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National politics

Brown can’t tell the truth

I haven’t been blogging much lately. It is hard to get fired up about writing about local issues, even London issues, when it seems like our whole economy is in freefall. Today I might have written about TfL’s trial of live CCTV on the buses but I just didn’t have the heart really. As I wrote back at the end of last month “we are going through a worrying, albeit temporary, crisis”. It looks like temporary is going to be the rest of this year and most of next year.

Today National Statistics published the debt figures for September.

As the BBC reported today borrowing is at a post war high. Remember that is at the end of the longest boom in modern history and at the start of our biggest financial crisis certainly since the early 1970s and probably since the 1930s.

Even today of all days our pernicious, lying prime minister cannot tell it straight. Watch this exchange in Parliament today. At 2:39 the prime minister says, without qualification, that “it is because we cut the national debt over the last few years”. If you look at the figures released today, the PSF8 table at the back, you will see that net government debt was £351 billion in May 1997 and is £645 billion today, pretty much double in nominal terms. As a proportion of GDP net debt was 42.5% in May 1997. Today it is 43.4%. Now whilst this is not much worse than May 1997 it is worse not better so Brown was lying point blank and in any case you would normally have to hope for an improvement after a continuous period of growth.

No doubt Labour’s apologists would point out that without Northern Rock that net debt as a proportion of GDP would be 37.9%, still lower than the ratio when Labour came to power. That is to ignore 11.5 years of growth since then and the fact that it was Brown’s regulatory regime that left the government holding the Rock baby.