and the mods seem to be red hot on that sort of thing on here.

  • Comment number 50.

    More bad news for Darling, courtesy of Guido;
    http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=a0_DlDun684Q

  • Comment number 51.

  • Comment number 52.

    Just posted something about the LibDems (#45) when it occurred to me that Labour have just ensured that they won't be outflanked by the LibDems from the left (core vote strategy). Changes in higher-rate tax rates and pension contributions have been presented by other commentators as a threat to the Tories, but actually they are more a blow to the political narrative of Cable and the LibDems. Will the LibDems move further to the left on tax policy (70 per cent top rate of tax perhaps), or oppose the measure and be be accused of being tory-lite? Depends where they expect to win seats, presumably.

  • Comment number 53.

    43

    Well saga, I can actually provide a little knowledge on this one I am happy to say.

    The daughter of a friend recently qualified as a nurse, and found herself in a situation whereby there was only one position for every four nurses she qualified with. Fortunately she is a bright young lady (why would she want to be a nurse you may well ask), and was granted a position.

    Shortly after taking up her position, said young nurse encountered an abundance of foreign nurses (largely Australians) in positions in her hospital. These nurses invariably work through an agency (which takes a slice of money on top of the nurses wages), and they are invariably a few years post qualified since nursing agencies only take on experienced nurses, and are therefore entitled to a higher wage (fair enough). Which begged the question, why are the British public paying money to a nursing agency when we have an over abundance of young nurses qualifying and being unable to find employment.

    I'm afraid the answer is quite a depressing one. Hospitals are budgeted for a total pay allowance, which nurses employed in a permanent position are a part of. There are therefore generally very few permanently employed by the hospital. Wages paid to nurses employed on a temporary basis are outside of the normal budget, and hopsitals are able to claim additional amounts for "cover" nurses. "Cover" nurses therefore end up making up the main part of the nursing staff.

    False economy? Beurocracy gone mad? You betcha.

    Of course, doctors can not be employed on a temporary basis, therefore it is not possible for the budgeting process to be bypassed in the same way. But I can assure you, there is also an abundance of young doctors who are struggling to find a position.

  • Comment number 54.

    The budget was all about the smoke and mirrors which has come to signify the state of politics in the UK today.

    Career poiticos with no grasp of management of anything are in charge and its all a game to them, shut away in their offices always with more of an eye for their career than their moral responsibility to the people of this country.

    So what happens at an election? The only alternative will be the Conservatives so the two sets of career politicians change sides of the chamber and little else is any different.

    The whole political system in this country needs an overhaul, the situation will be that we in the East Midlands will have to remove our labour MPs at the next election in order to ensure that Crash Gordon is sent on his way, and that usually means we have to vote Conservative as you can't expect the LibDems to get enough votes around here.

    I can't help but think there has to be a smattering of decent honourable people within the Commons, with experience and skills to be trusted and believed (like Vince C) who will never get the chance to use their obvious expertise as we can't take the risk to vote lib dem with the hideous possibility that the Labour MP is returned once more.

    I'd rather see an overhaul where some kind of coalition is formed, or the top jobs are given to the most able. I'm certainly no expert but am getting to the point of thinking we will forever go around in circles until something is done first and foremost for the good of the people of this country.

  • Comment number 55.

    Re Doctors and Nurses.

    The number of doctors working in the NHS continues to increase, although at a slower rate than last year. In 2006 there were nearly 126,000 doctors in the NHS, an increase of over 3,000 from 2005. This is the highest figure since records began.
    There were nearly 33,000 consultants, an increase of almost 3 per cent since 2005.
    The number of GPs has also increased slightly by 1 per cent to just over 33,000.
    Amongst nursing staff there has been a small overall fall in numbers. In total there were nearly 400,000 qualified nurses in 2006, an estimated reduction of 2,500 from 2005. This decrease was mainly due to a fall in the use of bank nurses. This is reflected in the full time equivalent figure which shows an estimated increase in 2006 by just under 700.
    For the first time, the number of NHS managers has fallen, by 2,600 to just under
    37,000 or 3 per cent of the total workforce.

    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 56.

    The Times breaking news says that senior Labour ministers are hinting that the 50 percent top rate of tax will be temporary. So 24 hours after announcing it they are already backtracking...

  • Comment number 57.

