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A word of advice to Osborne: don’t overdo the blame game, or you’ll add political failure to economic failure

Posted on 29 November 2011 | 9:11am

A word of advice for George Osborne before he delivers his economic statement to the Commons … and before anyone shouts at me ‘why are you helping HIM???

1. He won’t read it, and

2. Even if one of his advisers does, he/she will be too busy to tell him, and

3. Even if they do tell him, George will ignore it.

The advice is this: don’t overdo the blame game.

What the country is looking for is real candour; an honest assessment of the world economy, and how the UK economy fits within it, and an honest analysis of where things have gone well and where things have gone badly since the coalition took power.

If he just stands there and says – I paraphrase – ‘we inherited a mess (sic), the deficit was the Number 1 target, but because of Europe and because of the mess being even bigger than we thought, we have not really meet our objectives, but hey ho onwards and upwards,’ with a few little sweeteners for what the BBC last night called ‘new two-year olds’, he will be politically damaged in a possibly defining way.

Looking at the OECD report which set the stage for today’s statement, they point in the main to these factors for the worse than expected performance of the economy, and the worse than expected figures Osborne will set out: rising unemployment, a fall in living standards, government cuts and the eurozone crisis. To at least three of those, a link can directly be traced from the decisions David Cameron and George Osborne made and launched with such confidence when they took office.

Their stance has been consistent – that the cuts were was the only way to get the deficit down, and that the private sector would fill the gap (never explained how). Labour’s stance has been consistent too – that they were cutting too far and too fast and that they risked another recession. Labour’s stance will be vindicated today. Osborne’s will not.

He asked to be judged on his reduction of the deficit. By any measurement, today’s statement will show that he has failed. If he tries to blame it all on Labour, or on Europe, or the weather, or the Royal wedding, or the Japanese earthquake, he will add political failure to the economic failure which can only be met by a change in economic strategy.

And he won’t do that either. Bad day all round.

  • Simon Carne

    How do you reconcile Labour’s vindication with the analysis promulgated recently (for example on BBC Newsnight last week) that the difference between Tory cuts and Labour’s plan is less than one third of one per cent, ie negligible?

  • Olli Issakainen

    Osborne´s reckless gamble has failed.
    George Osborne put blind faith in private sector and lost his gamble.
    He believed that public sector was “crowding out” private sector, and that public sector cuts would spontaneously lead to private sector investment.
    But in reality Plan A (expansionary fiscal contraction) has led to fall in private spending and higher benefits costs.
    So the money the cuts were supposed to “save” has simply disappeared.
    Recent IMF paper has proved beyond doubt that expansionary austerity does not work.
    Fall in household consumption has been the biggest contributor to the fall in GDP.
    Britain´s national debt was 36% of GDP before the financial crisis and recession caused by banks. At the time of 2010 general election the debt was still only 53.5% – below the Maastricht Treaty reference level of 60%.
    Now the UK national debt is £970bn, two thirds of GDP. So Mr Osborne has not been able to pay off a single penny of debt despite huge cuts and tax rises.
    Britain´s national debt is going to rise to £1.32tr in 2015 – 40% greater than today!
    By then the Tory-led government will have overspent by £500bn.
    There is no purpose in Plan A. All it does is to make public debt private again.
    The UK personal debt will rise 50% to £2.12tr by 2015 because of the cuts. All pain will be in vain.
    How is this going to help to “rebalance” the British economy?
    Labour left a growing economy (4%) and falling unemployment. British exports rose 16% during Q3 2011.
    So Labour and eurozone are not to blame for poor performance.
    Unemployment is 2.62m. Where are the 2.5m new private sector jobs promised?
    Inflation is 5% – 66% higher than the eurozone average.
    British economy is still below the pre-recession level. Britain will borrow at least £122bn this year.
    Growth has been flat for a year. Growth of 1.5% is needed for Britain to just stand still, but Britain will “grow” at best 0.9% this year.
    Growth of 2.5% is needed for 2012. But in 2012 Britain will grow at best 1%.
    The reason for low bond yields has been the low level of debt – not Mr Osborne´s neoliberal austerity.
    So the Plan A has failed as I predicted from the day one. All that Mr Osborne announces today will be too little, too late.
    It took 18 months for him to understand that market fundamentalism does not work. State intervention is needed. Markets are not self-regulating – as we witnessed in 2008.
    OECD now says Britain will face recession.
    Time has now come for George Osborne to start looking for a personal Plan B.
    It´s all Osborne´s fault! 

  • Marymot

    As I’ve said before ”bring back GB and AD”. I don’t care about their pesonalities I just want their expertise.

