Cameron and Osborne: whelk stall proprietors

Posted on

I am aware that some think I can be colourful in my description of the ConDems. But I have been enormously overshadowed this morning by no less a person that Samuel Brittan — hardly your archetypal radical. Writing in the FT he says:

David Cameron and George Osborne are behaving like owners of a whelk stall rather than economic managers of a nation with its own currency.

He by and large leaves the reader to work out why, but his reasoning is obvious. The UK is not a company, it’s a country. So it can influence its level of demand: a whelk stall can’t. It has its own currency, so it’s not Greece, because if you have your own currency you can’t default. It has its own central bank, from whom it can borrow endlessly, if it wishes. And he implies it should.

So, as he concludes:

We could live with an old-time religion Conservative Budget if the rest of the world stayed with sensible demand management. The real harm is that the British government has tipped the balance in favour of ill-timed financial austerity at gatherings such as the Group of 20. Even then there is some hope that the more pragmatic German and French leaders may make their austerity a matter of words more than deeds. And all is not lost so long as the Obama administration and China’s leaders stick to quasi-Keynesian policies.

The big guns are lining up to say the Tories have their policies hopelessly wrong. And still they’ll battle on. Which is why, no doubt, Brittan entitled his piece:

Are these hardships necessary?

I think the answer is self evident.