    I sometimes don't think we are in age of austerity when I can't find an empty car parking space at the shops at the weekend! But I have noticed there are hardly any new jobs being advertised in the local press where I live. Is this age of austerity similar to the one in the 1920s? Every commentator seems to quote times since 1990. I know that in the recession in the late 1980s/early 1990s only hit certain areas of the UK. This recession has affected all places in the UK, including the south eastern parts. This is why it's so difficult for the Government to cover up their last 12 years' mistakes in government. The age of boom and bust was over, I seem to remember being quoted. But of course, it wasn't. We never seem to hear from that Chancellor of the Exchequer who used to boast of his prudence! You know, the one who became the only unelected prime minister in living history! This was the man who claimed to be a "son of the manse" with yet further claims to the moral high ground. Well, why doesn't he just resign if he has such high principles? Well, no, he can't do that, can he. Why should he when he knows he'll be booted out next year anyway.

    What I felt deeply frustrating when I heard the budget yesterday, was that although money was allocated towards the young unemployed for training, what exactly are they being trained for? Where are the jobs for them going to come from? It is up to the government to provide the right conditions for jobs to be created out of the private sector. Failing that, what about something like FDR did in USA during the 1930s, with community schemes for the unemployed to be involved in building road schemes, and regeneration of black spots. I know this did not get all the unemployed back into work, but it did help about 45% of them up to the start of World War II. I suppose that kind of scheme is thought to be too old fashioned nowadays by today's politicians but its got to be better than not having any young people in jobs for another generation.

    I watched BBC1 6 o'clock news last night with a piece from Ebbw Vale, an unemployment black-spot in Wales before the credit crunch hit in, now I feel yet another generation will be damaged, without any kind of hope being put in place for the youngsters there.

    The government needs to think properly about the manifestations of their actions over the next 12 months. Goodness knows, what advice they get from their researchers and advisers to have created such a flat budget, not in the least historic. Sadly, I don't think the Opposition would be any better. I remember the Thatcher Government with absolute horror.

    I wonder if Mr. Blair knew that the game was about to be up, when he resigned. I suppose you must glean some information when on the board of an American bank!

    I really couldn't care less for those who will be taxed at such a high rate. They obviously must have the income to warrant it in the first place. Unlike ordinary people, who still have to find money for their petrol, rates, food etc. I do worry about cut-backs in basic services by county councils, which will obviously be in the future. I expect it will be the old, and vulnerable adults, as well as children's services which will be hit.

    Maybe they could do away with paying county councillors such outrageous allowances, as well as MPs. That might put back some more money into the economy.

    Sorry to be so despondent but I am only the wife a very hard working self-employed husband, who has been affected, just like every-one else in this current recession.

  • Comment number 58.

    32. At 2:49pm on 23 Apr 2009, FatEck wrote:

    Darling has been honest. We're in it deep, he has said, and we are going to have to dig like fury to get out. How deep and how long? Nobody knows, but here's a best guess, he says. Other guesses may be as valid, but they are still guesses.

    So the question now becomes: which party is best in a recession?

    Having lived through the 1970's, 80's and 90's recessions, the answer is obvious. Labour cares more about protecting people and jobs and services, the Tories care more about tax cuts and service cuts. Also, the Tory economic philosophy of not interfering is precisely the wrong philosophy to have in a recession. Lastly, labour is more econmically competent than the Tories, as shown by the record of both parties in governemnt since 1945.

    So. The crash has happened on Labour's watch, but still Labour offers the best chance of recovery and of cushioning the majority of us from the worst effects of the downturn.

    ============================================

    You're right about having to dig our way out, but labour have decided to delay the start of digging until after the next election haven't they?

    Your idea that Labour are best in a recession is utter madness. How many recessions have labour got us out of? I know they're pretty good at getting us into them. The tories got us out of a labour recession in the 70s, and everything was fine when labour took over in 1997, but guess what ...

    Its not that the tories prefer cuts over protecting people, its that they accept that they have to actually RUN the economy rather than see it as a collection of their little pet 'projects' while they inflict some kind of student common room ideology on the masses.

  • Comment number 59.

    Dear oh dear Haymaker, you're a bit aggressive, are you not? When people are trying to indulge in rational discussion, a quick reversion to aggression is usually a sign of intellectual shortcomings. Although not in your case. I'm sure.

    It's not class war, it's the truth. The last great banking crash led to a prolonged depression and eventually to a real war, WW2. The steps taken by the international community, architect G Brown, are designed to avoid another '30s type catastrophe. Let's hope that they work, although I get the impression some people here would like them to fail....

    At home, saving the banks, printing money and encouraging spending in the hope that it will keep the UK economy going until it international trade picks up in line with an international recovery. And other measures on protecting jobs, expanding training, stimulating the car industry, protecting mortgage holders,... They may not work. You may not want them to work. But they are worth trying.

    As for ""Also, the Tory economic philosophy of not interfering is precisely the wrong philosophy to have in a recession."

