Fraser Nelson

The kiss of death | 19 November 2010

The kiss of death | 19 November 2010
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Oh dear. On Wednesday night, we at The Spectator saw David Cameron handing Lord Young his Spectator/Threadneedle Parliamentarian of the Year in the category of Peer of the Year. “Over the decades,” said yours truly, “Prime Ministers have come to value his advice. As Thatcher put it: ‘other people bring me problems, David brings me solutions.'” Not any more - David has brought him a problem, followed by a resignation. Less than 48 hours after picking-up our award, his political career appears to be at an end.


It is true that there are some people who have had a “good recession”. That is: faced no danger of losing their job and saw the cost of their mortgage collapse as part of the monetary stimulus. You could see them buying rounds on a Friday two years ago: the people whose tracker mortgage was fixed to the base rate (sometimes below the base rate) and who had just enjoyed the equivalent of a 30 percent pay rise. They were watched enviously by those with a fixed-rate mortgage and a vulnerable job in the contracting private sector.


But on the whole, life is tough for the “vast majority” of whom Young spoke. What staggers me is how someone as smart as Lord Young could refer to a “so-called recession” when it is - by any definition - one of the worst in modern British economic history. A million private sector jobs disappeared (over a period that quarter of a million public sector ones were added) and that’s not a margin of error.


But the key to understanding why this recession is so bad is the misery index, and Allister Heath sounded the early waring in a cover story a few weeks ago. This penny hasn’t quite dropped in Westminster, where ministers still think unemployment will be the problem (it won’t - the private sector created 3,800 new jobs a day in Q3 of his year, as the public sector headcount fell). They can’t control inflation or private sector pay, but that’s what causing the misery: prices are going up, and salaries are being frozen.

That’s why broadcasters are finding such trouble finding anyone who agrees with what Lord Young had said. It’s economic nonsense, as well as strikingly insensitive. I suspect he’s more embarrassed about his faulty metrics than the language he used. When presenting the awards on Wednesday, I said that the winners usually go on to achieve great fame or notoriety – and that our guests should guess which. I suspect no one had Lord Young down as being the next unexploded bomb in the government. As Cameron said on the night: shit happens.