gofrack“Oh do let us go fracking Algernon, it shall be such a lark!”


The Chancellor was back on his financial fibs fiesta yesterday. This time, he made a return to the old hobby-horse about how all the banks are now just fine and dandy, and raking in the spondoolicks in order to help wipe out the 2008/9 bailout costs. A Lloyds floatette having raised £4.2bn “for the taxpayer” – reducing our share of the traffic accident from 33 to 25% – George Osborne told journalists, “This is another step in the government’s long-term economic plan to deliver a more secure and resilient economy. It is another step in repairing the banks, in reducing our national debt and in getting the taxpayer’s money back.”

So I rang the Treasury first thing (having worked out that my share was around eighty quid) and asked if I could have it in pork belly futures. They were terribly abusive. They’ve been out of sorts, I think, ever since their best friend Stephen Hester the SME Impaler was cast out into the darkness. But either way, 4.2 out of 1,300 is not much of a reduction in the national debt.

As usual, Nobsore was running fast and loose with his present-tense use of the words “reducing our national debt”. Far from going down, it’s pluming upwards. It’s a bit like the trickle-down wealth thing, only less credible. Maybe we should just call him Chancer of the Exchequer.

Even the Office for Budget Responsibility has said the only way we’re going to get growth back in the next five years is for the UK’s debt to gdp ratio to get back down to…. 170%. Yes, you read that correctly: 170%. The same level (roughly) as Greece.

And on the same day, MPs on the Public Accounts Committee heard a range of economists tell them that the national debt is still “dangerously out of control”.

I’m fascinated by Osborne’s Goebbels-style genius for getting away with The Giant Whopper. Not only does he talk away the banks’ 65% responsibility for the national debt having doubled since 2009, he suggests he’s reducing it and people believe him…and then he makes a piss in the Pacific of debt sound like 4.2 billion cubic metres of saline solution. I bet his excuses for not having done his homework at school were legendary.

Time now to move next to Number Ten, and the vexed question of whether we should compromise Britain’s water sustainability by handing the mining companies tons of dosh. When you’re losing an argument, there are really only three things to do: become abusive (the Left), accuse your opponent of being an ist (the Left), or make a bogus appeal for unity based on duty (the Right). Mr Cameron says it is now our duty to frack. And it is our duty, he adds, because Russia’s annexation of Crimea shows how dangerous it is to be dependent on Russian energy.

Every now and then in life, a little bit of wreckage floats by. In this instance, the Prime Minister is clinging to one called Huffing & Puffling & then quietly retreating with tail between legs. NATO and the EU got what was coming over Ukraine. So now it is our duty to frack and keep the filthy Russian Bear at Bay. Frack for Victory!

Chris Grayling, meanwhile, continues to confuse both others and himself. There is, he told the media last night, no question of banning prisoners from access to books, but since the policy began five months ago, not one prisoner has complained about it.

It was left to Head Screw Michael Spurr to put into English what Grayling was trying to say, and this he did with commendable eloquence: “The whole issue that we have stopped books is a ridiculous take on a very sensible strategy. There is no way we do not want to provide access to books for prisoners. I wish more would read them.”

It seems that packages of books from home had become the preferred medium for smuggling in drugs, saws, passkeys and so on. Cakes are just so yesterday, dahhhling. More seriously, I’d love to know for sure where this non-story began life, as it has tabloid propaganda written all over it.

There’s no need to invent stuff about Grayling: all you have to do is keep an eye on him one or two days a week, and there will be a rich vein of genuine stories about what a total clod the bloke is. Lest we forget, this is the man who put forward a Bill to the Law Society suggesting that anyone suing somebody for libel should be able to do so without incurring any costs…win or lose. Not political or anything, that one. Perish the thought.

Finally, over in the Fractional Reserve Banking space, there’s a lively debate going on about how money gets created. So lively, in fact, that I made an exception to my general rule of not getting involved in thread arguments by wading in. I highly recommend it, not least because every cliché about being out of my depth, unfair to an economist and misreading the data is there.