  • MicheleB

    Never mind the detail eh?  It’s not about an across the board swipe.

    It’s about what is cut and where savings are used that matters and about human finesse, something that Osbo lacks. 

    I don’t think we’ll have a repeat of Louise Mensch’s whooping and hollering triumphalist performance of last year.

  • Cycling uphill, into a head wind with another storm approaching – me this morning, the economy and the rest of us too. At least I had a map home.
    We once held a referendum at the school I taught in for a motto. Pupils chose this –
    “It wasnae me!”
    George? Familiar?

  • Chris lancashire

    Labour’s stance being reduce VAT, borrow more and spend more. Great prescription for the economy. Nope, we’ll just have to carry on a little longer paying for Gordon’s mistakes.

  • MicheleB

    The OP advice wasn’t followed.

    Much of the infrastructure planned depends on private investment and much of it was planned pre-Election 2010 anyway (yesterday’s oooompahpah about the extension to the Northern Line being just one of them, not to mention social housing completed a few weeks ago that Shapps was gloating about as if it was his achievement!).

    Danny Alexander, chief sec to the Treasury, has a responsible role so one would expect him to know the source and truth of material that he repeats.  It’s not enough to echo something simply because Dave said it, where did Dave get it from? 

    I’d want to know if true if I was him, especially if I had been used last year to sit in the back of a cab with papers open on my lap that happened to be handily highlighted and underlined and predicting something worse than was going to be announced by others a few days later ………. inhale.

    DA quoth on Andrew Neil’s review of today’s activities that Britain’s infrastructure is 28th in the world.  28th in what respect wasn’t detailed.  Are we really 28th in terms of everything we rely on such as buildings or roads or railways or hospitals or ports or was it about current planned investment or was it about gross amounts spent compared to bigger countries/populations or was it about improvement on preceding year’s spend or wth was it about?  What were the parameters?

    Can we have an evaluation of information from the cynical selfish? 

    I googled ‘Britain infrastructure 28th’ and the nearest I could find was some blub on the ‘Tory home site’ followed by 28th being the date of an article in the Economist last year.

    Given the figures quoted today in HoC I’m wondering whether Owen Paterson was right on Any Qs two weekends ago when he said we are borrowing more  than we are paying in interest ….

  • Ehtch

    Well, Ozzy Ostrich’s autumn statement was for a pretty miserable near future, the economy is going backwards quickly, with GDP debt ratio up to 78% by 2015, but that is what he predicts today, so add quite a few more percent on that no doubt. It is obvious last year predictions for economy by him was pie in the sky fantasy – he hasn’t a clue.
    And it is about time for these coalition characters stop blaming the previous government – you don’t blame the previous captain of a ship when the rocks are hit.

  • Libdem

    Olli, you really must subscribe to John Redwood’s blog, you’ll appreciate much of what he says…..might not agree with the solution but give it a try.

  • Libdem

    Don’t you think that the lack of any Labour detail about cuts is part of their undo-ing? It’s about time the 2 Eds came up with some detail if they’re to be taken seriously by fence-sitters, I of course don’t include you in that category.

  • Anonymous

    I’d argue that Newsnight is not the programme it was…

  • Dave Simons

    A few miles south down the backbone of England I was trying to walk into that same headwind this morning and seeing black, high-velocity clouds looming north and south. Yes it was a bit like the doom, gloom and gathering storm on the political and economic fronts. However I did manage to get back from the hills before the rain came. I wish we could all be as lucky in escaping the other gathering storm.
    Tomorrow’s strike day will be superciliously dismissed by the Conservatives and their LIbDem lapdogs, who will play down the turn-out and claim it was a normal working day and the overmighty trade unions had no mandate for their actions. The fact is that a lot of people who sympathise with the strikers will not join them because of job insecurity and chronic worry about the future – but people who work as usual will be claimed by the government as in broad agreement with its policies.That’s the Tory definition of democracy in action.
    As an antidote to today’s narrow-minded brand of neo-liberal Toryism, I like to read Adam Smith, one of the neo-liberal gurus:
    ‘We rarely hear, it has been said, of the combinations of masters, though frequently of those of workmen. But whoever imagines, upon this account, that masters rarely combine, is as ignorant of the world as of the subject. Masters are always and everywhere, in a sort of tacit, but constant and uniform combination, not to raise the wages of labour above their actual rate’. (‘Wealth of Nations’ chapter 8).

  • Ehtch

    Agreed Olli. What I can’t understand is that nobody seems to mention that a large part of the private sector depend on contracts from the public sector, contracts which are quickly disappearing. It is a downward spiral, each pulling the other down – less money made in the private sector which could lead to overseas contact possibilities from public sector contracts experience, leading to less money in the economy, and therefore less income in taxes and such for public sector spending.

