A word of advice for George Osborne before he delivers his economic statement to the Commons … and before anyone shouts at me ‘why are you helping HIM???‘
1. He won’t read it, and
2. Even if one of his advisers does, he/she will be too busy to tell him, and
3. Even if they do tell him, George will ignore it.
The advice is this: don’t overdo the blame game.
What the country is looking for is real candour; an honest assessment of the world economy, and how the UK economy fits within it, and an honest analysis of where things have gone well and where things have gone badly since the coalition took power.
If he just stands there and says – I paraphrase – ‘we inherited a mess (sic), the deficit was the Number 1 target, but because of Europe and because of the mess being even bigger than we thought, we have not really meet our objectives, but hey ho onwards and upwards,’ with a few little sweeteners for what the BBC last night called ‘new two-year olds’, he will be politically damaged in a possibly defining way.
Looking at the OECD report which set the stage for today’s statement, they point in the main to these factors for the worse than expected performance of the economy, and the worse than expected figures Osborne will set out: rising unemployment, a fall in living standards, government cuts and the eurozone crisis. To at least three of those, a link can directly be traced from the decisions David Cameron and George Osborne made and launched with such confidence when they took office.
Their stance has been consistent – that the cuts were was the only way to get the deficit down, and that the private sector would fill the gap (never explained how). Labour’s stance has been consistent too – that they were cutting too far and too fast and that they risked another recession. Labour’s stance will be vindicated today. Osborne’s will not.
He asked to be judged on his reduction of the deficit. By any measurement, today’s statement will show that he has failed. If he tries to blame it all on Labour, or on Europe, or the weather, or the Royal wedding, or the Japanese earthquake, he will add political failure to the economic failure which can only be met by a change in economic strategy.
And he won’t do that either. Bad day all round.