Wednesday, August 23, 2006


So Wrong to deny Brown Credit for Economic Success

Never expect gratitude in politics; at least not if your name is Gordon Brown. And ICM poll in the Guardian today, reveals that much of his work since 1997 has not been credited by voters for the success it has produced: 52 per cent say they do not think he has been responsible for the record of constant growth over nine years; and 55 percent do not think their families are better off since Labour came to power(though two thirds of the 41 per cent who do are Labour supporters).

Despite the fact that 59 per cent are confident in their financial position, 83 per cent believes it is now harder than in 1997 to find a house and 57 per cent harder to find a job. To cap it all 41 per cent think Labour's policies have made little difference to the state of the economy. Put simply, these are an extraordinary set of poll findings. My memory goes back to a series of economic mismanagements: in the sixties under both parties; during the seventies, again under both parties; two major recessions bookending the eighties under Thatcher(despite her 'brilliant' Chancellor, Lawson); a severe recession during the nineties under Major; and since 1997? Well...not.

Of course, the government can only exhort and exert influence on the economy to perform well but macro-economic policy can either make or break the degree of prosperity which the nation enjoys. Certainly Brown benefitted from an economy which had been well set up, by Ken Clarke after the serial failures of his predecessors, but to sustain growth in the face of turbulence like: the implosion of the Asian Tigers, the shares crash occasioned by the bursting of bubble, the various terrorist atrocities since 9-11 and the huge hike in oil prices caused partially by the rash of wars the world has suffered in recent years, is a political achievement to rank with the most astonishing since the end of the second world war.

Even Conservative politicians are prepared to recognise the Chancellor's expertise, so why should voters be so blindly determined to deny Brown his richly earned credit? I can think of a few reasons:
i) they have not warmed to the dour, undemonstrative Scot.
ii) they have become so used to a sound economy and low unemployment that they now take it for wholly for granted as a 'given' of daily life.
iii) they have not the slightest idea how the nation's economy works.
iv) they are so disillusioned with Labour after Blair's political mismanagement that they are not prepared to allow them even the slightest credit for anything at all. The Guardian's poll yesterday gave the Conservatives a nine point lead: 40 per cent to Labour's 31, so maybe this last explanation has more than a tiny slice of the truth in it. Whatever the reasons, it reflects crass ingratitude by voters and bodes ill for Brown's upcoming contest for the leadership, and, if he gets it, winning the next election.

All the reasons you list don't help Brown(especially the unfairness of the present constitutional arrangement), and I doubt most British people have a clue how the economy works(inspite of all those A-Levels). But you said it yourself. The big change came after the ERM fiasco after the election of 1992. The economy of 1997 was one of the few things the Tories could shout about. Clarke, for all his faults, had laid the foundations for economic properity for a decade to come.

Labour have done nothing more than manage it(allowing for increasing waste on public services), and are only now seeing a number of indicators heading south. You can't on one hand claim credit for tranforming the economy, and on the other blame the remaining issues on Law and Order on the "mess left by the Tories"(sic). The only thing Brown did was give the BOE independence. One lucky and rather obvious achievement. I am surprised so many people were ever inclined to give Brown any credit.

The next three years will be the test of Brown. Pressure on interest rates, unemployment on a steady upward trend, budget deficit widening...can't blame that on the Tories. You might think Labour will win the next election. I don't rate Cameron, but I think he looks better than 50% to beat Brown. And if Brown goes into that election with an economy in a slide then he has NO chance.
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