    Is this based on some kind of economic knowledge on your part? Or is it a random guess that you are hoping might be the case. No, don't answer that, its a rhetorical question."

    It's based on experience. The 1980s in particular were a nightmare for the economy. There were reasons, but the situation was made worse than it should have been by nutty thatcherites trying to drive out inflation by driving up unemplyment, and refusing to take any ameliorative steps. In fact they were so hostile to ordinary workers who lost their job that, if I remember rightly, the precise phrase was: "if it isn't hurting it isn't working".

    And BTW, the Tories had a stash of cash from the North Sea boom that could have been used for precisely such interventions, but they chose, for reasons of ideo-idiocy to wast the money on "tax cuts" that never came...

    ""Lastly, labour is more economically competent than the Tories, as shown by the record of both parties in governemnt since 1945."

    Erm. No. Just no. There really is nothing else to say to that."

    I think the statement stands, unless you can think of any argument against beyond "er, um, mammy". Why don't you give it a try.

    The serious point is that we are in deep, and who is best placed to get us out... Cameron and Osborne or Brown and darling. Just posing the question provides the answer. Callow inexperience allied to a philosophy of non intervention, or solid experience allied to a philosophy of support and help for the majority.

    It's Labour for any rational person.

    What you chose is, Haymaker, of course, up to you....

  • Comment number 60.

    "Who'll be the first politician to offer their own proposals?

    I haven't got a clue who it'll be, Nick; but I'm certain of this...

    - If it's a Labour MP, you'll announce their plan with a great fanfare & spin it as if it's the best news ever and our only path to salvation.

    - If it's a Conservative MP, you denounce and ridicule the plan, attacking them with "cuts to frontline services" every day up to the election.

    - If it's a LibDem MP, well, you'll completely ignore it.

  • Comment number 61.

    It's been a headlong dash to the cliff edge by Labour since 1997. The Conservatives spent what we could afford after cleaning up Labour's last disastrous regime. I fear the clean up may not be possible in my lifetime.

  • Comment number 62.

    What's been happening is a classic Taleb distribution. For years the bankers have pursued a policy that each year would probably guarantee their bonus even though eventually the wipe out comes with eye-watering losses. Like doubling up in roulette, probably you will win a little, but eventually you're finished off by a bad run.

    The trouble is that they keep their previous bonuses and so they are rewarded for this strategy. Indeed to not play the game would probably lead to unfavourable comparisons to others who were playing and then the sack.

    Happened before with the Internet bubble too. Just have to play for a few years, pocket the dosh and let some poor sap (us) pay the bill. Only lose if you are late to play the game or if you don't realise one day your strategy will fail.






  • Comment number 63.

    It's all Alice in Wonderland isn't it? Brown borrows £200bn from others (real money) then the Bank of England prints new paper and "buys" back half of it - so we are then only paying interest on £100bn - and only have to pay £100bn back on the debt the BoE doesn't yet own! Brilliant - but hey, why not just print all the £200bn to begin with - hey Presto the 'problem' completely disappears - and yes ... why bother paying taxes - abolish VAT - abolish Income Tax - just do the same year after year ..... we'll all have a great time!
    Any sane person knows that this doesn't work, so why is the press full of this as a serious proposition? This is the UK run by the Zimbabwean School of Economics - is everyone else really being fooled by this dangerous nonsense?

  • Comment number 64.

    FatEck - Labour are completely incompetent.

    Forget even the economy for a minute - EVERYTHING they touch falls apart. The reason someone gave you such short shrift for making that statement is because the effort required even to copy and paste the list of Labour failures in economic management, would take too long for any sane person... and once you had finished, the depression at reading the list you had just compiled would be enough to send anyone into a short period of minor depression and soul-searching.

    What can be done to fix this? a lot more than voting in the Tories just to get rid of Labour - but that would at least be a start.

    As for voting labour being 'rational' - I'm sorry but they have been in power for 12 years and got it so spectacularly wrong that we were better off when we had been involved in the largest conflict this world has seen, a conflict that cost millions of lives, caused extensive damage to property and infrastructure and for which we were not even prepared in the first place. 'Irrational' doesn't even come into it; 'insanity' is a more apt word to describe a vote for labour.

  • Comment number 65.

    Re 59
    Superb comments, Comrade FatEck.
    More information such as this will keep the prols onside.
    The fact the previous Labour administration with the help of the socialist unions bankrupted the UK in 1979 is of no concern. The Tories should have been able to make the UK prosper from 1979 with ease.
    No one will ask why Labour failed to do so 1974-79, why unemployment and inflation were already rising rapidly, why the UK was known in Europe as the "sick man of europe" under Labour is not relevant etc.
    Keep plugging away. History can be rewritten.

