Bill Carmichael: Hey big spender, your politics are bankrupt

Jeremy Corbyn would bankrupt Britain, warns Jeremy Corbyn.

Jeremy Corbyn would bankrupt Britain, warns Jeremy Corbyn.

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SO to sum up this week’s Labour Party Conference, re-elected leader Jeremy Corbyn is promising higher taxes, more borrowing, state benefits for all and unlimited immigration.

Marvellous – just give that old money tree a good shake and we’ll all be rich!

Although I am delighted that thanks to socialism all our troubles are now over, I can’t help feeling a little confused.

I thought all of this was supposed to be very different to anything we’ve ever seen before – a brand spanking new brand of politics that will make us a fairer and nicer society.

So why do I have this overwhelming feeling of déjà vu – an insistent impression that we’ve all been here before?

Perhaps it is because, in their essence, Jeremy Corbyn’s tax and spend policies are much the same as those offered before him by Tony Blair and Gordon Brown – policies, which, let’s not forget, brought this country to the very brink of total economic collapse just eight years ago.

There are some key differences to be sure. The personality cult and Moonie-like devotion of Corbyn’s followers is frankly weird. You can’t imagine glassy-eyed disciples wandering around conference with a t-shirt emblazoned with the face of Gordon Brown, can
you?

And Corbyn’s victory has uncovered a nasty strain of misogyny and Jew-hatred in the dark heart of the extreme left, which judging by the behaviour of some delegates this week is a problem that is far from solved.

Corbyn is pledging £500bn for a National Investment Bank, about £10bn to renationalise the railways and heaven knows how much to restore student grants, build more houses, expand welfare spending and increase the living wage.

Some of these ideas might be potty and are delivered by Corbyn and his IRA-supporting Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell with a messianic gleam in their eyes – but are they really all that different to the Blairism they so
despise?

For example, Corbyn, like Blair and Brown before him, was very light on detail of how the country is going to pay for his long shopping list beyond a vague threat to increase corporation tax.

Blair relied on the economic boom unleashed under the Conservatives when the UK was forced out of the ERM to fuel increases in public spending, but Corbyn reckons squeezing the rich a bit more will provide the fund he needs.

It is nonsense of course – you could confiscate the wealth of half the country and it would not be anywhere near enough to fund his extravagant spending plans. In practice we know what would happen – middle earners would be absolutely hammered, as they were when Gordon Brown was Chancellor.

In his conference speech, Corbyn didn’t even mention the deficit – the difference between what we spend each year and what we earn – or the overall size of the debt, despite the fact that these are the biggest threats to our collective wellbeing and stability.

For Labour, the answer to the problems caused by excessive debt is always to borrow more money.

Overall debt is now at an eye-watering £1.7 trillion and we are adding to this figure with about £70bn of extra borrowing a year. It costs us around £40bn a year just to service the debt charges.

Despite all the talk of “austerity”, the undeniable fact is that public spending has continued to increase over the last six years and shows little sign of slowing down.

It simply cannot go on like this – we either restore some sanity to our public finances or risk a catastrophic collapse.

To be fair to Labour, the Conservative government’s record on deficit reduction is pretty dismal. Former Chancellor George Osborne failed miserably to keep his promise of eliminating the deficit by 2015 and the current administration has gone suddenly cool on reducing spending.

But regardless of which party is in power – and let’s be honest it looks like the Conservatives for the foreseeable future – the crushing problem of debt is not going to go away.

With banks in Italy and Germany seemingly on the verge of collapse, risking a contagion that would sweep across the English Channel, we are going to need more than a magic money tree to get out of this one.

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