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Return to the fray

Nick Robinson | 14:00 UK time, Monday, 5 January 2009

Four billion pounds (to be precise, £4.1bn). That's the cost of today's Tory pledge to scrap the tax on savings for basic rate taxpayers and to increase tax-free allowances for pensioners. So how will they pay for it? The answer is by spending less starting now.

David CameronBefore Christmas David Cameron had already reversed his policy of matching Labour's planned spending increases for 2010 onwards. Now he's saying he'd spend even less this year too. He hasn't however specified what programmes he'd spend less on. That is not how government works. He has a point.

When any large organisation - the BBC for example - cuts spending its boss announces target savings and his underlings are tasked to identify how exactly they can be found. That however has not been how politics has worked for the past two decades.

For three elections Labour has simply added up Tory "spending cuts" - in fact pledges to increase spending at a lower rate than the government - and then they've told voters how many doctors, nurses or policeman would go as a result. In response, the Conservatives have specified savings in waste or government programmes that they cancelled. In each case the Tories lost the argument and the election.

BCC (that's Before the Credit Crunch), David Cameron and George Osborne concluded that they could not win this battle and that the next election would be all about "it's society, stupid". Today's announcement confirms that they've been forced to return to the fray. Their hope is that the changed circumstances, falling interest rates, rising debts and Labour's acceptance that spending can't go on as it has ,will make their policy an election winner now as it's not proved to be in the past.


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  • Comment number 1.

    Last night I watched George Osborne with despair. 'Flashman' became a stuttering, nervous fourth-former under the bullying of Jeremy Paxman. If he cannot stand up to the rigours of Newsnight, what hope has he if DC becomes Prime Minister, and Osborne becomes Chancellor? More urgently, what hope have we, the long-suffering citizens?

  • Comment number 2.

    "falling interested rates" eh Nick? Freudian slip perhaps?

    For one I'm happy to see some sensible spending plans from anyone in Westminster as they've been few and far between over this past decade or so.

  • Comment number 3.

    No fan of Darling. However last night Osbourne was simply terrible.

  • Comment number 4.

    You are right to identify one of the most shocking aspects of the Labour propaganda machine - the theme that not a penny of government expenditure is wasted, that all expenditure is rigidly glued to direct delivery of services to the public, and therefore that any change in public expenditure can be directly related to cuts in numbers of nurses, doctors, teachers and police.

    For all that propagandists repeat it until it sounds like a form of proper "truth", in fact the integrity of this argument is in tatters.

    Take the example from late last year - the Conservative's proposed cut in the government's consultancy and spin budget. That idea flew very well and wasn't rebutted by Labour at all. Likewise, arguments about the cost of ID cards (which is far, far higher than Labour will openly admit), the NHS data base, the computerised children's register, the proposed database of phone and internet use.

    The fact is that the current government spend, and Labour's future plans for how it will rise, are awash with schemes to use up billions of pounds of money, unrelated entirely to delivery of essential public services.

    In short, it is possible to cut billions from future expenditure, without the slightest effect on education, health, the armed forces, police..... No sensible party would maintain those grandiose spending plans, because thay involve money we simply don't have.

    To Labour, the message has to be "Get Real!" - the money just doesn't exist, you spent it already.

  • Comment number 5.


    Is there not any other subject - please, please, please!

    WHat about questioning the Labour party for once - how about actually digging and questioning their policies...

    Let's see today there is:
    Lobbying rules to be stricter
    PM defends handling of downturn - yeah, right
    Disabled rights delay criticised

    Then we also have the slap on the wrist from the ONC..

    Clegg joins VAT waste row

    I could go on...

    But what do we get? A re-iteration of yesterdays blog.

    This has become so embarrasingly biased that it really is not worth tuning in any more..

    I fully expect this to be lashed to poets corner before it even makes it to the screen, because, like labour it appears the BBC cannot be criticised!

  • Comment number 6.

    Oh dear.

    So much posturing and so much speculation on who might win a General Election which probably won't be called this year.

    Plus more unadultered spin from the author of this Blog (fourth paragraph).

    In the meantime credit crunch Britain flounders deeper into recession:

    Hey, let's lift the ban on short selling financial shares - come on you speculators and bet against the British taxpayer. You've not had such an opportunity since, erm*, Black Wednesday.

    Poor politicians, poor political commentators.


    And that's before the professional stooges start posting.

    *Pun intended.

  • Comment number 7.

    Shame on you - making your comment on paying for Cameron's savings initiative an article, rather than a blog item to avoid comments.
    With the government spending countless billions of taxpayer money without even trying to justify it, how is £5bn a story? Government propaganda yes - story no. You lose credibility by failing to tell the difference.

  • Comment number 8.


    You and the BBC fully supported the bogus labour 'what are you going to cut' line.

    As you now admit - it was nonsense all along.


    Paxman asked george about his time on a certain yacht.

    Any chance of you asking Mandleson about his time on the same yacht Nick?

  • Comment number 9.

    4.1 bn quid Wow, about the same as an aircraft carrier then.

    Looks like we re in need of a grocers daughter to go through the books again.

  • Comment number 10.

    Yeah. It's the same tactic smarmy Jack McConnell used to use in the Scottish parliament. Before he got kicked into touch.

    Any time anybody asked him what the hell happened to all the money he'd just give it 'I make no apologies for spending an extra umpty billion on the NHS'.

    And there you were. Beaten.

    It's the genius of such glib statements of 'We're doing the right thing'.

    By implication the other lot would be doing the 'wrong' thing and you needn't even elaborate on what the 'right' thing is. Which in Gordon Browns case will inevitably be borrowing several hundred more billion quid. Because he's a bit of a one-trick pony like that.

