Osborne over-reached himself badly in this last week, what with bare-faced lies, twisting of the figures to save his own skin but which no independent expert can validate, childish responses to well-placed questions which left him rattled and blustering, concealing his real underlying motive to take Britain back to the enfeebled state of the 1930s, insisting in every other breath that he has a long-term economic plan which is true only in the sense that it’s the wrong one, and now to cap it all taking on the BBC with accusations of ‘utter hyperbolic nonsense’. Yet he continues to dominate the landscape because the Opposition still does not have a recognisable alternative macroeconomic policy, their appeal to cutting less far and more slowly over a longer period does not present a convincing shift away from austerity, and above all does not go for the jugular that Osborne has handled the deficit disastrously with maximum pain to the country and minimum benefit because he’s fixated on decimating public services rather than generating sustainable growth (which his ‘recovery’ soon to fizzle out certainly isn’t).
Osborne has committed two classic economic howlers. He made the centrepiece of his policy in 2010 that he would eliminate the structural deficit by 2015. He has missed his target by 150%! Anyone in business who presided over a failure of such enormity would be out on their ear before they could say Sorry, not that Osborne would ever deign to make an apology. Second, the whole declared objective of his policy was to bring the deficit down year after year. The fact that the deficit is going up this year (despite Treasury fiddling of the figures) and will go up further next year would make any CEO in the real world jump before he was thrown out on his neck. So why doesn’t Labour go for his throat by putting down a censure motion on him as the biggest failed Chancellor in modern times?
The answer to that, unfortunately, is that Labour is unwilling to play the one card which would sweep Osborne away. It has never made the obvious and compelling point that there are two ways to cut a deficit – by reducing expenditure or by increasing income. Alastair Darling chose the latter and by generating jobs and growth cut the deficit by £40bn in 2 years. Osborne immediately junked this successful policy and went heavy on austerity, with the result that the deficit will have come down by a meagre £12bn between 2012-15. Why doesn’t Labour hang that round his neck and demand an unqualified switch from failed austerity to highly successful growth? The economic record is irrefutable, Osborne has no answer except lies, bluster and fiddles, and it could swing the election.