The Spectator

Lies, and damned lies

Tony Blair’s absence has not made the heart grow any fonder.

Tony Blair’s absence has not made the heart grow any fonder.

Tony Blair’s absence has not made the heart grow any fonder. On the not-rare-enough occasions when he returns to our television screens, one feels an instinctive revulsion. Here is the Prime Minister who was as uninterested in economics as he was in the conduct of warfare. He ceded domestic power to an incompetent and reckless Chancellor and he is now accepting £200,000-a-year jobs with the banks with whom his government worked hand-in-glove. No, there is no pleasure in seeing him again. Especially as Britain starts to focus on the mess which he bequeathed.

Mere numbers do not do justice to the financial crisis produced by the Blair-Brown era, or the economic quagmire from which Britain is still trying to escape. To listen to Gordon Brown, one would think that there is a binary distinction: that we were in recession, and we are now out of it and, ergo, out of trouble. In fact, Britain has simply passed the end of the beginning and this recession will be distinguished by how long we take to crawl back to where we once were. In our case, it will be three more years — perhaps longer still.

David Cameron has rightly dismissed Mr Brown’s projections as a fake ‘trampoline recovery’ — but this raises awkward questions which the Conservatives are not keen to discuss. The longer the recovery, the deeper the cuts will have to be — and the Tories may find it impossible, in office, to reduce the deficit faster than Labour. If so, then Cameron need not worry about the political reaction. The punishment from the bond markets (which supply £1 in every £4 spent by this government) will be swift and devastating.

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