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Whose economic truth will you believe?

July 11, 2009

column-picture1Both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats are attacking Gordon Brown about his honesty with the public over the state of the public finances.

Quite right too.

The Prime Minister is not being straightforward about the effect of the recession in respect of public spending.

But what the Conservatives are hiding in all of this, and the story that the Labour Government is failing to tell adequately, is that the argument is also underpinned by different schools of economic thinking.

The Government has adopted, as I understand it, John Maynard Keynes’ view that in order to get through the recession and get back to growth, governments have to keep on spending when private individuals can’t or won’t.

Alternatively, the Conservatives like economists such as Friedrich Hayek, and believe that you can run the country’s finances like Margaret Thatcher’s father ran his grocer’s shop.

This is bonkers.

Just as bonkers (and here I declare an interest as a public sector worker) is the increasingly frequent tendency (fuelled by the media I might add) to concentrate on the levels of public sector pay, because it is easier to do this than to discipline errant banks and City institutions.

It was the banks and the City got us into this mess – not the police, not nurses, not teachers and (dare I say it) not social workers.

But the Tories have latched onto Gordon Brown’s ineptitude at communicating in order to misdirect us.

Dave is the ultimate political conjuror.

He has now set about re-branding Gordon, just as he has re-branded the Conservative Party.

But we should be afraid – very afraid…

I went over to Eastbourne at the end of last week – to the Big Sleep Hotel, for the state of the economy debate organised by the Federation of Small Businesses.

I went to support the ‘1066 Country’ branch, but also to support the Lib Dem parliamentary candidate for Eastbourne & Willingdon – Stephen Lloyd.

The Conservative MP for Eastbourne, Nigel Waterson, was on the panel.

It was amazing.

With this rebranding of the Tories undertaken by David Cameron, and the textbook Cameroonian politics of my Conservative counterpart in Hastings & Rye, I had almost forgotten what an unreconstructed Tory sounds like.

It was very important to be reminded.

Waterson was horrific. Pompous of demeanour, he was pretty objectionable on policy – especially when talking about welfare fraud.

Whilst benefit fraud is a problem, it was utterly unpalatable coming from an MP, given the current crisis of confidence in the integrity of Parliament.

Let’s be clear. Change in the Conservative Party is only skin-deep. And even then it depends on whose skin you’re looking at.

This is as true of their prospective parliamentary party, as it is of their economics.

I urge those of you who are considering voting Conservative at the next election to go and hear the likes of Nigel Waterson, before you finally make up your mind…


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