  • Comment number 66.

    what has this government wasted all that money on ??
    yet again public services get cut but does parliment take a pay cut ??
    this government have squandered public money to the point that this country is billions in debt and we will have to pay that for the foreseeable future, but in all this i notice mp's keep smiling that smarmy smile that basicly says up yours im ok.
    why should the voting public of this country continue to be ripped of by these governments or should it be mp's.

  • Comment number 67.

    60
    "At home, saving the banks, printing money and encouraging spending in the hope that it will keep the UK economy going until it international trade picks up in line with an international recovery. And other measures on protecting jobs, expanding training, stimulating the car industry, protecting mortgage holders,... They may not work. You may not want them to work. But they are worth trying."

    Saving the banks is a bit of a gimmee don't you think, scarcely reasonable to give credit to a government which first supervised and encouraged their downfall for taking a measure which was unanimously agreed to be necessary. I realise you are desperate to protect your hero's from criticism, but you have to draw the line at mindless fawning.

    Protecting jobs? You are buying the party line I'm afraid, anyone can stand up and say they are doing something, but this empty lie has the benefit of being something that they will never have to account for. Unemployment will continue to rise, zanu can just hold their hands up and say "not our fault, without us it would be even higher, and with the Tories in power it would be higher still". Blithe rhetoric which wouldn't fool a child.

    Stimulating the car industry involves forcing the car industry to reduce the price of cars. Fairly sure they could have managed this step by themselves if they thought it was a good idea. Smoke and mirrors I'm afraid.

    As for encouraging spending:
    a) How? Another myth.
    b) Spending beyond our means... Hmm, what could go wrong with that (again)?

    On economic competence. Fact 1: Successive labour governments have bankrupted the country. Fact 2: The last person to save the economy was Marggie.

    And if I come accross as aggressive, it is because I get genuinely angry when ignorant people try to inflict their blinkered views on others.

    But I guess if people are going to buy every line that comes out of the propogandists' mouths, they are more or less a lost cause anyway. In future, I will not be aggressive, but sympathetic to such people.

  • Comment number 68.

    It's quite amusing to see how some of our politicised bloggers think that any one party has to be right.

    A party consists of a mix of people some good and some bad.

    As far as political ideology goes there's not much difference between them anymore anyway.

    It is only during a crisis such as this one that the people who are most likely to sort it out become more important.

    I would like to think that it is a sensible conclusion that those who caused it are certainly not the ones to undo their own mess especially when they can't even own up to it.

  • Comment number 69.

    Doesn't really matter what the BBC or newlabour say about tory or libdem cuts, the sad fact is newabour will have to make these cuts or be accused of the most disingenuous, half hearted, mealy mouthed and specious fabrication of a budget ever presented.

    YOu can't promise efficiency gains and not givesome supporting evidence within the next year before the general election. The tories and libdems should just keep schtum and say we're waiting to see newlabour deliver on its promises beofre we commit. Sure enough newlabour will do nothing.

    Another attempt at dividing lines gone straight up in smoke.

    Another example of a government out of ideas, out of money and out of any moral authority to govern.

    As for sagamix, I'd be delighted to provide evidence to him of the doctors vs nurses ratio but am not in the habit of making up numbers for the sake of an argument, unlike the entire newlabour political class.

    Call an election; we need to make some cuts

  • Comment number 70.

    Not an awful lot to be gained by taxing at 50p the highest earners as there aren't that many of them.

    They could have put up everyone's tax by 2p. Who would have objected to that?

    That would have been a huge help but they never see the blinding obvious, Labour, do they?

  • Comment number 71.

    56. At 3:56pm on 23 Apr 2009, excellentcatblogger wrote:
    The Times breaking news says that senior Labour ministers are hinting that the 50 percent top rate of tax will be temporary. So 24 hours after announcing it they are already backtracking...

    ===

    Just a thought, but if the economic outlook is bad, as the shadow Chancellor Mr Darling says, and if a top rate of tax of 50% is needed to help, then why is it delayed for 12 months, until just before a General Election? It surely couldn't be that it is a political hand grenade with the pin pulled out rather than a genuine fiscal measure, could it?

  • Comment number 72.

    #32 FatEck

    Do you actually remember 1975-1979?

  • Comment number 73.

    I cannot believe that the first comment on this blog came from someone looking for further government money for their pet project. How difficult is it to understand that there is no more money. We are borrowing £300,000 a minute under this useless government.

  • Comment number 74.