    In this way we find ourselves sleep-walking through a decade of unsustainable borrowing and squandering all hailed by the Maximum Idiot and his legions of numpty acolytes as a veritable economic miracle. And when the Yanks and the banks finally pull the plug on his debt-fuelled binge how does he react?

    Does he 'fess up that yeah, actually, it was all an unsustainable boom perched on a mountain of debt? Does he hell.

    He gets stuck into the yanks and the banks for pulling the pin. Borrow more money he proclaims Squander more cash you don't have. That's what I'm going to do. It's the tough choice! It's the right thing to do!

    Completely bonkers. No wonder the Germans couldn't bite their tongue in the face of such manifest idiocy.

    What puzzles me is why so many commentators in the UK bite their tongue. They should just laugh in Brown's face every time he comes out with such gems.

  • Comment number 11.

    Labour troll at #1

    Brown (and labour) have been hopeless for the past decade, and are getting rapidly worse - what hope for the long suffering public if they aren't removed at the earliest opportunity?

  • Comment number 12.

    The question we should be asking here.. and asking Derekbarker and is newlabour apologists in particular, is this;

    What kind of country do we want our children to inherit?

    A country with a morally superior son of the manse spending more and more of our money?

    Or a country where sustainable wealth is created from hard work and creativity; where saving for the future is encouraged and where government is a last not a first resort.

    'Where there's greed. Margaret Thatcher and the destruction of Britain's future' was a book written by Gordon Brown in 1989. It should be rewritten as 'Where there is an unfettered credit boom. Gordon Brown and the destruction of the UK national balance sheet' It would be an instant best seller.

    Of course, it will never be written because no-one is capable of the sort of self righteous preaching that Gordon Brown is.

    When the Church of England and the Bishops turn against you there message is simple; son of the manse or no, this is not the country we should bequeath to our children.

    Gordon Brown and newlabour are morally bankrupt; lying to make all their numbers add up and borrowing our chidrens' future to finance another round of public sector spending splurges. Britian has become a laughing stock again on the international stage; borrowing Peter to pay Paul. The newlabour model is broken and needs changing; the moral argument for more public sector wastrels and benefits junkies is lost.

    Call an election.

  • Comment number 13.

    "Their hope is that the changed circumstances, falling interested rates, rising debts and Labour's acceptance that spending can't go on as it has ,will make their policy an election winner now as it's not proved to be in the past."


    My interested rate in how this corrupt and incompetent Government has squandered our children's futures has certainly fallen.

    Methinks your predictive text thingy on your word processor has had a Freudian slip, Nick!

    Would you please explain why it is such a bad thing to rein in spending when we don't have enough money to pay for everything we would like?

    Also, I can't see the point of this thread, on exactly the same subject as "Plus c'est la même chose?" yesterday.

    What about a new thread about Bush's poodle Blair going to collect his shiny baubles from the disgraced, has-been, lame-duck US President next week, whilst neglecting his "duties" as so-called Middle East peace envoy?

    How about that Nick, a bit of cutting political comment from you for a change?

  • Comment number 14.

    Whilst I agree with the overall reporting of this, it seems to me that within an overall Government spend of around £700 billion it is quite a modest proposal to target a saving of £4 billion. If parts of the population fear this then there is much worse to come in future years - especially if the chancellor's forecasts for either GDP or tax receipts (or both) prove optimistic. The consensus is that his forecasts are on the optimistic side of neutral.

    And above all of this there is the fact that the state is edging closer towards 50% of GPD - a figure at which ecomomies cease to function in a proper way. This ratio accelarates automatically as GDP declines in 2009.

    So much larger spending reductions above growth trends will occur and this £4 billion is just the start. So those who moan about these modest proposed cuts had better hide under the bed covers for a few years.

  • Comment number 15.


    Can you tell us how much the government will spend in the next financial year? Will it be higher than Darling has publicly forecast? What proportion of the total forecast spending does 4.1 billion represent?

    In other words, your key theme is no more than fluff and froth. The real issues relate to; the number of businesses that will have gone under by the time of the next election, the numbers being made unemployed, the falling tax take and the rising benefits bill. These are the factors that will determine whether we can afford to pay doctors and nurses, not some marginal reduction in the tax take on interest payments. Oh and by the way, what impact might the wholesale devaluation of the pound have on the economy?

    Try concentrating on the big picture - you know it makes sense.


  • Comment number 16.

    To humour the author of this twaddle.

    GBP 4.1 Bn indeed. How about this for saving GBP 12 Bn, without cutting a single nurse, policeman or gold-plated pension scheme?

    For some reason, the Government is addicted to surveillance and large IT schemes - yet it consistently fails to manage suppliers and costs, or learn from its past mistakes.

    There, another 7.9 Bn of tax cuts available, or for repayment of national debt, or more nurses and policemen.

    Next topic, please.

  • Comment number 17.

    So is this blog entry just recognition that you have been giving the wrong people a hard time with your questioning?

    Just when will you start being a journalist and asking questions?

    If we don't discover what went wrong and hold them accountable then we will be forever condemned to repeat the same mistakes.

  • Comment number 18.

    Nick, did you know there's a bit of a fray on in Gaza?

    How about some comment on this, the top news story?

  • Comment number 19.

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

  • Comment number 20.


    I could not agree more!

    What beggars belief is how timid the BBC journos appear to be when dealing with the government. Labour are a shamles, lying and failing in every sense. Every comment on here and the other blogs reflects that, apart from the BBC Bloggers themselves.

  • Comment number 21.

    Every hour that Brown and Labour remain at the controls of our nations finances is a hour (and a million quid also) wasted.

