The third man


The newspapers and the opinion polls have called last night’s prime ministerial debate for David Cameron, generally with Nick Clegg in second and Gordon Brown in third. ConservativeHome’s average of the post-debate polls has Cameron on 37 percent, Clegg on 32 percent, and Brown on 26 percent. That more or less accords with my impression, although I thought Cameron’s victory was more by default than anything else. Clegg’s Mr Exasperation act is starting to wear a little thin now, while Gordon Brown just looks and sounds desperate, flailing away wildly at his opponents in the hope of striking a lucky final round blow.

On Radio 4 this morning, I heard someone describe Gordon Brown’s opening statement as amounting to the following: ‘I may go around insulting blameless old ladies, but vote for me anyway because I can manage the economy’. But does anyone really believe that? That Gordon Brown can manage the economy? It is, frankly, unbelievable that he still gets away with making that assertion. After all, every aspect of his economic policy over the last thirteen years – fiscal, monetary, regulatory – has been characterized by nothing less than abject failure.

Fiscal – we’ve had countless tax rises over the last decade, and yet we still have the biggest budget deficit in the developed world, and debts that will take generations to pay off. Monetary – the framework Gordon Brown put in place resulted in sustained double-digit growth in the money supply, stoked massive asset and house price inflation, triggered a financial crisis, and led to Britain becoming the world’s second most indebted industrialized nation. Regulatory – as well as sucking the life out of British businesses, especially the smaller ones without compliance and HR departments, Brown’s regulatory leviathan state failed utterly to prevent the collapse of the UK’s banking sector.

And he wrecked the best private pensions system in Europe, he sold gold at the bottom of the market and cost the country as much as Black Wednesday – I could go on, but do I really need to? If this is his idea of good economic management, then insulting old ladies is really the least of his problems.