    Gordon Brown is a Vogon!

  • Comment number 75.

    This is disingenuous [dare I say dishonest ?] nonsense !

    'This is due to Gordon Brown being prudent' - Er, except for the fact that it ignored the possibility and risk that 'stuff happens'. If Gordon Brown hadn't bothered with 'home insurance' when he was Chancellor and he was burgled, or the house burned down, would he still be saying that he had acted 'prudently' ?

    The banking crisis was a reasonably foreseeable 'contingency' and the fact that they didn't make some 'disaster recovery' plans is entirely their fault.

    What annoys me as well is that Darling talks about 'halving the deficit' in five years. This is nonsense - all he is doing is halving the rate at which we are piling new debt on the top of the old deficit, the National Debt !!

    His main concern is whether they can get people to keep subscribing for the NEW debt being issued by the Bank of England via the Debt Management Office.

    So long as there isn't a 'gilt strike' and they can keep finding new suckers [and there's one born every minute..] to buy the stuff, then he doesn't think he has a problem !!

    Never mind the fact that this like a risk-addicted gamblers playing the 'double or nothing' game - and that the end result is to push the level of debt up to that margin where it becomes almost INEVITABLE that our 'Triple-A' debt rating will be compromised, because until it is, Darling will keep making optimistic assumptions, and keep pushing the gilts out of the door until someone says in a Scottish accent 'Captain, I don't think she'll take any more, she's breaking up !'

    Why should we keep pushing until the real crisis sets in, and the IMF are at the door and we having to make PANIC 'Slash-and-burn' cuts to the public expenditure just to be able to pay the 'interest-rate-hike' which would follow a 'gilt-strike' and a trip to the IMF 'R&R Health Spa' ??

    Why not stop 'maxing out the credit cards' now !!?? Crikey, doesn't the BBC need to get Alvin Hall back on the payroll and pay a visit to No. 11 and get Alistair Darling to cut up the credit cards and begin to call a halt to spending which we can't afford and is unsustainable ??

  • Comment number 76.

    Storm Shadow and the Tomahawk....

    Did we see Tomahawks being shot down as they flew down roads in GW1? Storm Shadow needs to be delivered from an aircraft.

    As other nations develop ground launched ICBMs, would we really want to rely on this rather than having global reach at the touch of a button?The idea that we should reduce capability normally comes from people who would not use the weapons in any circs.

  • Comment number 77.

    Yellowbelly. Yep I do. And 1970-74. And 1951-64, the "thirteen wasted years of Tory misrule". And 1980-1997, the biggest waste of a financial windfall (North Sea Oil) that any incompetent bunch of narrow minded middle class miseries ever inflicted on the people of any advanced democracy.

    Do you?

    And of course, Black Wednesday, the most humiliating debacle ever perpetrated on any country by an out-of-depth chancellor and his not-a-clue advisers (one D Camerom prominent amongst...).

    Do you?

  • Comment number 78.

    Seen the update

    Did it come to late for this?

    http://www.spectator.co.uk/coffeehouse/3560461/significant-cuts-are-hidden-away-in-the-budget.thtml

    Labour Cuts? Who'd have thought it?

  • Comment number 79.

    Update 1607: interview

    Better, Nick.
    Try avoiding the obvious questions where you know the answer will include "worldwide", "global" or "extraordinary times".
    Would you ask him next time, if there is one, whether he's thought about the consequences of the gilts/QE strategy going t*ts up? About where all these jobs are coming from given companies are still going under and unemployment is still rising. About the crazy 'old banger for a new car' scheme, how many of us will that help?
    It's a start, Nick. Be brave, don't be afraid. Just double lock your door and don't answer the 'phone.

  • Comment number 80.

    I am minded of blackadder.

    "How dare you Darling" (General Melchit)

  • Comment number 81.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 82.

    thin_wedge - Indeedy, you have hit the nail on the head !!

    If all this 'spending' is doing so much good, er, why is unemployment at two million anyway ?? Perhaps we could try switching off the spending for 6 months and just see how bad the problem gets ??

    At least then we could make an informed decision, rather than just throwing money at the wall, hoping some of it sticks, and paying for the remainder on the never-never in perpetuity.

  • Comment number 83.

    Sorry, Nick, but what I should have included in Post 75 is a suggestion that whenever Alistair Darling parrots the phrase 'halving the deficit' you should immediately parrot back 'at the exact same time as doubling the debt'..

    You never know, he might just get the message...

  • Comment number 84.

    #59 wrote: The 1980s in particular were a nightmare for the economy.