    Labour needs removal. That is it. End of debate.

  • Comment number 22.

    11. At 10:08am on 06 Jan 2009, the-real-truth wrote:
    Labour troll at #1

    I have written this again, removing what I would like to do to this blogger. I was out of order! How dare you call me a Labour troll, you angry little person? As it happens, I am not Labour, never have been and never voted Tort either. I want a strong, party who are for England, the UK, and the principles this once great country stood for. I am afraid this so-called Tory opposition is just a watered down, or watered up version of Blair's doctrines.

  • Comment number 23.

    #13 yellowbelly1959 wrote:

    "Also, I can't see the point of this thread, on exactly the same subject... yesterday.

    What about a new thread about Bush's poodle Blair going to collect his shiny baubles from the disgraced, has-been, lame-duck US President next week, whilst neglecting his "duties" as so-called Middle East peace envoy?"

    Echoes my feelings exactly. Nick and his genetic clone, Andrew Marr, simply don't want to upset Gordon, who just might try to remove another of the BBC's testic*es.

    Sorry, my mistake, McBroon couldn't, the BBC hasn't got any.

  • Comment number 24.

    is Derek signing on this morning?

    or perhaps attending a diversity workshop?

  • Comment number 25.

    C'mon Nick ; ask Brown why he squandered the nation's wealth on the workshy, immigration and a host of other Labour dogma fuelled projects that benefit no one except the party members holding down the non jobs in local and national government departments. This is truly the most incompetent government Britain has had since Attlee bunkrupted it. Yet here we are, listening to BBC journalists analysing Tory policies which to say the least are only ideas of what the next government may have to do to repair the damage. Until the government comes clean on the true extent of the problem, ( which is what you should be asking about ) no other party can put forward concrete proposals, and in any case why should they give ideas to the incompetents presently running the country ? I suspect when Cameron enters Downing St. one of his first priorities will be a careful assessment of the BBC's funding and political make up.

  • Comment number 26.

    1 and 3

    Well, I saw the Paxman - Osborne interview on Newsnight, but reading your comments, I wonder if you did!

    Paxman's interviewing, particularly of opposition figures, is nothing to do with political debate and everything to do with massaging the ego of one Paxman, J.

    As far as Paxman's performance was concerned, it consisted of interruptions so frequent that Osborne rarely had the chance to finnish a sentence, questioning from such an obtuse standpoint that barely anyone could have known where he was coming from, and sudden subject changes whenever Osborne was developing an argument. It finally dissolved into laughable irrelevancy as the final subject change departed from politics at all and dissolved into facetious remarks about the Cameron - Osborne relationship.

    Against all of this, no-one would have managed a coherent exposition of policy, and so measured against what little was achievable, Osborne did pretty well. He said as much as he could, was consistent, waved off the interruptions and dodged the potential pitfalls of mistaking Paxman's ignorant and obtuse huffing for anything sensible.

    The wider question is why on Earth did he bother to show up for the interview in the first place. Newsnight is no longer to be taken seriously on domestic political issues because of its overweaning fawning to the Labour party. Paxman is a long way past his prime as a political interviewer; allowing yourself to be interviewed by him is merely making a donation to his retirement fund. I suspect he merely wants a final politcal scalp and then he will be off, and good riddance. Osborne's success was making sure that that scalp was not going to be his.

    I would say that good advice to the Conservatives is to steer clear of Newsnight. It is left-leaning trash, dedicated to its own collective ego and the individual egos of its makers, hubris in its purest form, and nothing at all to do with constructive politics.

  • Comment number 27.

    Anyone see Brown on Marr?

    If the World had listened to Brown the credit crunch would never have happened - apparently.

    Brown pointedly refused to accept any blame whatsoever.

    He also plumbed new depths when launching into his "do nothing, do nothing Tories mantra" he then went off message (I hope) and said the Tories were revelling in the fact there is a recession.

    Crikey - talk about pots and black kettles. I've never seen anyone look so happy.

    Disgraceful. What was more disgraceful is that Marr didn't challenge him to justify this appalling statement.

    The media need to get a grip.

    Someone needs to tell them that Labour are the Government and have been for the past 11 years.

    They need to justify why the think that 4 billion is such a big deal when forecast government borrowing is likely to overshoot by 5 times that in 2009.

    The media, in short, need a new mindset.

  • Comment number 28.

    i'm not a tory but a 'do nothing' mentality makes perfect sense or is understandable or excusable when dealing with such atrocious 'accidental' financial screw ups. it also looks like you are doing nothing when you are deeply thinking.

  • Comment number 29.

    26. At 10:55am on 06 Jan 2009, jrperry wrote:
    1 and 3
    I cannot agree with many points in your letter, but agree that Paxman uses the programme to massage his ego -rather like an intellectual massage parlour - hope the moderator allows this to pass.
    As a student I studied rhetoric, concentrating on Aristotle and the Greek classical writers. I learned, by hard experience, that facing a tough opposition to maintain my stance.
    If Osborne find the going too rough in the BBC studio, how will he fare in the rough thrust of the House of Commons? Even now, he doesn't do too well.
    My advice is crude, If it is too hot in the kitchen get out!!!! There are surely others less 'sensitive' able to take on his position.

  • Comment number 30.


    I didn't see the show but it sounds from what you report as if Osborne made the schoolboy error of actually answering Paxman's questions.

    Gordon Brown et al have shown the way here.

    You simply sit through the question and then launch into a tirade of moonshine about the opposition backed up with some bogus numbers printed by the ONS.

    Just completely ignore the presenter. They should be well used to it by now. After all Marr and Paxman have had over a decade of such treatment. Any time the presenter tries to get you back on-topic just give it a full-on patronizing "If I could just finish Mr Paxman...' and then continue with the tirade.

