Peter Hoskin

Debt Britannia

Debt Britannia
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The front cover of today's Mail should be stuck on the wall of every MPs' office in Westminster.  It spells out the scale of the national debt burden in the starkest possible terms: £2,000,000,000,000 in big red numerals, with a post-script translating that to £33,000 for every "man, woman and child" in the UK.

Thing is, the Mail's figures - based on the ONS's release yesterday - are probably a bare minimum.  We don't yet know full extent of the nationalised banks' liabilities; there's likely to be more debt-heavy government action over the next year or so; and Brown's off-balance sheet ruses will add to the burden faced by taxpayers, whether they're brought into the open or not.

For anyone with ambitions to be part of a future government, it's all a grim reminder of just how constrained they'll be. Debt of at least 147 percent of GDP will require some of the most radical fiscal tightening in British political history.