Friday, 23 October 2009

It Can't Affect Us Chickens

'Nightmare on Downing Street' could be the title of a new movie on the life of Gordon Brown. It would be a sad story of a man who just could not interpret simple facts and kept muttering to himself, 'It can't affect us chickens'.

Despite the most pessimistic of estimates by the most gloomy of economists who predicted that we would, Britain has failed to emerge from recession for a record sixth successive quarter. The hollow words of our Chancellors, past and present, as they pointed toward how strong Britain's finances were, how we could avoid a recession, how a recession could not affect us so badly and how fast we would emerge from recession are lost in the vapour trail left as France, Germany and Japan left recession status last quarter.

The fact seems a nightmare in itself. Despite spending £175bn on creating new money and £1.4 trillion on bank bailouts, our economy shrank again by 0.4%. There may be some revisions up or down but the reality is that this contraction defied all best estimates. We are getting into the habit of getting sums wrong and forecasting badly as our team seems to continually under estimate our borrowing requirements as each month we have to go cap in hand for more money.

There cannot be any shying away from a stark truth. The country's finances are a mess and the remedies chosen to right the situation are either wrong or simply have not worked. Meanwhile, in the banking sector, which we handily threw a massive lifeline to, they are partying as if there is another credit crisis to come. Banks are reporting plenty of profits, hiring new whizz kids on guaranteed bonuses and swelling their bonus pools, telling us that this is a good thing.

It is now abundantly obvious that Britain's bailout plan actually tackled only one part of the economy - banking. What's worse it righted the part of the sinking ship that had directly caused the credit crunch - it has not had any effect on the kinds of banking required by real people. It has given unlimited chips to the casino bankers to go back to the table and blow it all again, as they inevitably will and then come back to ask for more. Each time they do, the gun they use to point at our heads will be ever more deadly as Britain fast runs out of ways to raise the money.

The chilling fact is that after 6 successive quarterly contractions, Britain is now lurching toward severe danger levels of finance. As of this week, Quantitative Easing is spent and in the new year the VAT decrease is reversed. There is only one place left to go as the Government repeatedly defy the facts of having to make cuts and that is to go back and raid the taxpayers' pockets again.

With an election due in June, it's not good practice. But as time runs out for our finances, Britain needs money and fast. The time for action is actually long past and each day we avoid making tough decisions on saving money or finding new cash will costs us more in the long term.

The economy has been compared by Vince Cable as a person suffering a heart attack and we are now stabilised and preparing for recovery. I would say there is a severe danger of MRSA in the analogy.

This Government has been guilty of monumental mis-management of our finances and their remedies in the face of almost ruin have been wrong. At some point the penny may drop for them but until then, any recovery we have will just be a prelude to another crash. In our analogy to a heart attack victim, should the victim recover, sending them home to continue to eat, drink and smoke in the same way as before will only bring on another heart attack.

In our case, we haven't yet left hospital and we are already smoking again.

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