    Indeed I'm all for Cameron adopting the tactic at PMQ. Just 'ask' a 30-minute fillibustering 'question' that is essentially a tirade of abuse at Gordon Brown's incompetence.


    I mean it's not like Brown answers the question anyway so why even ask him a question. Just kick off on an avalanche of abuse listing the many idiocies of his past decade of incompetence.

  • Comment number 31.

    23. At 10:49am on 06 Jan 2009, brynt41 wrote:
    #13 yellowbelly1959 wrote:


    Echoes my feelings exactly. Nick and his genetic clone, Andrew Marr, simply don't want to upset Gordon, who just might try to remove another of the BBC's testic*es.


    Of course the problem, as I learned in astronomy, is that Marrs has a lack of gravity ;-)

  • Comment number 32.

    #4 spot on.

    This fallacy that money spent is directly related to service delivered has to be challenged all the time.

    This governement was elected on a mandate to improve public services and set about raising money to do just that. It's mistake, in my opinion, was that it saw the way to do that through the imposition of performance targets.

    While at first sight to many people this seems a natural and sensible option unfortunately the law of unintended consequences comes into being. These targets distort the systems of service delivery such that organisations lose sight of their purpose and the end customer gets totally forgotten. Anyone who works in a target based culture will know what I mean.

    Realising this, there has been an attempt to implement so-called "lean" principles into service delivery which has been led by consultants who have implemented it in manufacturing with varying degrees of success (generally quite good) unfortunately delivering services to people is totally different from making 3 million widgets due to the complexity of the different requirements, and has led to low morale and even worse service delivery in general.

    Unfortunately one principle that seems to apply to so many politicians is "never apologise, never explain", how I long to hear those words "we got it wrong, I'm sorry." Any politician who wants my vote could start here. I'd prefer it if not too many mistakes were made mind, but I'd feel way more comfortable with someone who accepted responsibility and didn't try spinning their way out treating us as fools.

    I don't mind paying taxes to fund services that other people require, I do object if this money is used badly on badly designed systems that demotivate the people who are trying to provide these much needed services by professional politicians who frankly would need extra training before running the proverbial whelk stall.

    Rant over.

  • Comment number 33.

    I can save £18 million at the Beeb just by getting rid of Jonathon Ross! I'm sure there is also massive waste from the top down. The quality of programming is so dumbed down even you Nick seem to have lost what you once had.

    Attack attack attack! That is all that seems to come when the Tories announce policy. Please try to be at least a little balanced in your blogging and reporting. The general population knows that Labour has wasted billions. Quangos for example chew up ridiculous amounts of money - that may be an area for the tories to look for example.

    This country is in a real mess and yet you seem to take delight in opposing any change. Very strange ideology you and your editors have - must be the cushy number methinks!

  • Comment number 34.

    How about a consrvative liberal government of national unity after the next election?

    David Cameron as PM and Vince Cable as Chancellor.

    Liberals bought off with a referendum on proportional representation in year 2 of the parliament.

  • Comment number 35.

    “Labour's acceptance that spending can't go on as it has”
    Nick this is the biggest story around bar none.

    The £1 Trillion debt figures in the Pre-Budget Report where based on the UK coming out of recession and showing growth in the 3 Q 2009.

    Gordon Brown said in his Andrew Marr interview (Party Political Broadcast) yesterday that we will be in recession for 2 years.

    If Gordon is right this will mean 6 more quarters of recession than they forecast 3 months ago.

    What will the total amount of borrowing if we have 6 quarters more of recession than is currently forecast?

    As Brown now does not agree with the forecasts of recession in the PBR the borrowing figures you are relying on are massively out and the amount of debt they are running up is incalculable.
    WHOS FIGURES DON’T ADD UP? Surely Labour’s.

  • Comment number 36.

    Where's derek this morning?

  • Comment number 37.

    Supposed to be the worst recession since the 30's yet not one labour minister has said it and I have not seen or heard you mention it Nick..................."recession".
    It's called a downturn in the LBC's (Labour Broadcasting Corporation) eyes and their masters at No 10.

    These blogs are simply on here to keep the wheels turning on the Labour spin machine.

    Sorry but Nick Robinson & Andrew Marr are simply labour stooges, just watch interviews with ministers and then watch interviews with shadow ministers.

    See who gets off easiest with questioning.

  • Comment number 38.

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

  • Comment number 39.

    That's the ID card scheme scrapped, then.

  • Comment number 40.

    @ #24

    ROFL bring back derek!

  • Comment number 41.

    24. canttakeanymore

    probably not. Champagne socialists don't typically get out of bed before 12pm. All that stamping of the Proles must really take it out of them.

  • Comment number 42.

    # 1 phoenixariseng


    Jeremy Paxman used his usual line of interview when he did not give George Osborne the chance to answer the question. Osborne did shut up the 'bullying' Paxman when he said the line of questioning was the worst he'd known.

  • Comment number 43.

    The Conservatives shouldn't look very far for savings. Here is a piece of news "overlooked" by some of the media.
    The UK contributions to the EU, already set to treble over the next three years, this year will cost us 3 additional billion Pounds because the UK had agreed to pay in Euros!
    Any connections with the argument about scrapping the Pound? In the meantime we add this little extra to the taxpayers' debt.
    Talking about good administration and balancing the books!

  • Comment number 44.


    Very well said Sir - completely agree with you.

    It is however a travesty that the Brown Broadcasting Corporation - and in particular the Chief Political Editor refuse to question the sqaunder of billions upon billions of £'s of our money - but they can make two days of pitiful reporting questioning just £5b the tories are proposing..