  • MicheleB

    I can’t remember having been on strike myself but I do think that public statements should be complete, so when Cam / Osbo spout about how few turned out to vote for striking they shouldn’t leave any doubt about how few turned out to vote against them either. 

    I found this info from a few days ago  :

    Ballot results so far

    National Association of Probation Officers (NAPO): 83% in favour of strike on 45% turnoutUnison: 78% voted for strikes on a 29% turnoutUnite: 75% in favour of strike action on a 31% turnout, a breakdown of the votes sector by sector can be foundGMB: 80% in favour of a strike, on a 33% turnoutNASUWT: 82% in favour of strike action, 91% in favour of action short of a strike; 40% turnoutUCATT Union of Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians: 83% majority in favour of strike action on a 27% turnoutEIS Scottish teachers’ union: voted by 82.2% for action with a turnout of 54.2%Scottish Secondary Teachers Association voted in 79.19% in favour on a 66.3% turnoutNipsa (Northern Ireland): balloted for strikes over pensions, pay and jobs and voted by 67% for strikes on a 43% turnoutThe Association of Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland (AHDS): voted by just under 60% for strikes on a 38% turnoutNAHT headteachers’ union: 75.8% voted for strikes on a 53.6% turnoutSociety of Radiographers: 81.2% voted for strikes on a 58.2% turnoutAssociation of Educational Psychologists (AEP): 64% voted for strikes on an unknown turnoutAspect: 75.1% in favour of industrial action, turnout unknownChartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP): England and Wales, 86%
    voted for strikes and Scotland, 89.1% voted for strikes on a combined
    turnout of 66%Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists (SCP): voted by 85% for strikes on a 52% turnoutFDA: backed strikes by 81% on a 54% turnoutSIPTU – Services Industrial Professional and Technical Union – Irish
    general union with members in public services in Northern Ireland.
    Members voted 81% for strike action on a turnout of 39%.Prospect: 75% voted for strikes on a 52% turnoutTransport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) in Northern Ireland : 77% vote for strikesRMT local branch members employed by DB Regio and Nexus who run Tyne
    and Wear Metro, as well as staff at Orkney Ferries and Royal Fleet
    Auxilliary voted 80% in favour of strike action, turnout unknown

  • Excellent and insightful – thank you.

  • MicheleB

    You must remind me what detail Cam / Osbo / Clegg gave about their plans before the Election.  I think it was nada. 
    Better still, let me know whether Cable has lived up to his own and managed to make any banks conform.

    A couple of weeks ago I saw a so-called Lib Dem (Scottish accent) being interviewed and taking the mucho macho pose that Danny Alexander also thinks becomes him.  She was reminded that she had said exactly the opposite pre May 2010.  Know what she said?   ….. ‘But we weren’t in Govt then’ …. LoL. 

    We’ve now got Osbo blaming the OBR as well as the Euro crisis.
    ‘Osbo’ is, I imagine, how he would pronounce ASBO; suitable isn’t it?

    • Libdem

      Before the election it was ‘nada’ from all 3 parties or have you forgotten to include good old Gordon? The point is what is Labour proposing to cut now and the answer is they won’t say as it’s difficult for them. Balls is posturing just as you are but it won’t really produce any workable answers will it?

  • Anonymous

    Talking about the press being ‘behind the curve’ as AC often says, I looked at some of the reporting of today’s main event.  And rubbed my eyes.  Even taking into account that the Telegraph and the Mail are what they are, I couldn’t believe them.  It seems the ‘statement’ was a triumph and not a disaster.  And there was I thinking that the economy’s last rites had been read.  Silly me!

  • Dave Simons

    Opportunist career politicians like David Cameron, George Osborne, Nick Clegg and Danny Alexander stake a lot on the collective amnesia of the electorate – us. I wish some TV investigative journalist would construct a programme which replays a few pre-election statements. We could have Osborne/Cameron promising to match Labour’s (later profligate) public spending plans and Clegg agreeing with Gordon Brown on ‘Don’t cut too much too soon’.
    Oh but of course Labour’s legacy was worse than we thought and it snowed heavily and the price of oil went up (surprise, surprise) and we had a Royal Wedding (an extra bank holiday that was an unwanted government imposition on a lot of us) and the Euro went into crisis and now the trade unions are up to their old games again and – well anyway, my career’s on track and reasonably secure so sod the country!

