Bernard Ingham: Cameron save us from the economists

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BACK in 1984, I poured my heart into the script of a little play for Margaret Thatcher. She had agreed to present the Mary Whitehouse award for wholesome television to Yes, Minister and I thought that, instead of the usual speech, it would be better if she played herself in a sketch with Jim Hacker and Sir Humphrey.

And so she did, ordering them to abolish economists overnight. She said Sir Humphrey, an economist, would know where to start.

I recall this today not because I had by then had more than enough of economists but because they represent a threat to David Cameron’s second administration. They have a disastrous recent history. You will recall that 364 of the blighters wrote to The Times warning Thatcher that her housewifely economics would wreck the country. They have not forgiven her for proving them wrong.

Later that clever dick, Nigel Lawson, lost control of the economy by shadowing the deutschmark behind her back. Even I – no economist – knew the economy was far too slack and repeatedly said so to little avail.

Then she was driven into joining the Exchange Rate Mechanism against her will because, they said, it was economically crucial. I cursed them to hell and back when the economy began to come right after we were chucked out of the ERM in 1992 at enormous expense.

Then the Queen asked why nobody had warned her that the crash was coming in 2007-8. This is not to mention the £156bn budget deficit left by, among others, Ed Balls, who was described on the BBC after losing his Morley seat as the cleverest economist of them all. Ye gods!

And now we have the Scottish Nationalists – not to mention the Welsh and Ulster variety, plus the Greens – stuffed with gash debt-defying economic advice.

I present you with this catalogue of professional failure to make one simple point. Over the next five years we could well do without economists’ pretensions. Instead, we need the unrelenting application of housewifely economics to get us back into the black and paying off debt.

Thank God George Osborne is staying at the Treasury and Balls will not be his Labour shadow.

Housewifely economics is, of course, the last thing those nasty, deluded economic illiterates from Scotland have in mind. They want borrowed English cash sprayed by the billions across their land. Since there is no reasoning with them, we can expect moves for a new independence referendum soon. Keeping the realm united while pursuing the Holy Grail of a balanced budget may well prove to be the supreme challenge of Cameron’s second term.

His second test is the promised EU referendum. Economists, unenterprising tycoons, Celtic nationalists and the Europhile fifth column in this country will creep out of every hole and fissure to argue that quitting Europe will bring disaster on our heads. It is, of course, nonsense.

Cameron needs to demonstrate – as if our economy compared with the Eurozone’s were not case enough – that a free-trading and constructive Britain without the political straitjacket of a federal United States of Europe is in everybody’s interests.

For the rest Cameron needs to keep the jobs flowing, staunch the inrush of immigrants, revise constituency boundaries to make Westminster a more representative chamber, prove conclusively that the NHS is safe in his hands and promote a more disciplined society which accepts personal responsibility for its conduct. That would rapidly improve state education.

All this could, however, be wrecked if we have a series of bad winters. Ed Davey’s Liberal Democrat legacy is a National Grid crossing its fingers every autumn that we have enough electrical power to keep the country warm, lit and working.

With Davey looking for a job outside Parliament, there is at last hope that we might acquire a rational energy policy, if not for years a very necessary new nuclear component.

It won’t be easy. The SNP, like the Greens, has an unshakeable belief that an industrial economy can be run on wind, waves, tides etc. It is a mercy that the Greens still have only one MP – in Brighton – and UK-wide won a mere 3.8 per cent of last week’s vote. Like the SNP, representing only 2.75 million of Britain’s 63 million, they have fallen for manifest engineering and economic incompetence. It is, I fear, just what you might expect in those temples to eccentricity – Brighton and Edinburgh.

I can feel another play coming on.

THIS is what Sir Bernard Ingham boldly predicted in last week’s pre-election column: “I expect David Cameron to win a small working majority. If fate deems otherwise, this great nation of ours will soon break up with unfathomable consequences and become irrelevant through either stupidity or insanity.”