Thursday 21 June 2012

Heywood's Whitehall – no longer economical with the actualité


Top civil servant: Britain faces decade of cuts?

That's what it says in the Times:
The most senior civil servant in the country has warned of a decade of spending cuts.

Sir Jeremy Heywood said the Government was only a quarter of the way through its austerity programme, the BBC reported. Speaking to civil servants at Westminster, Sir Jeremy warned that spending restraint could last “seven, eight, maybe ten years”.

The Cabinet Secretary’s prediction echoes warnings by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) earlier this year that the Coalition’s austerity programme would be insufficient to bring the deficit down to “prudent” levels.
Prudent levels? Ten years of cuts?

Has Sir Jeremy gone native?

Has he forgotten the fine example of Sir-Gus-now-Lord O'Donnell who quite unmistakably told us that boom and bust had been abolished in the UK and that opportunities for all are available as a result? Now how is the unfortunate St Augustine supposed to lay his healing hands on the Governorship of the Bank of England?

There are entire countries currently voting against austerity – and presumably in favour of water running uphill – and Sir Jeremy chooses this moment, of all moments, to make it clear that if you get in the shower you're going to get wet?

Ed Miliband and Ed Balls are trying to build an opposition policy based on the idea that austerity is counter-productive and unnecessary. If Sir Jeremy insists that austerity is, quite simply, reality, what are the poor Eds to do?

How can they face François Hollande when he nips over to buy a flat in South Ken with his paramour Mme Rottweiler?

What do they say when Barack rings up for a spot of advice on the Presidential election campaign?

And most tragic of all, how are the Guardian supposed to fill their op-ed pages? Even 1,000 more Jimmy Carrs repenting would only raise a crummy billion pounds in extra revenue – a drop in the ocean, barely one-fiftieth of the annual interest bill on our national debt of a trillion pounds.

It wouldn't even help all that much if the Guardian themselves forswore their tax avoidance arrangements with Apax Partners and started paying their fair share.

Sir Jeremy – it's very brave of you, of course, very brave indeed, but what were you thinking of?

(Moody's poised to downgrade UK's banks – truth-telling becomes fashionable.)


Just to remind the younger readers how successful Gus was, running the economy with his glove-puppets Brown and Balls, the Times article says:
Despite the deficit-reduction programme, the European Commission predicts Britain’s deficit will reach 6.5 per cent of GDP in 2013, higher than any other EU state bar Greece with 8.4 per cent and Ireland at 7.5 per cent.
Not the ideal CV, surely, for the supplicant would-be next Governor of the Bank of England.


Poor Bloody Infantry said...

I think it was the Labour Home Secretary Charles Clark who tried the old "I'm the man who screwed it up, so I'm the best person to clear up the mess" ploy (to do with a thousand foreign criminals, including child rapists, being released without being considered for deportation). Given O'Donnell's key role in destroying Britain's economy, I wonder if his argument will be that he should be allowed a chance to finish the job.

The public sector really is a realm where actions seem to have no consequences.

David Moss said...

PBI, I think you're right, I mean the UK's economic performance under the ministrations of O'Donnell, Brown and Balls will take a generation to correct, we somehow managed to perform worse than 24 other EU countries, several standard deviations away from the mean, that took exceptional incompetence, granted, there should be "consequences", as you say but – and I think this is an important point – you've got to look at it in the round and that includes looking at it from Gus's point of view. He's a trained economist, like Chris Huhne, he's used to commanding, people listen to him and do what he says, and now that Cameron's eased him out, all that talent's going to waste, I mean what's he supposed to do? Alright, according to Eye #1316 he's got a Saturday job as strategic advisor to a Canadian firm of brokers (a Canadian firm of brokers? the indignity!) but he's in his prime, he needs something to do, a vehicle for his wisdom. It's not that important a job, Governor of the Bank of England, just setting interest rates every now and again, oh yes and soon they get back the little job of bank regulation, but Gus knows how to do that, and there was his inspired reform of Whitehall don't forget, um, you know he's a resource we can't ignore, how would you feel? ...

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