The noise surrounding it would suggest George Osborne made an important speech last night. Northern Rock sell-off and banking reform seemed to take most of the coverage, big ticket items both.
So for once I was keen to see the news and hoped to hear a little of what the Chancellor said. To be fair the first few minutes of the BBC 10 o’clock news were devoted to the subject. But we got one solitary clip of Osborne, and a lot of business editor Robert Peston.
I do get the point that sometimes it is easier for the reporter to summarise than for the package to be cluttered with clunky clips from a speech. But the trend away from the politician to the reporter has gone too far. I was in the car earlier and caught Mr Peston on the radio talking to Eddie Mair on the PM programme about what tie he intended to wear to the Mansion House! Perhaps it was the clash of his pink with George’s black that decided the editors we needed more of Robert and less of the Chancellor. I for one could have done with more of Osborne, and I don’t say that every day.
The political backdrop to the speech, yet again, was the financial crash, and the successful operation Cameron and Osborne have mounted to portray all of the country’s economic woes as the consequence of Labour profligacy.
Last week, when doing a bit of research for a TV appearance, I came across a couple of figures which require wider ventilation. The proportion of debt in the economy in 1997 was 42.2 per cent. A decade later, it was 36.2 – a fall of six per cent through a decade of Labour government.
Then came the crash. I am not an economist, but those do suggest the deficit now being run is more a consequence of the crash, and the decisions that had to be taken to protect banks, jobs and savings, not of Labour over spending across the piece.
The Tories successfully ran this line about ‘sorting out the mess we inherited from Labour’ while Labour were taking a long time to pick a new leader.
The Tories have done a very good job in making a weak argument stick, but Labour can still turn that argument around. Indeed, not just can, but must.
I look forward to the blog’s economic adviser, Olli from Finland, telling me whether I have got my facts right, and providing further advice and ammunition for this essential task for the Miliband-Balls team.