The first rounds in the electoral slanging match confirm that the Britain’s political elite are hopeless amateurs when it comes to governance.
This morning’s newspapers contain the expected claim and counter-claim of politicians about to ask for our votes. Mendacity is everywhere, of course: Lord of the Lies Mandelson invents a Barclays salary of £63million (paid to a bloke who seems to have turned the bank round) which turns out to be a basic salary of £250,000 and £2million in bonuses. The rest is stock bought by this man who put his own money where his mouth is…but it’s still under 20% of the figure used by Mandy.
But plus ca change with his Lordship: if people haven’t worked out that he’s a moral degenerate by now, they never will. The point is, is he any good at his job?
The answer is no. He went into Cadburys with lots of steely attitude and showy speeches. Today the new owners Kraft effectively welched on the employees’ pension scheme. He went into Rover promising saved jobs for the workforce. He saved none – and had ‘zero’ (to use his new favourite denial word) effect on the outcome. On TV he was criticised at the time by former Rover bigwig Kevin Morley, and asked afterwards on live TV, “Who is this man? I’ve never heard of him.”
He has presided over a disastrous loss of £210 million in the regional grants scheme. Mandelson’s solution? Call it something else, and then hush it up. He talks of the need to maintain a ‘fragile recovery’ in a private sector that barely exists – and inside which (the ONS confirms) there has been little or no recovery at all. (Forget that silly 4% figure: most of it is public sector manipulation).
Peter Mandelson is a communications expert and spin doctor. He doesn’t know the first thing about business. Peter’s career path: Young Communist, TUC economics wonk (1979-82), MP, Opposition Whip, Minister without Portfolio. His first stint at Business lasted twenty days, before the first of many dark clouds rained upon his parade.
Ed Balls wants to be Chancellor, but says that the Tories must now raise VAT. This is because Balls can’t add up, and doesn’t read anything or listen to anyone. He simply shouts and tweets. His view on control of the UK deficit is ‘no cuts’. Extremely helpful I’m sure, but not the stuff of which real-world Chancellors are made. As the Minister for children, he has presided over the continuing decline in our educational standards – and the worst period of unchecked child abuse in our history. When he arrived at Education, Balls rang up Teachers TV and asked them to send him some videos about teaching “because I know nothing about it”. I know this because I’ve spoken to the person who took the call. Ed’s Career: PPE at Oxford, further degree, journalist, advisor to Brown, Treasury Bureaucrat helping Gordon sell the gold, 1999-2004, MP, Minister, Wannabe Chancellor.
Nick Clegg’s latest headline-grabbing outburst is that he’s going to fire the whole board of both Lloyds and TSB if they don’t start lending to business. Nick is able to say this sort of thing because he too knows nothing about balance sheets and lending margins and why 0% interest rates mean only an idiot would lend loss-making money in a a sector where there is little demand anyway. Nick’s career: degree, further degree, short spell as EU advisory trainee, yet another degree, US thesis about Green affairs, EU bureacrat working on aid for Russia, journalist, MEP, MP, Leader of the Libdems.
George Osborne was the original rabbit in the headlights when the banks began collapsing. He has shifted his ground so many times on economic and fiscal policy, he was in very real danger at one point last year of losing his job. Of late he has been more consistent and forceful, but next to Cable on TV recently he looked decidedly amateurish. George’s career path: Born Gideon – changed it to George, Modern History at Oxford, NHS bureaucrat, Selfridges shop assistant, Central Office (failed to get into journalism), speech writer to Hague, Shadow Chancellor.
By contrast, Vince Cable went to a Grammar School, then the LSE (E for Economics) – and then worked for Shell as an economist. In 2003, he addressed this question to our then Greatest Ever Chancellor Gordon Brown:
“Is not the brutal truth that … the growth of the British economy is sustained by consumer spending pinned against record levels of personal debt, which is secured, if at all, against house prices that the Bank of England describes as well above equilibrium level?”
Eleven out of ten for prescience there. But you see, Vince is an economist. Brown isn’t. Vince is popular, Brown isn’t. Vince inspires confidence, Brown doesn’t.Vince is usually right, Brown is usually wrong. Vince is searingly honest, Brown is a serial liar.
There’s no big secret here. Cable knows what he’s doing: he is competent. Not perfect, not a genius. Just, competent.
Wanted: 645 honest and competent MPs, to replace all but three of the current House of Commons.