  • MicheleB

    Aw, you’re so loyal …. like a cheated spouse that blames themself for their partner’s disloyalty and their being dumped on.  I don’t envy your role.

    Fill yer boots ………

    It’s a good read, all the way down, especially about Northern Rock (but duck down before we hear that Branson is another stalwart of Bilderberg, surely it must be so!).

    Meanwhile, there’s norralorra point in scrolling the page down this one, it’s hilarious (never mind, blame it on the OBR or the Euro or erm erm erm not to worry).

  • Anna

    Re: the need to cut public sector pensions as ‘we are all in this together’: I think I must have missed the Chancellor’s assurance that the solid gold pensions arrangements enjoyed by our MPs will also be ‘revised downwards’.

  • Dave Simons

    David Cameron says today’s strike (30 November) was a ‘damp squib’ and most services continued to operate normally. How boringly predictable these people are!

  • Libdem

    “The party insisted it would be “relentless” in getting value for money from the public sector “for every pound spent”, finding efficiency savings and eliminating waste.Labour said it would “overhaul” the way government runs by cutting back-office costs, getting rid of “unnecessary” quangos, and by “sharply” reducing consultancy fees and marketing expenditure.” 
    They’d only been in power for 13 years, what on earth had they been doing? If this is your definition of detail Michele then I have to say I don’t envy your self-delusion or gullibility. As I said before, your leader and his right hand refuse to detail any savings and par for course you too.

  • MicheleB

    What had they been doing for 13yrs?  Now let me think; one very pragmatic early move – they started with introducing reading schemes and in classrooms that actually had some BOOKS (as opposed to brochures from neighbourhood car showrooms etc), they built schools, they built playgrounds with play equipment in extant schools, they repaired school roofs and school hygiene, opened Sure Start and breakfast clubs and after school play groups (none of which I had any advantage from but had lots of pleasure about as my progeny had endured what had preceded all that).

    They built hospitals and decimated waiting times for surgery, they took doctors to task and gave them targets by which to EARN their salaries and pensions, they actually got dentists back to providing NHS checkups and preventative care.

    What has this lot, aided by your wimp leader done?  Given the nod already to Gove and his ‘free schools’, none of which have yet proved themselves and yet more of them are to be funded (such an easy way of absolving a Govt of any responsibility).  Kind of a free ride.

    ‘Children 1st’ has been discarded and plans are afoot to make adoption quicker, this is all just a new version of what the last lot of Tories allowed after closing local children’s homes, which allowed paedophile rings to operate unchecked throughout the 80s all round the country. 

    They’ve killed the self-respect of so many public sector employees, rubbished their roles.
    Refrain …….  Tra la lah everybody elses’ job is so unimportant isn’t it so let’s just sack ’em all.

    NObody is denying the deficit had to be dealt with but you, with your wimp leader’s cowtowing to the bulliboys had better be ready to vote Tory next time round.  There will be no such entity as a Libdem candidate or party, the Gang of Four’s and the Liberals’ principles have been sold off.  You have to pretend to be cheery.

    For Cam to mock the low paid as he did today, for him to describe their marches in the ways he did, for him to remind us all as often as he does with ‘I am your Prime Minister’ (when overriding officials he considers beneath him despite the responsibility they own) makes me sick.

    I’m glad I’ll never have to lie to myself as you do and will, all the way to that big blue X in 2015.
    Let me remind you of the seats numbers yet again:
    Labour 258
    Liberal 57 (having previously had 62 seats)
    Tory 307
    So despite losing 13 LibDem extant MPs while gaining 8 new ones, so with an overall loss of 5 seats your leader was able to donate what he was left with to make an extemist coalition with a majority of over 100.

    Gross misuse of the balance of power but hey, he can laugh all the way to the bank.

    Quality of Life reseach out today proves what we already know, you are 70% likely to be happy if you have a job; how long before only 70% of the population are?

  • Libdem

    You’re having a problem with the needle again Michele or is it Labour Party Policy to rattle off lists, perhaps you’re GB in disguise?

    When you have no answer you always revert to abuse don’t you. As you’ve drifted off track yet again, why not try answering the question instead of persistently avoiding it….what is the difference between Labour and Coalition cuts?

  • MicheleB

    Durrrrrrr, the period over which cuts would be spread.  Have you really not heard about that?

    We lost brains and heart from Govt, we inherited a knowall that briefed the brand new OBR wrongly and is now blaming them for figures he says were inaccurate.

    There’s nothing personal about the certainty that you don’t have an ID with any longevity, it’s fact.  There is no possibility at all of Clegg et al claiming they are now anything other than neo-Tories.  When you accuse someone of a personal response, check out what it was in response TO.