    No, it was the 1970s, under Heath, Wilson, and Callaghan Governments that were the real nightmare. Until Thatcher saved the British economy no politician was willing to recognise that the pre-war Imperial industrial model (mining, iron and steel, shipbuilding) was irretrievably broken in the face of global competition. Unemployment in the early 1980s was the result of the failure of the neo-socialist economic policies (of both major parties) of the 1970s.

    What is the relevance for today? Again, we have a broken economic model that will require tax rises and spending cuts throughout the 2010s. It will be painful, and there will be rioting in the streets. No doubt some smug pundit writing in 2030 will blame the Government elected in 2010, but the real blame lies with the failed economic policies of the Labour Government after 2000.

  • Comment number 85.

    FatEck

    "Black Wednesday, the most humiliating debacle ever perpetrated on any country by an out-of-depth chancellor and his not-a-clue advisers"

    I take it that you didn't watch the News on TV or online yesterday or have read todays newpapers about yesterday.

    The ecomony did actually eventually recover well from Black Wednesday, before being handed over to Gordon Brown in 1997. And I don't remember debt figures in the region of 175 billion or 700 billion by 2000 and whenever being mentioned, or saddling the next generation with astronomical levels of debt.

  • Comment number 86.

    77. At 5:07pm on 23 Apr 2009, FatEck wrote:
    Yellowbelly. Yep I do. And 1970-74. And 1951-64, the "thirteen wasted years of Tory misrule". And 1980-1997, the biggest waste of a financial windfall (North Sea Oil) that any incompetent bunch of narrow minded middle class miseries ever inflicted on the people of any advanced democracy.

    Do you?

    And of course, Black Wednesday, the most humiliating debacle ever perpetrated on any country by an out-of-depth chancellor and his not-a-clue advisers (one D Camerom prominent amongst...).

    Do you?


    ===

    It's yellowbelly1959 so I don't remember 51-64.

    1980 -1997, wasn't the economy in better shape at the end of the period than at the beginning?

    Didn't the new Labour chancelloer in 1997 (name escapes me) stick to Tory spending plans for the first 3 years? Couldn't have been that bad.

    Don't remember going cap in hand to the IMF "health spa" any other time apart from 1976 though. Remember doing homework by candle light because of power cuts, remember the three day week, the winter of discontent, rubbish piled up in the streets, bodies not being buried or cremated and stored in temporary morgues, remember 25% inflation in the 1975, remember wage increase controls when I first started work in 1978.

    Oh, and Black Wednesday? Total cost of that "most humiliating debacle ever perpetrated on any country by an out-of-depth chancellor and his not-a-clue advisers" was GBP3.4 billion.

    Give me that over the current shambles every time.

  • Comment number 87.

    I would like to comment about so called spending cuts. Firstly the armed forces have been coping with what are massive cuts in numerical strength for years - the cuts to the Royal Navy since 1982 would if inflicted on the N.H.S. Have ammounted to One in Three of the existing hospitals in the country being closed! No one seems to have taken this in to account when putting the forces and especially the Navy at the top of their axe list. THERES NOTHING LEFT TO CUT.

    The link to the Reform think tank shows what is in the sights of those who form opinion and for most of what they say fair enough but the defence part of their thesis is wrong to include the new aircraft carriers as a potential area of saving, if they are canceled the nations whole long term defence strategy will be wrecked. Ten thousand jobs lost and the Royal Navy destroyed ! Considering the comparitively small ammount it would "save" to cancel these ships is it worth it when gigantic sums can be saved by trimming vote buying schemes like tax credits, and winter fuel payments. By the way I work for the state and I have elderly relatives. I could handle a wage freeze and they cant spend the money they are being given.

    No cuts to defence, either existing or planned, and no cuts to health care. Everything else, so be it, as long as the result is in the national interest and not for the benefit of ANY political party.

  • Comment number 88.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 89.

    Re 77
    Superb. Tremendous stuff.

    Lets just hope the prols don't ask what the cost of Black Wednesday was (3 billion)compared to the cost of bailing out the UK banks which we regulated (over 1 trillion to date).

    Also, didn't our Gordon Brown not support membership of the ERM? What was his plan at the time to deal with the problem of pegging the pound to the mark? Those eurosceptic Tories were going to take us into the Euro! Thank goodness for Tony Bliar who wanted the UK out of Europe back in 1983.

    The humiliation of the golden age post Black Wednesday under Ken Clarke, we'll just keep quiet.

  • Comment number 90.

    #54 Angry_Of_Ilkeston

    "The budget was all about the smoke and mirrors which has come to signify the state of politics in the UK today.