    It absolutely beggars belief.

    I really though t the new year would bring fresh impetus to this blog debate - but no, it's more of the same - in fact it's only 6th Jan and this is how bad it is already...

    I feel as furous as you do Sir...but not only at Labour - but at the BBC also...

  • Comment number 45.

    29 phoenix

    You miss the point entirely. I'm surprised you hadn't noticed, given your finely-honed debating skills!

    Paxman isn't a "tough opposition" - he's an irrelevancy. No more does an opposition politician fine up his arguments by debating with Paxman, than he does by having a rant at a shop assistant.

    All Paxman did was get huffy and confused when Osborne pointed out that he could only call for policy in the present; he couldn't anticipate how the policy would have to be developed after the two budgets and another PBR that lie between now and the election. Even Brown and Darling don't know what those budgets would contain. When Osborne refused to weaken on that line of questioning, all that Paxman did was change the subject, indeed, hillariously by the end of the interview.

    This is the whole point. The purpose of Newsnight seems to be to try to set up Paxman for one last time as a theatrical "grand inquisitor". If his performance as an interviewer doesn't get him there, and they usually don't these days, then the stage lighting and the editing come to his aid.

    There is simply no point in the interviewee being there at all - the slant of the programme is such that they aren't the main feature. So I would say to Osborne - just don't bother to be interviewed by Paxman. There are better ways of spending ten minutes than that!

  • Comment number 46.

    There's a book called Squandered by David Craig who outlines how Gordon Brown has wasted one trillion pounds. And that was written before the latest Brown bust.
    I would have thought that 4billion is a mere drop in the ocean.

    Meanwhile I see Yvette Cooper still has the same tape in her recorder when she "appears" on the BBC, she really is getting a bit tiresome and predictable.

  • Comment number 47.

    I for one am really pleased with this story/comment. At last we have a clear point of difference between the two parties and have something to argue about.

    At last we have a choice between two different philosophies on how to cope with a recession. To me they are being reported as intervene and increase borrowing to create jobs letting high income earners pay more tax in later years or do nothing allow unsustainable jobs to go and let the recession take its course giving basic rate taxpayers who save more than 3K per year and pensioners a bit more money to spend to stimulate the economy. Which one the electorate chooses will depend on which one they feel is more important to them.

    We will also have some clear indication of how a fiscal stimulus works (or not) in practice by the time of the next election by watching what happend in Obama's America.

    I am slightly worried about Cameron's plans for a green stockmarket -I think creating another playground for the city to trade in and potentiallty lose billions as they all rush for a new way to make a bonus is a bit risky!

  • Comment number 48.

    Your proposals are only for the next 3 month to an opposition spokesman.
    He had to keep interrupting because he was short of lines of attack.
    Then rounded off with the carrying a bucket following a horse metaphor on why Cameron was leading on the Economy.
    Paxman Paxman what has happened to you.
    You have reached the heady heights of Robinson & Marr.
    The only one who has any credibility anymore is Andrew Neil
    BBC, who has kidnapped you and where are you being held.
    Does anyone know who the regulator of bias on the BBC is? I wish to make an official complaint.

  • Comment number 49.

    All these comments about £billions. I came accross the article below by Steve Bee on Citywire, I know it is pensions based, however it does give an idea of the real magnitude of debt this joke of a Government is building for our children. I totally agree with *38 and am in the same position of employing people and trying to make a business work whilst paying out to fund others total incompetence. Anyone with kids should look at funding their emigration. I am!

    "Hmm! Two things. Both from the newspapers one way or another.

    First off, the Confederation of British Industry (the CBI) put out a press release called Clearing The Pensions Fog; it's all about the liabilities for the unfunded pensions liabilities in the public sector.

    The CBI reckons that the liabilities amount to much more than the £645 billion the Government claims. The CBI estimate is that the liability is more like £915 billion. That's close to one trillion pounds!

    And that's the second thing: it's hard to understand exactly what a number that large is all about, but I read something interesting on that subject too, it came from somewhere in America, but I've translated it here for you.

    It's this. Imagine you were lucky enough to be put in a massive vault somewhere in the bowels of the Royal Mint and that room was full of five pound notes (they're the little blue ones). And just say you were told that you would get to keep each and every note that you signed your name on; sort of some financial version of Supermarket Sweep or something. How long would it take you to get yourself a trillion pounds?

    Well, say you could sign one fiver a second. That would mean that you'd gain yourself £300 every minute by signing 60 of them. After an hour you'd have a pile of £18,000 all signed up and if you could keep going at that rate for 24 hours without a break you'd amass a cool £432,000. Not a bad day's work. If you could keep up that punishing pace and go without sleep for a whole week you would be a millionaire with £3,024,000 in your pile of signed fivers. Keep that up for a whole year and you'd have over £157 million in your pile (my calculator hit the wall with that one, so it's all estimates from here on in – so no smart Alec e-mails please). To get a billion pounds (which is a thousand million pounds) I reckon would take you about six years. To get to a trillion pounds (which is a thousand billion pounds) would therefore take you something in the region of 6,000 years to accomplish.

    I suppose, to put that another way, you'd have had to have started the process of signing fivers about 1,500 years before the Great Pyramid of Cheops was built to have any realistic chance of having signed a trillion pounds worth by now. That's a long time to stay alive let alone stay awake! Not only that, but signing one a second would have been pretty difficult with a dip quill and ink from 4000BC right up to 1938 when the biro was invented, so I'd imagine the whole process of putting a trillion pounds together by signing five pound notes would be quite a palaver all in all.

