Prime Ministers Questions was yet another example of the Punch and Judy style of politics that is so prevalent today. It is reminiscent of two schoolboys arguing over who’s dad is bigger or stronger, yet, these grown-up children in Parliament are the very people we are supposed to rely on to represent our interests. We are slowly becoming a laughing stock as our politicians consistently fail to represent our interests, whilst many are guilty of taking the public for a ride in terms of their expense claims. Even the Ayatollah Khamenei believes that he is entitled to sit in judgement of the people of this country based on his views of our political leaders.
Yesterday, Brown and Cameron swapped blows regarding the level of capital spending in the UK over the coming years. Brown is quite clearly guilty of a deliberate attempt to mislead the public. It is self-evident that capital spending is being reduced, even if this is as a consequence of this government bringing forward capital projects from future years, which inflates the current spend, but has the effect of reducing the amount available in future years. Some would argue that this is quite a reckless policy, especially given Brown will almost certainly not be in power when someone else has to deal with the fact that there is nothing in the kitty. Mind you, that has become a fairly common trait with Labour government, their spend, spend, spend policy invariably leaves a Conservative government to clean up the mess.
Meanwhile, whilst Cameron has Brown on the ropes, he lacks the courage to state the bloody obvious and that is, we have no choice but to reduce public spending. Tax receipts are down, public sector spending is out of control, the economy is contracting and more and more people are becoming an economic liability, rather than an asset as a consequence of increasing unemployment. I would have more respect for David Cameron if he was to demonstrate that he has the courage and moral rectitude to come clean with the public. Instead of highlighting Brown’s lies ( after all we all know that he is a stranger to the truth), Cameron ought to be outlining why there is a need to reduce public spending and how they intend to do it if elected. Instead, he is allowing Brown to dictate what the “10% Tory cuts” amount to, using the classic New Labour trick of emotional blackmail, less for pensioners, less for the NHS, less for the Police etc.
Apart from the fact that most people already understand that we are in for a tough few years, Cameron also has the OECD stating that the Treasury figures for the UK economy are at best optimistic, but more likely completely wrong. He has the rating agency Standard & Poor making veiled threats to reduce the UK Plc credit rating unless the government gets it’s house in order and puts in place a concrete plan to reduce public debt. And, now, he even had the governor of the Bank of England stating that “scale of the deficit is truly extraordinary” and usggesting that the government should be more ambitious with their debt reduction plans. In other words, Cameron has some very powerful people or organisations supporting the notion that our economic situation is dire and we need to reign in public spending, yet he still lacks the courage to take the bull by the horns. It is this lack of backbone, even when the odds are in his favour, that leads me to doubt Cameron’s ability to offer the strong leadership this country needs to get itself out of the mess created my New Labour’s social engineering project.
Apart from public spending cuts, there is also a need to look at whether we are getting value for money from our public services. For example, in spite of the fact that we have record numbers of police officers, the number of front line bobbies (I have excluded PCSO’s) is but a tiny fraction of the 156,000 officers that are employed. Crime is rising not falling and police openly admit that they consider their job to be the investigation of crime, rather than the prevention.
The NHS has received a massive increase in spending. To fund this all UK workers were surcharged an extra 1% on their entire earnings and employers were charged an extra 1% of their wage bills. This added £billions every year. This burden on employers and employees will increase by a further 0.5% shortly. Yet, in spite of the enormous amounts raised to invest in the NHS, new build was financed using PFI, a hugely expensive way of funding new hospitals, and much of the money went into higher wages, not improved services. Now that the NHS have identified that there may be a real term reduction in the NHS budget, we are threatened with ward closures and increased waiting lists. In other words, the NHS are holding us to ransom, instead of investing the money wisely, they simply spent it. There is a subtle difference in my terminology, but a huge difference in practice.
Take the money being wasted on spy databases. £billions have been committed to IT infrastructure projects, most of which have not been thought through, many have contracts that amount to a blank cheque in terms of costly overruns and to be frank, most are simply not needed. This is not a wise investment of our taxes at a time when the country can least afford a spendthrift policy. It is also worth noting that many of these contracts do not benefit UK companies.
The list goes on and on. That notwithstanding, it is so bloody obvious to most people what we need to do, that to tell us different is patently insulting. Unfortunately, our politician’s still believe that we are not grown up enough to be able to handle the truth, so instead they either lie to us, or avoid being candid. My message to politicians of all parties is to stop treating us like idiots. They must tell us how they see the situation in unambiguous terms, what they believe needs to be done and how long they expect the pain to last. They must tell us how they will ensure that we get value for money and what they will do to ensure that tax increases are only be considered after all other areas have been exploited. If the people of this country and its politicians are not to be looked on by other countries as a bit of a basket case, then we need a man (and a party) with a plan.