Millennium’s Credit Crunch Diary… March: Tax and Chocolate

I shall start with the MOST IMPORTANT news: People of Britain, friends, you can relax: despite an alleged “explosion of obesity” (why do the words “It’s wafer thin!” come to mind?) GPs have decided NOT to call for a tax on CHOCOLATE.

In the next few days Great Britain will be hosting the G20 Summit when lots of IMPORTANT world leaders – and Mr Frown, the Prime Monster – will be gathered together to decide what is THE SOLUTION.

So on the one fluffy foot, this diary could be OBSOLETE within 72 hours. But on the OTHER fluffy foot, when did a huge World Summit ever actually SOLVE anything?

But with April containing not just the G-Whizz summit but also Chancellor Sooty’s budget, much of March has seemed to be no more than PROLOGUE.

So, the prologue…

Actually, before we get to that, the start of the month was dominated by the introduction of a new national BLOOD SPORT: Hunt the Sir Fred Goodwin. Self-styled “Fred the Shred” and his incredible inflating pension – first it was £650,000, then it was £693,000, and then it was £703,000 and then he’s had three-million in cash up front. Mr Goodwin, aka Julius Goldstein (who says I couldn’t have won the Orwell Prize?!) became the latest national HATE FIGURE when it was discovered that he had personally caused the banking crisis, engineered global warming and, presumably, authored the Protocols of the Elders of Zion in his spare time.

Hard Labour’s leaderene-in-waiting-in-her-head Ms Harriet Harpic went furthest over the top, telling him about keeping his pension “don’t count on it”, before adding “I’ll be back” and “Hasta la vista, Sir Fred, baby”. Hilariously, Harriet “the Harminator” said that Mr Goodwin was unacceptable in “the court of public opinion”, an INTERESTING legal system and I think we’d all like to see how the Prime Monster and his Cabinet and Ms Harpic herself submit themselves to that court’s judgement (clue: call an election, Mr Frown!).

And then, having whipped up a LYNCH MOB, everyone acted SHOCKED and APPALLED when a LYNCH MOB turned up and smashed up Sir Fred’s house and car.

Anyway, the prologue…

Mind you, it’s been a SORRY month for Mr Balloon’s Conservatories, hasn’t it? As unemployment rose above two-million for the first time since, er, a Conservatory government, the Conservatories themselves demonstrated their PAUCITY of IDEAS by disinterring their “Britain isn’t Working” campaign from the NINETEEN-SEVENTIES. As a baby-elephant of the Twenty-first Century, my Daddies had to explain this to me: apparently the Conservatory solution to unemployment is to, er, TRIPLE IT.

In the absence of any real policies of his own, though, Mr Balloon continued with his stratagem of “make Mr Frown look like a nana” by issuing an “apology” for the Conservatories contribution to the recession. This turned out to be a “bankers apology” (see February!) i.e. “we’re sorry… but we’re not really” or “not worth the paper their money is printed on”. Closer examination revealed that he was NOT apologising for the deregulation of the banks that took place under Queen Maggie, allowing them to borrow recklessly from the international money markets and building in the DANGEROUS VULNERABILITY to a shortening of available credit terms – or, as you and I might put it, letting them get themselves in hock to the loan sharks for more than they could handle. Nor was Mr Balloon apologising for the parlous state of public services after nearly twenty years of Conservatory management that, at least in part, is responsible for Mr Frown’s positively BERSERK levels of spending to try and fix all the things they let fall apart. In fact, they weren’t EVEN apologising for the SHOCKING levels of national debt left behind by their last Chancellor, Mr Ken “Wanna Buy Some Ciggies” Clarke… whatever happened to him? You would think that at the very least they would admit to THAT little flaw given that they want to criticise the current Chancellor, Mr Frown, er Sooty, for doing the exact same thing (only more so).

Young Mr Gideon Oboe remains as the Conservatories Shadow Chancellor, tasked with making Mr Balloon look STUPID at every opportunity. This month the Conservatories were trying to pitch their economic team of Mr Oboe and Mr Clarke as “wisdom and experience”. But which one is Mr Oboe supposed to be? Anyway, it all blew up in their faces with Mr Clarke’s off-the-cuff remark about Master Gideon’s ONLY policy – let’s bung three-hundred grand at dead millionaires – being (I paraphrase, slightly) no more than a self-indulgent whimsy dreamt up to keep the Daily Hate Mail happy but only an economic illiterate or a complete fantasist would believe that it was deliverable during this crisis.

Mr Clarke later RETRACTED this statement, issuing a correction to say that he fully supported the Inheritance Tax cut and it would definitely, definitely happen sometime in the first five years of a Conservatory government. Along with free unicorns for everyone who believes in fairies.

And as if that wasn’t bad enough, another round of revelations about MPs expenses – with Hard Labour’s Minister McNumpty, Hard Labour whip Ms Dawn Butler and prominent Hard Labour backbencher Mr Harry Cohen all coining in the Second Home Allowance – rebounded on the Conservatories too, with their Party Chairperson Mr Eric “In A” Pickles SPECTACULAR self-immolation on Questionable Time.

But anyway, the prologue…

Although, having said all that, DOING the ECONOMIC SPLITS was something of a THEME of the month too. E.g. in a typically Hard Labour gesture towards DOUBLE-THINK, inflation managed to both rise AND fall at the same time.

Okay, to be more accurate, the measure of inflation that includes house prices and mortgage interest fell to zero for the first time, while the rate of inflation that doesn’t include those, and so measures more everyday purchases like food and clothes, went up.

This, of course, is BAD news for people who don’t have houses and a DOUBLE WHAMMY for people on benefits and pensions that are pegged to the RPI (house-price-inclusive) inflation rate, who will see no rise in their income but huge rises in the cost of food and fuel.