    It's a big number a trillion. It'd be a big pile of fivers too. I guess that's what the CBI are getting at when they say it might be useful if an independent public sector pensions commission could be established to analyse the costs and set assumptions that could be used to help us all understand what we're in for from our future taxes to pay for all these pension promises"

  • Comment number 50.

    I disagree with Nick, although I praise him for pointing out Labour's usual tactics

    the past three elections were not built on winning arguments over taxes, they were built on the tories being hopeless and unappealing - having four leaders since 1997 might be a clue there - they offered no alternative to Blair's Labour who were doing a reasonably good job (politically) until Iraq, then held it together until Blair left, after which the sort of people Labour really are was exposed

    now with recession, a weak leader and mounting debts economic policy has become top dog again, tax cuts chime well with people, especially after over a decade of 'stealth' taxes, which we all grumbled about but put up with when there were jobs

    basically the tories have had to wait until the one policy that always works for them became popular enough

  • Comment number 51.

    Hey Kiki some sense from you. Clear headed? You are dead right. Tories not coming up with anything is indeed because they are THINKING. Something Brown et al seem not to have the talent for.

    You know what? I personally have found that all problems in my life have been satisfactorily resolved by THINKING.

    Think about it. Could be the Conservative's new slogan.

    Time for a Change. We are thinking what you are thinking.....

  • Comment number 52.

    47. At 12:11pm on 06 Jan 2009, Paulbeers wrote:

    I for one am really pleased with this story/comment. At last we have a clear point of difference between the two parties and have something to argue about.


    The story, yes, but this is the second blog in 2 days, almost identical to yesterday's posting by Nick. Lazy journalism in the extreme.

    Why not a new post about Blair going to the USA next week to receive his US Medal Of Freedom from, apparently with no irony at all, Bush.

    Maybe he will collect his congressional Gold Medal at the same time, seeing as he has been too busy since 2003 to collect it.

    By the way, what has been the contribution of the Middle East Peace Envoy to seeking a resolution to the present conflict?

    See Nick, it's quite easy really if you put your mind to it!

  • Comment number 53.

    49. It's a huge number but if you compare it with the likes of France and Germany, we are actually a lot better off.

    If you add the pension debt to the existing national debt, the UK owes around 110-130% of GDP (depending on who's figures you use).

    Germany's national debt, once you add in public sector pension liabilities, is around 240% of GDP. France's is around 190% of GDP.

    I forget Italy's but I think it's another calculator-busting figure.

  • Comment number 54.

    #1 I would agree with you, it takes a very astute Politician to stand up to Paxo. Is that why Brown never does an interviewed with him , prefering instead to subject himself to a grilling by the likes of Fiona Phillips on the GMTV sofa ?

  • Comment number 55.

    #38, spot on!

  • Comment number 56.

    Labour's acceptance that spending can't go on as it has

    Hooning heck Nick, stand up to the NuLab bullies putting words in your mouth for once. As long as you continue to push the agenda of this government* we will have no respect for you.

    *read as: "sleazy gang united only by a fear of being found out and a lust for power"

  • Comment number 57.

    53. At 12:40pm on 06 Jan 2009, Reluctant-Expat wrote:
    49. It's a huge number but if you compare it with the likes of France and Germany, we are actually a lot better off.

    If you add the pension debt to the existing national debt, the UK owes around 110-130% of GDP (depending on who's figures you use).

    Germany's national debt, once you add in public sector pension liabilities, is around 240% of GDP. France's is around 190% of GDP.


    You haven't included all the PFI costs in your UK figures, nor the Northern Rock bail -out, nor the bank bail-out. What would all those add up to?

    Also, how can you say we are better off? don't you mean, even if we accept all your figures, that we are not as badly off as....

    From where I am sitting I don't see the UK being better off at all, if that was the case why have the currency markets voted with their feet in respect of Sterling?

    Don't forget "a weak currency is the sign of a weak economy, which is the sign of a weak government". - James Gordon Brown.

  • Comment number 58.

    52 yellowbelly

    I think this is the only story Nick can really cover - his job is covering westminster, political news is slow right now

    He has no mandate to cover Tony Blair's medal from Bush, he's a peace envoy now, newsworthy to us but not part of his job

    and the Israel conflict is a foreign matter - so Nick can really only focus on what Brown, Cameron and Clegg and co say about it, and most of that will be covered by foreign correspondents unless it's a major thing

  • Comment number 59.

    We are faced with an uncceptable Government, I share many of the views expressed here in the comments regarding how are wonderful country is being lead to ruin.

    Feel free to contact me here:


  • Comment number 60.

    53. I am aware of those numbers - but good point well made.

    It does show the issue that 'old' europe has in funding its future. I honestly think that this is one of the basic reasons behind the aim of massive EU expansion. The only way Europe can dilute this massive level of future debt is by a vast increase in taxpayer base without bringing in countries with the same level of future debt.

    Without bringing in millions of other taxpayers to spread this I dont know how they will cope. I think we have two big questions:

    1) do we want to further increase the liability on the UK taxpayer by helping fund the massive future unfunded promises in 'old' europe?

    2) do we have a responsibility to help otherwise we may see massive social unrest?

    Nick - these are the propper big questions you should be asking GB. Not that I would expect an answer other than something about 'the do nothing torys'.

  • Comment number 61.

    Well folks all the traditional Political debates of old like how should we finance this , how much should we spend on that, should one take precedence over the other and such like are now officially redundant since under Brown there IS NO MONEY !

  • Comment number 62.

    57. I'm not a Labour supporter, not by a long shot, but those are the figures. Up to you whether you believe them or not!

    If you add in PFI as well, the difference changes but not by much. We're not the only country using this financing scheme.

