“We can do this the easy way or the hard way” Cameron said on Monday – and today, Brown finally agreed to do it the easy way. He seems to have dropped his Big Lie - that public spending will rise after the election. He’s doing it in stages, so today we had the rather wonderful claim that in 2013/14 it will rise “by 0%”. How does he produce this? We at CoffeeHouse aim to serve, and reveal the trick behind his latest Brownie here:
I gather there was a discussion about this in Cabinet yesterday where Brown was basically told to drop his lie because no one believes it and no minster wants to repeat it (I’m trying to get more info, and will update you as and when). Now, no-one should claim victory – Brown could always revive the lie later. And he’s still deeply uneasy: after PMQs his spokesman was asked to explain the concept of a "0 percent rise," and muttered something about spending envelopes. It appeared to me like he was genuinely unaware of the above statistical scam that Brown has deployed: to finally, reluctantly, at the point of Cabinet rebellion, agree to look at total spending in real terms; and then focus on the lowest cuts of those three years. While it shows up on the computer as 0 percent it is actually a fall – from £701m to £700m. So it should really be called a 0 percent fall, but no matter. Brown’s almost pathological failure to level with the public has created this wonderful “0 percent rise” line which I suspect we’ll see in the papers tomorrow.
We also saw a new position, repeated twice at PMQs today. Three weeks ago, he lied (yes, lied) that capital spending was rising in the year to the Olympics then falling. Last week, he admitted that it will fall. This week, he still hasn’t quite reconciled himself to the truth (this is such a struggle for the poor soul) and claimed it was falling after 2011. But he also said, in an earlier question, that it falls in 2010/11. The latter is right. This really is not rocket science – the below graph lays it out pretty clearly. Capital spending falls after this financial year:
So, when asked about total spending, Brown splits it: into so-called “current spending,” forecast to rise by an average 0.7% from April 2011 to April 2014, and then capital expenditure which - as he says - will fall. Even if he can’t quite squeeze the truth out of himself about when, exactly, it will fall.
Cameron was having fun today, and remarked mid-PMQs how weak Brown was. I will leave the assessment of their relative performances to Lloyd Evans, but I’d like to close on one final point. Cameron remarked how unemployment “unfortunately” will keep rising. Brown seized on this, claiming it was now “Tory policy” for unemployment to rise. Really? In which case, it is also Treasury policy for unemployment to rise. The below is an extract from Box C1 of Budget 2009, p221:
The Trasury is forecasting that claimant unemployment – a lower definition than normal ILO unemployment – is to rise by a third of a million. Is this Labour policy for this to happen? Of course not. How infantile of Brown to make such a ridiculous suggestion. The Budget is simply forecasting the sadly ineviatble result of the collapse of the failed Brown/Balls economic model. And no amount of verbal tricks can conceal that.