Henry Forth writes from Whitehall, London: Not quite sure why I always talk about ‘my bank’, as if my name is Barclays or NatWest. I’m insignificant. I’m just a customer.
Anyway, this week, the cashier said while putting a windfall (first win of the season) into an almost zero per cent savings account that I should spend it instead of banking it. Now, here’s the thing: on the very same day the cashier gave me that piece of advice, that number-crunching man’s crumpet, Christine Madeleine Odette Lagarde, MD of the International Monetary Fund, dropped a note to the British Chancellor, baby-faced George Osborne, telling him to spend big or otherwise UK Plc would be really on the breadline.
But there’s more to this excitement. Lo and behold, I come out of my high finance headbang and there is David Cameron saying that Austerity will be with us until 2020 at least. So it’s not just the poor. Here I am, with the winnings, and I don’t know where to put them. Why should this be?
It goes something like this: public sector net borrowing is up. The latest figure is £14.4 billion. Or is it trillion? No one knows these days. The government experts said it was going to be just £13.4 billion. Or trillion. These cosmic figures mean nothing to most of us but they show that the so-called ‘analysts’ should get another day job – for all our sakes.
It gets worse.
One guy in the Treasury said our economic woes were caused by too many public holidays. Excuse me, mate, but what the hell are you blubbering about?
You’d think by now that the Treasury where the sneaky U-turner Osborne sits, would have sorted these difficulties out. Mm? After all he and his fellow Bullingdon Bully-Off are pretty smug about their handling of the economy and the rest of Europe still scratching their heads. But not a bit of it.
The Office of Budget Responsibility forecast is up the creek without an economic paddle worth sculling. One of the officials in that fiscal dungeon said: ‘This is volatile data and is prone to revision.’ In other words, they don’t know.
But the really amazing OMG is that the government now thinks that we aren’t paying enough tax. So what’s new about that, I hear. Apparently corporation and income tax receipts are down although VAT income is up. Isn’t that what was happening in Greece and what Cameron et al were sneering at?
So what happened to the Budget that was going to put the UK back on course? Simples, old fruits. Osborne produced his budget in the spring when prospects looked better. But did they really look better, more positive, full of hope? You don’t believe that. I don’t believe that. No one believes that.
You see, the cashier in my bank and the Truly Dreamingly Amazingly Wonderful Lagarde know numbers and said the Budget red book numbers didn’t balance. George did not believe them. And now he is paying the price. Or rather, we are paying and he is not.
I cannot believe for one moment that The Great British Chancellor, who sits quietly, waiting to shift to Number Ten when his bestest friend falls (as he hopes), guessed the numbers were not quite up to snuff but talked them up. Wonder if he banks with Barclays?