Joanna Lumley gets A* for politics but fails economics


altNow is not a good time to be critical of Joanna Lumley.

The former New Avengers and Absolutely Fabulous star has been in the ascendant, recently, championing the "right" of Gurkhas to settle in the United Kingdom. In the process she has managed to facilitate a defeat for the Government in the House of Commons on a Liberal Democrat motion (the first time the Government has lost on an opposition motion since Jim Callaghan in 1978) and box Gordon Brown into a corner.

This is not the place to debate whether such a ³right² does or should exist. Suffice to say that in as far as a ³right² is an entitlement granted in law it is clear that no such right does exist, but that there may be a compelling case for creating such an entitlement, considering the sacrifices that these men were willing to undertake on behalf of the British people.

My concern, however, was triggered by a flippant retort that Ms. Lumley made in response to a question about the cost of admitting potentially thousands of Gurkhas. Asked how the government was supposed to find the alleged £1.4 billion required, Ms. Lumley paused for thought and then responded ³Borrow it!² She and those around her laughed, some a bit nervously.

And they should be nervous. The government has already shown a slipshod attitude to the public finances, with borrowing rising to an oceanic £175 billion (in which the cost of supporting the Gurkhas would, admittedly, be a mere drop). While debate may continue about the extent to which it is necessary for the government to bail out banks and support the economy, it is quite clear that borrowing money for discretionary spending is partly responsible for our being in this state in the first place.

What Ms Lumley¹s comment demonstrates is the extent to which a belief in lax fiscal discipline permeates the privileged classes. Rather than ask the tough questions about how much should be spent, by whom, and on what, they are all-too-ready to issue a few billion in bonds to pay for their favourite pet projects, and assume that one day it will all come right.

After her recent successes, a few enthusiasts started asking whether she should become Prime Minister. Perhaps. But let us hope she never becomes Chancellor.