    Germany is spending similar sums on their bail-out as us (despite their finance minister's protestations about the method) so that doesn't change much there either.

  • Comment number 63.

    Nick can't you get it into your head, no matter what Labour do they are finished. All the spin you put out about the economy will not decide the next Election, 11 years of wasting tax payers money will come home to roost.

  • Comment number 64.

    Paxman has great entertainment value (especially on University Challenge), but as a journalist he is irrelevant.

    Personally I don't care what or who the opposition is - or what their policies are.

    After 11 years of the Rocky Tony and Gordon Horror Show I want them out.

    I'd vote for a pig's head on a stick if I was assured that it would beat NuLabour.

  • Comment number 65.


    While considering the governments exhaltation to spend and not to save, and to take out more credit...

    Could you get each of the front bench to publish their net-worth?

    I sincerly hope that they are all fully debted-up with no savings, no assets and maxed out credit cards -- otherwise they would appear to be asking us to take a position that they do not consider right for themselves...

    And that would be a bit hypocritical... wouldn't it?...

  • Comment number 66.

    Oh by the way when we are debating about how bad things are or not for the PM what do the real experts have to say about his chances at an election ie the bookies ?

  • Comment number 67.

    Nick, why are you picking holes in the tories plans to use £4.1bn to help savers? This amount is nothing compared to the vast sums of money labour has squandered.

    Take the recent VAT cut, for example: 12bn spent for very little in return. By contrast, black wednesday cost the country less than a third of that amount.

    Some perspective, please.

  • Comment number 68.

    Labour is hopeless socially and economically. We all know that.

    Everybody I speak to in all walks of life out here on the street say the same. Many are unsure of the Conservatives but are willing to take the plunge just to get Brown out.

  • Comment number 69.

    "In each case the Tories lost the argument and the election. "

    Sorry, but that doesn't follow at all. Yes, the Tories lost the election, but how do you know it had anything at all do do with that specific argument?

    People vote for all sorts of reasons, and many people don't understand the arguments, let alone know who won them. I suspect the 2 main reasons why the Tories lost the last 2 elections are:

    1. People still remembered all the Sleaze of the Major government, which, at the time of the last election (although not any more) was probably worse than Labour Sleaze

    2. The Tories kept electing a succession of complete non-entities as leader

  • Comment number 70.

    # 65, ouch!

    now that WOULD be interesting to see....Toenails, any comments?

  • Comment number 71.

    "How much is Britain’s true national debt? Gordon Brown says 37% of GDP, the ONS says 43% of GDP – but this is just government debt. The reason Britain is in so much trouble is that our corporate and household debts are huge. It is the combination that makes us such a credit liability – but no one has ever put together a combination.

    Until now.

    Michael Saunders from CitiGroup has calculated ‘external debt’ – ie, what Britain owes the rest of the world. It is not 40% but 400% of GDP, the highest in the G7 by some margin. The next down, France, is 176%. America, flagellating itself for blowing such a debt bubble, is just 100%. Japan is about half America. The below graph shows ‘external debt’ – both in mid-2008, and five years ago. "

  • Comment number 72.

    phoenixarisenq at 1

    Well you can see Paxman here, click just below the S on the SHARE button to see the start of the interview.

    Osborne isnt great it has to be said, but his point is clear and clearly right. Im all for giving Politicians a hard time but Paxman was crap and didnt even scratch the surface. Which is a shame.

  • Comment number 73.

    Oh yes. and Im with Max at 64

    A pigs head will do nicely.

  • Comment number 74.


    The ex-head of children's services at the council at the centre of the Baby P case is appealing against her sacking.

    Sharon Shoesmith was dismissed from Haringey Council last month after a damning initial report into her department's role in Baby P's death.

    The 17-month-old, who was on the council's "at-risk" register, died in 2007 after a series of major injuries.

    A spokesman for Haringey Council in north London confirmed Ms Shoesmith was appealing against her dismissal.

  • Comment number 75.

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

  • Comment number 76.

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

  • Comment number 77.


    Welcome, have you made the move?

    Did you mention the last conservative government had a GDP rate of 43%?

    A good new year to you!

    Did you get a new coat.

  • Comment number 78.

    oo, barking is back on...brace yourself for another dose of ben elton 80's style rehash...

  • Comment number 79.

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

  • Comment number 80.

    Shackinup and others re the pensions deficit.

    Whatever the actual total figure of Government Debt in the UK as a % of GDP, the fact is it is a lot worse now due to Gordon Brown. The pensions fiasco itself has his fingerprints all over it as the UK had massive private pensions surpluses almost equivalent to the whole requirement of the EU, until Brown came to power and immediately started taxing it. Since then my pension pot has shrunk to less than one third of what it would have been under a fiscally competent Government.

  • Comment number 81.

    opps spoke too soon I see the random word generator has returned.

  • Comment number 82.

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

  • Comment number 83.

    We all know that both Marr and Robinson will do nothing against their Labour masters.

    They both live in a world where they know better than you and I. It will be something of a surprise to them both when this rotten government gets kicked out on it's ear for a generation because they now believe their own nonsense.

    The fawning interview of Brown by Marr on Sunday was a disgrace to what was once the great BBC and it probably can't get any worse...but I am sure they will try.

    Sky aren't much better but it's the BBC who will wake up to new masters within 18 months.

    What goes around.....comes around.....:)

  • Comment number 84.

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

  • Comment number 85.

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

  • Comment number 86.


    The reason the tories lost the argument was because all the BBC interviewers/journalists used the same totally incorrect line that labour used; the BBC constantly said that the tories would get rid of front-line public servants, and they always over-simplified how savings can be made, and also the BBC never mentioned the fact that you can also reduce the increase in spending by simple natural wastage (ie not employing new people once someone retires in a backoffice).