    "Career politicos with no grasp of management of anything are in charge and its all a game to them, shut away in their offices always with more of an eye for their career than their moral responsibility to the people of this country".

    I can't help but think there is a strong similarity between our politicians and our financiers. I would probably have said:-

    The recession was all about the smoke and mirrors which has come to signify the state of banking in the UK today.

    Career financiers with no grasp of management of anything are in charge and its all a game to them, shut away in their offices always with more of an eye for their bonus than their moral responsibility to thier customers or shareholders.

  • Comment number 91.

    FatEch 32

    I recognise loyalty as a fine thing and you are abundant with that virtue.

    However, your argument that Labour can be trusted to care for people in a recession when the Conservatives will feed them to the wolves is simplistic. This argument may work well in Labour heartlands among us older folk but really it is nothing more than the `four legs good: two legs bad' slogan that Orwell contemptuously put into the mouths of the pigs in Animal Farm.

    Surely, can't you see the poverty of this sort of argument in political debate? These are the words of people seeking power and not the words of progressive reform. This is the problem that Labour has; it has ceased being a party of reform and become obsessed with the retention of political power.

    The most telling aspect of the current crisis is the failure of the state to manage the economy, including the banks. This came about from an incomplete reform of the banking system in 1997. Now I am not going to point the bone as to the responsibility for that, but my concern is more about the quality of the decision making. The idea was good but the execution was poor.

    Similarly the idea that Labour got into power with, that a little more taxation would deliver the public services that people wanted, was a principled idea but its execution was dire.

    Now again I am not going to run about pointing the bone but the consistent picture is that Labour is well intentioned, possibly better intentioned than the Conservatives, but very poor in execution.

    Now my family has its political origins in the Labour movement. Yet over three generations every engagement we have had with Labour, including my father who was a Labour PPC in the Forties, has ended up in disagreements with the attitude of the party.

    The disagreement revolves around the paternalistic attitude of the Labour Party. The dominant attitude is that the party makes decisions for `Our People'. No, no, no; the people make decisions for the people and the task of the party is to facilitate and encourage that process. Everywhere that this standard has been applied in the workplace, social housing and communities it has worked.

    The problem as I see it is that the Labour Party is motivated not by the conditions and lives of the ordinary people but a desire for power. The Conservatives accept that they are a middle class party but Labour denies the fact that it is a middle class party.

    Result: the many people who shout that one is as bad as the other, that politicians are all the same and so on.

    Now, in the midst of this crisis, we have rightly to ask ourselves just where are we going. This is not the best of times to do it but we have to accept realities.

    The Labour vision of social democracy has failed as fundamentally as it did in the Weimar Republic in 1932. The same criteria applies here as it did then in Germany: the political process was seen to be a failure. I suggest that we face a similar issue now in the UK. Fortunately, we do not have the violent extremist parties here as they did then. So we have time, a little time, but still some time.

    It is no longer enough to sloganise `four legs good, two legs bad'. We need policies based on the reality in which we find ourselves. I am sorry but we need to move on. This Labour government is a busted flush. It is unable to move on. It is stuck in a past it is unable to address. Its position is hopeless.

    Loyalty is not enough. We need a new vision. I agree the Conservatives don't have the answer, but then who does? In the coming general election which will be sooner rather than later, unless a coalition government is formed, the problem Labour will have is not that it will be beaten by the Conservatives but will Labour survive at all as a party. I think not; as all the best intentions in the world are not going to produce jobs, pay mortgages, bring up children, stop the fear and despair.

    I think the social democratic idea has had its time. We need something that allows people to manage their own affairs: a bit like the Labour movement a hundred years ago.

  • Comment number 92.

    My sister and her partner both work in the public sector and the amount of waste that occurs in truly amazing; especially as I imagine it is replicated across the whole country.
    Rampant sick leave, re-structure after re-structure and very poor leadership throughout. Travel and expenses don't seem to have to any particular budget to adhere to.
    In this context, the actions of this pathetic government are absolutely appalling. Some common sense decisions could save billions at a stroke.

  • Comment number 93.

    Nick,

    In the age of austerity, my mind wanders to MPs exes.

    Mr Brown has looked away from the football on Sky to deliver his YOUTUBE classic saying it all needs replacing by cash in hand.....

    This is so wrong. The problem will disappear with publication of prior and future claims. Claimants currently declare the expenditure was necessary to their role and constituents will be able to make a decision at the poll.

    This is bad news for EFP merchants. So Brown's bid for cash is disgraceful.

    The current system is brought into disrepute by a greedy, grasping generation of politicians, who thought what constituents don't know can't hurt them.