But I am TIP-TOEING around the REAL issue: the SPLIT OF THE MONTH was between Mr Frown and the Governor of the Bank of England, Mr Mervyn “The Paranoid Android”.

Mr Frown has been flying the world, racking up those air miles – and that carbon fluffy-footprint – in order to try and get everyone to agree that his method is BEST: borrow more and spend more. Meanwhile, back at home, the Governor has been looking at Mr Frown’s credit card bill and saying “tut tut tut”.

The first rule of politics is: never believe ANYTHING until it’s been officially denied.

Of course, Mr Frown DENIES that there is any RIFT between them:

“I’m saying we have to spend more and the Governor is saying we can’t, and I see no contradiction in that.”

And Chancellor Sooty has been going round saying how he COMPLETELY AGREES with both Governor AND Prime Monster, even though they’re saying the EXACT OPPOSITE, and that there’s CERTAINLY no divide. At the same time, he’s rowing backwards as fast as he can from Mr Frown’s policy of “Fiscal Stimulus II: This Time We’re Bankrupt!”

In a sign of just how MAXED-OUT the national credit card really is, the Government failed to sell all the I.O.U’s it wanted to issue this month, raising just £1.63bn out of a hoped for £1.75bn. We’re not QUITE into Northern Rock territory yet, but the markets ARE showing a distinct reluctance to lend to Her Britannic Majesty. What happens when they say “no” altogether?

At the same time, people are starting to ask: “just WHERE has all this financial stimulus GONE?”

Hard Labour have been challenged over their EDUCATION spending: college building projects have been promised, then pulled; while universities are demanding those tuition fees that Hard Labour promised not to introduce (and Liberal Democrats still promise to abolish) should be increased to a painful £5,000 a year or even a POSITIVELY EYE-WATERING £20,000 a year.

Hard Labour have been challenged over their GREEN spending: of the rich nations, we’ve invested LEAST in clean, green technology.

All investment in the future just TOSSED AWAY.

But let’s get back to the prologue…

Although hang on, I’ve just got to say that the Liberal Democrats REMAIN the ONLY party who are facing up to this crisis and making actual proposals: the Liberal Democrats’ Economic Recovery Plan and now the Liberal Democrats’ G20 development plan.

At home: meaningful tax cuts for low and middle earners; investment in education and green technologies for the future; rescue the banks, turn them around and return them to the high-street under proper regulation.

And worldwide: a renewed commitment to the Millennium Development pledges and the Gleneagles promises; and a new Global Stimulus, investment targeted on environmental action, private enterprise and food, to make sure that NO ONE is LEFT BEHIND.

At our Harrogate Conference back at the start of the month, Liberal Democrat Leader, Mr Clogg, called on people to turn to US in the crisis, for we alone carry the torch of hope for the future.

“A never-ending cycle of red-blue, blue-red government has got us into this mess – it is never going to get us out. Try something new.”

At the same conference, Mr Vince “the Power” Cable, Shadow Chancellor, was warning – ahead of the Governor of the Bank of England – that we cannot just keep spending money that we don’t have on things that we cannot afford, flagging up foreign adventurism as one target, but also Hard Labour’s target of getting 50% of the population into university as another.

More recently, Mr Clogg has had to postpone a pledge to cut the overall level of taxation. I have to accept this as PRAGMATIC, though I am sure that there are a few – mentioning no names, but it’s the ever-thought-provoking Ms Charlotte Gore – who would like us to have kept the tax cutting card ON the table.

But look, I’ve got to get to the prologue…

And yet, let’s just have a think about this G-Whizz Summit first. If you THINK about it: the collapse of the Soviet Union demonstrated the FAILURE of massive central government intervention to direct the economy; the collapse of the Banks has demonstrated the FAILURE of massive PRIVATE control over the fundamentals of the economy too. So Mr Frown’s solution is to propose, er, a return to massive central government intervention to direct the economy. When it comes to creating the “New Economy”, this is not exactly reinventing the POT NOODLE.

The real driving force of the economy is as it has always been the entrepreneurship of INDIVIDUALS creating SMALL BUSINESSES. Yes, I know what they say: the easiest way to build a small business in Britain today is to start with a LARGE one… but that is a JOKE. Liberals have ALWAYS represented the entrepreneurial citizen against the lazy domination of inherited wealth and privilege (the natural constituency of the Conservatories and nowadays the dearest chums of Hard Labour). And it’s always paid rewards for the country (some might even say the World!) to do so.

We need to be thinking about the workings of the economy in RADICALLY new ways.

The economy has been driven by the demand for more and more profit and bigger and bigger bonuses. And it’s been driven over a cliff. Profit and bonus culture leads to SHORT-TERMISM and HIGH RISK behaviour. We need to find ways to reward the ideas of SERVICE and QUALITY OF LIFE because these ideas help to promote SUSTAINABILITY.

We need to grapple with the idea that banking is basically a vital INFRASTRUCTURE, like water and electricity, like – arguably – the Post Office and Internet provision. We need an economy that both provides these things but also puts the power in the fluffy feet of the ordinary, small businesses up and down the country, and indeed across the world, and ultimately back in the fluffy feet of PEOPLE.

And now, I’ve just got time for the prologue…

But I’ll just slip in my RECOMMENDATION for the month first: it’s a quick plug for Mr Vince’s new book: “The Storm” aka “I don’t want to say I told you so, but…” If you want to find your way OUT of a mess it’s not a bad idea to know how you got yourself INTO it in the first place. Go and order it via the Amazon link on the Lib Dem Party website!

Right, finally, THE PROLOGUE…

[Stephen: and that’s all Millennium has time for this month!]

…HUMBUGS!

PS: Now read my diary!

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