    In short, the BBC have always lied when it comes to how the tories run (or plan to run) the government/economy, and that's one of the main reasons that their poll ratings still aren't significantly higher than labour.

    Whenever you hear Paxman (or any other BBC interviewer for that matter) interview MPs on the economy, his line is always this to the tories: "you're going to sack thousands of nurses, and no, I don't want to listen to your logic about why I'm wrong on that point." and his line to labour is always "aren't those tories horrible, they're trying to undo all the wonderful things you've done."

    I think it's finally reached the stage now where most people who would previously have believed the BBC, now treat it as a joke when it comes to political reporting, because they can physically see the damage that Brown/Labour have caused in their own pay packets and redundancy notices.

    Sorry Nick, but the vast majority of reasonable people don't believe your/labour's line anymore; your party is finished for at least a generation come 2010.

  • Comment number 87.

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

  • Comment number 88.

    Interesting but entirely predictable poll result

  • Comment number 89.


    Do you think that Brown is hanging around long enough to collect one of those individually designed medals that Blair is expecting to receive? After all his services to debt and to up the country are just as commendable?

    In truth, Brown will hopefully disappear down the plughole, and Blair will become mired in the middle east, while we continue to pay back the billions spent by these obnoxious creatures.


  • Comment number 90.

    I did not even wait to the end of the Paxman interview with Osborne before switching off, it was simply too painful to watch.

    For quite some time I have thought that this fairly aggressive 'style' of interviewing is ultimately counter-productive and David Frost has recently indicated the same perspective.

    Furthermore, I have decided that it watching news late at night, which recently seems to comprise of horribly injured children, never-ending wars, mass layoffs, business failures, politicians spouting the usual guff et al is NOT conducive to a good nights sleep.

    So, sorry Nick, it is C4 News at 7pm, when I'm usually still in a frame of mind that can handle it, and nothing else from now on unless somebody can come up with a late night 'good' news programme.

    PS. Perhaps a blogger can come up with the ratio of public to private sector workers that a developed economy might reasonable expect to have. That could be a potential starting point when discussing Government 'savings'.

  • Comment number 91.

    One other thing. Sky seem to have at least realised that when they blog they should also comment and respond within the blog.

    The aloofness they previously had did much to damage the blogs and any perception of there being a real commitment to listen to the hoi polloi.

    It might be nice if BBC bloggers afforded the licence payers the same consideration.....

  • Comment number 92.

    77. Hey there!

    Got quite bored with trying to debate with a bunch of gullible/lying/deluded/infantile/all-of-the-above Scottish nationalists. That used to be a good blog before they all turned up.

    The independence campaign is a dead duck and Shreck's absolute obsession with it is going to be the end of him. There's always a silver lining!

    I believe that was the debt ratio in 1997 (although that obviously didn't include PFI/pension debts).

    No new coat but this eternal child finally got a Wii!

    How's all with you?

  • Comment number 93.

    I see you have a reputation on here, Derek!


  • Comment number 94.

    I can sense - very much as last year, that we are getting bored again...with the labour propoganda that is supposed to be an unbiased blog.

    So much so that commentators here are now posting their own news..

    I have an idea - why doesn't the Brown Broadcasting Corporation give us a break, allow all these commentators to write the blog of the day and ask the 'journo's' to will certainly be more interesting than the groundhog day of political reporting we have had for the past few months.

    I wonder what Nick's next blog entry will be - it's taking time so I can only assume Mandy is waiting for some kind of glib miniscule of wrong footing by the Cons/Libs so Nick can report it...

    But no, let's concentrate on where on earth the Cons are going to find the massive 4.1 billion from - such a heinous crime for them to say such a thing - crikey that is going to break us for sure...

    Wake up BBC

  • Comment number 95.

    82. yellowbelly1959

    You clearly dont understand Derek Barker economics do you.

    If the country hired 1.5million recession busting consultants on 100k a year unemployment would be gone in a flash. average salaries would rocket, so would mean average pensions.

    In fact lets buy them all a Yacht too

    Whats the problem?

    Dont you remember Thatcher?

  • Comment number 96.

    "Age Concern urged vulnerable older people to take extra precautions to stay warm and keep active during the cold spell.

    The charity added that £5bn of benefits were still going unclaimed, although the government said 2.5 million cold weather payments had already been made. "

    There's your savings to pay for Camerons savings tax cut right there!

    5Bn unclaimed mainly cos the pensioners are too proud and the government dont inform them well enough about their entitlement. So the ideal way to address it is to leave it in thier savings in the first place then they dont need to claim and you dont need to inform them of the entitlement.
    Job done, Next!

  • Comment number 97.

    Why are the interviews so contrived?

    We can't believe a word said on the BBC any more as it's edited in favour of the left.

  • Comment number 98.

    90. I'm like you. The endless hand-wringing and griping has totally overwhelmed news reports and made it all too exasperating.

    For me, it's just the BBC news site (short and to the point without too many shrill cries of doom and gloom) plus the 'papers' section on Sky News during my morning coffee.

  • Comment number 99.


    "Just keeping the kettle luke warm"

    The fibre optic fast lane! Jeez! Do you think young Cameron is praying for a rising sun?

  • Comment number 100.

    I see my posts #82, #84, & #85 have been referred to the moderator. Very BBC.

    They all referred to examples of wasteful public spending highlighted today and now they get censored. Very Stasi/ ZaNuLabour!!

    And now #76 has disappeared as well!! What is going on?

    That posted a link to the BBC News website!!!


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