Saturday 23 February 2013

Osborne mises his own goal

Schadenfreude, the malicious enjoyment of another's misfortune, is not a very noble sentiment, but I shall indulge in it without restraint in relation to George Osborne's humiliation now that Britain has lost its  AAA credit rating from one of the three major  agencies.

The fact that the goal of retaining the "coveted" rating as the principle objective  of Osborne's "austerity" policy was the wrong one  because:
  •  it was based on a lie: there was never any evidence that the UK was about to lose the confidence of the markets: the ploy was and is simply a convenient cover for the Tory policy of dismantling our welfare state:
  • the credit rating agencies were already discredited: it was they who rated Iceland as AAA and caused thousands of individuals and several UK local authorities to lose savings by putting them  in what they believed, on the evidence of these agencies, were in super-safe banks:
  • the possession of the AAA rating is not the cause of the low cost of government borrowing in Britain (of which the government criminally fails to take advantage):  the real cause is the lack of alternative sources of profitable investments because of the lack of demand in the economy:
  • the loss of the rating is unlikely to have much effect on government borrowing  costs: rates have actually fallen slightly  in the US since it  lost the imprimatur some months ago:
 does not rule out the enjoyment of some satisfaction at his failure

Retaining the AAA rating was the goal to which Osborne nailed his standard.  He chose it, he has failed and now he should resign.  Many politicians have resigned for far less.  We've had a catalogue of economic failures ranging over nearly three years, now culminating  in the loss of his most prized trophy.  That he should be allowed, or even want, to hang on beggars belief.

The proper, the decent, outcome, would be for him to offer his resignation (not wait for Cameron to sack him) and retire to the back-benches, or better still to a monastery where he can atone for his follies without further distractions.  The fun will be to see how he and his skilled PR gurus wriggle to convince us that the failure of the policy which they themselves chose to reach their own chosen  goal  demonstrates the need for more of the same policy. Once again, Orwell, thou shoulds't be lining at this hour.

Sadly what is not fun is that the disable being driven into work,  those forced into unemployment, those on social security benefits already too low to maintain  a civilised standard of life and who now get less, who have all suffered unnecessarily for the past two and a half years, will continue to suffer.  We are not in a jolly sixth-form debate to see who can score points, crack the best jokes and win, if not the academic argument, at least the support of their audience.  The wrong decisions of these  "posh boys" are spoiling real lives.

The only decent outcome of this debacle would be for Vince Cable, who, though not in my view as saintly as he is often depicted, at least has some notions of the desperate need  to implement Keynesian policies to revive  our economy, to be  the new Chancellor of the Exchequer.  But unfortunately our political system does not seem to lend itself to common sense.

Most exasperating, and that's putting it mildly,  for a Liberal Democrat, was to hear our own Treasury minister, Danny Alexander, actually saying on the radio this morning that he continues to support Osborne and his policies.  Have Liberal Democrats in government no sense at all?   If the misguided application of collective responsibility rules does not allow them to cheer this wonderful opportunity for a change of personnel and policy, at least they should have the sense to keep quiet.

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