Oh God not again! That is all I could think last night when I had a brief flick around the channels and saw some crap about a big public spending versus cuts row. The "not again" as not because of the so-called "dividing line" but because of the rank bullshit that was yet again emanating from the mouth of the Government that essentially takes everyone for fool by playing with figures.
It started during PMQs with Brown denying what his own Chancellor's budget says by reeling off a list of increasing number and shouting about how he was leading a Government that was going to increase public spending over the next few years, whilst the evil Tories were going to cut by 10%, inevitably leading to disingenuous theorising of school closures etc etc.
Sadly, this sort of crap politicking is what the general public have to put up with as "debate" these days. We had it in 2005 as well when, using figures based on money we didn't even have, and by adding up over a period of five years, it turned into a Tory spending cut of
The reality of the situation of course was that the Tories were saying they would increase spending each year just not as fast as Labour, and thus the shortfall between the two projected figures was portrayed as a cut. It was pathetic then, and this time, with a slight twist it remains pathetic.
This time round it's once again about figures and money over a period that we don't even have yet. This time round though we have a big thing called national debt and interest added in, not to mention inflation on prices. What Brown is doing is taking everyone for idiots when he says,
Public spending this year is £621 billion; it rises next year to £672 billion—that is this financial year. It then rises to £702 billion, then to £717 billion, then to £738 billion and then to £758 billion. Those are public spending rises.Yes, the figures on spending are rising, but there is something important that hidden by the figures called "real terms".
Just because the bottom line figure is increasing you have to ask yourself, where is it being spent? In the case of Brown's figures, he increasing the figure in order to cover the increased borrowing debt interest. Throw on top that a pound will buy you less each year, and you can quite easily have a cut in spending per department whilst making it look, in the bottom line cash figure terms, that you have increased your spending. Here's the Government's real figures.
The most hilarious thing though is that the figures, Tories, Labour etc, are all pie in the sky anyway. They're based on an "all things being equal" assumption about the state of things after April 2011 - although at least the Tories are being honest about it. That's 21 months away, and lets be fair, on past performance Gordon Brown's projections are worthless anyway.
If you don't believe or want to accept that and still think he was the "Iron Chancellor" then I draw new readers attention to the graph below which old readers may remember. This plots what Brown predicted the level and path of debt would be in his Budget against what actually happened. The dotted line is the direction he said debt was heading in the coming years, whilst the solid line shows the true path of debt based on his own figure for the given year.
Brown consistently did the opposite of what he said he was going to do year on year, either deliberately or because he's just stupid. So when he stands up in Parliament and rattles off projected figures, they should be taken with a pinch of salt anyway.
The Svengali sleight of hand trick may have worked once, but it simply doesn't wash anymore. Of course, this won't stop Brown trying to make the so-called "dividing line" one that is a complete pile of tosh. Nothing beats a good bit of tub thumping and screaming about comparing two sets of projected figures and extrapolating the closure of schools from it.
The dividing line at the next election is not one of spending versus cuts. Both parties are saying they will cut spending, that is a fact. The dividing line is actually a choice between the following,
"you know what guys, we're pretty fucked, and just like you in your every day life, we're going to need to get the finances under control by cutting back on some things we may have got used too. The figures we have are the figures we have to work with, lets hope it all goes well."Or,
"you know what guys, everything is just peachy, we're all going to be fine and we wouldn't dream of cutting anything like the baby eating hospital closing bastards over there, just don't do the maths or actually read our figures alright? Leave it all to us little ones. Trust us, this mess isn't of our making you know."The worst thing is about all this is that it is so rare for anyone to actually challenge Brown on what he says. I dream of the day when someone in the audience of something like Question Time calls him on his bullshit. Sadly though we all know what will happen, everything will be deflected as politically motivated if you don't agree with him.
Fraser Nelson tried to take him on, and whilst he did nail him, just look at the way Brown responds. Look at the guarded smile when the figures that he knows are true are presented to him. Look at his body language. He doesn't like it and that because he knows he's spouting complete bullshit.
At a time when politics is held within complete contempt and trust is at its lowest anti-political edge, can it really be that one side is actively going around and actually lying to everyone in the hope that they won't notice?
Spending figures image from Conservative Home. Graph generated by Croydonian on commission by me.