    THE ONLY THINGS THAT NEED TO REFORM ARE MPs THEMSELVES - THEY NEED TO REDISCOVER THEIR DIGNITY.

  • Comment number 94.

    14. BankruptBritainRIP

    someone please give maggie thatcher a ring to find out how she got us out of labours economic mess 30 years ago and then apply liberally her successful solutions!

    Maggie Thatcher simply let about 5 million jobs go, then the money that those people would have earned was spread out around the ones who still had jobs. The political equivalent of stealing your little brother's sweets because you can get away with it. It was a disgusting way to let our country fester and this is precisely the same solution that Cameron and Osborne think is a good idea.

  • Comment number 95.


    # 78 Very interesting item.

    First stealth taxes, now stealth cuts. Can nothing be taken at face value ? Must we read between the lines of everything this government tells us, including one line statements? Especially, one line statements ??

    When a government doesn't think the electorate cannot be trusted with the truth, pretty soon the feeling's mutual

  • Comment number 96.

    #43 sagamix

    I disagree with your observation on doctor/nurses ratio.

    Having spent 4 of the last 12 months in hospital (several visits so not all in one go), I concur that there aren't enough senior doctors to make decisions (on fitness to leave, order tests etc) and have pointed out previously on this blog that this lack of doctors must result in patients spending far more time in hospital than is necessary (more money being spent on capacity).

    Nurses on the other hand, whilst appearing at times to be abundant, aren't what they seem.... there's usually 4 students per ward and 2 health care assistants none of whom are allowed to do much more than blood pressure and temperature (and in the case of students, take up nursing time being taught, assessed etc).

    There's also the factor where wards on some days appear well staffed because everyone is present (not sick, not on the many frequent courses etc), however, on a number of occasions, I've been on the same ward and 20 acutely sick patients are being cared for by 2 nurses.

    Having been covered by insurance until they sacked me for needing too much treatment (more than one round), I have been private wards within the NHS and on these wards there are generally far to many nurses per patient.

    Right, I've bored myself silly now, I'm off.

  • Comment number 97.

    "The most demanding expeditionary operations, involving intervention against state adversaries, can only plausibly be conducted if US forces are engaged, either leading a coalition or in NATO." - Delivering Security in a Changing World: Defence White Paper, Cm 6041-I (Dec 2003), p.8

    Here's a saving: scrap the armed forces. If they can't act independently, they're no use to me. Of their recent "expeditionary operations", one's been a geopolitical debacle and the other a quagmire. I'm tired of seeing useful services axed while this useless anachronism gets ringfenced for a "special relationship" that's done nothing for us. So let's stop the waste and put the money toward improving lives rather than ending them.

  • Comment number 98.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 99.

    79 Thin Wedge

    said

    "Better, Nick.
    Try avoiding the obvious questions where you know the answer will include "worldwide", "global" or "extraordinary times"."

    ==================================

    Yeah right 'cos its not "worldwide" "global" or "extraordinary" is it??

    We're just experiencing the world's greatest ever economic "coincidence". Britain is suffering the worst recession since 1945 at exactly the same time as every other country is suffering, guess what, the worst recession since 1945, how extaordinary is that? and all because of Brown and Labour.

    IF only the Tories had won the 2005 election and the UK would have avoided this great coincidence (with no global factors at play).

    After all it was all down to the UK's (sorry Brown's) light regulation.

    So lets remind ourselves what the Tory manifesto (written by Cameron) said in 2005.

    "New technology and the
    speed of global capital flows punish the inflexible and the sluggish.
    We need to reward risk-taking and innovation so that Britain becomes
    the best place in the world to start and grow a business.
    As well as keeping taxes low, we must reduce the burdens on
    business through deregulation."

    So "Global Capital flows" I think we recognise that now, "Reward Risk Taking", Yep I think we know where that got us and "deregulation", say no more.

    The Tory 2005 Manifesto!!!!!!!!!

    All this synthetic outrage and rhetoric now is just after the event wisdom. Above, is exactly what we would have had in Cameron's own words.

    I think it's safe to say we would have been in exactly the same boat (but with fox hunting)

    The recession is just a political oportunity to the Tories, they can now uncross their fingers.

  • Comment number 100.

    Some silly pundit on Sky News today said that if The Conservatives won The Election they would very quickly be turfed out because of the unpopular measures they would be forced to adopt. People aren't daft. They know who the real culprits in this situation are. Angela Eagles in the Commons post budget debate today was trying to peddle the same old story that The Conservatives were trying to blame all our current economic woes on The Labour Government in spite of The Global Crisis. That has never been the claim and is yet another desperate attempt to smear those in opposition.

 

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