Can Gordon Brown keep blaming it all on the credit crunch ? Gordon Brown's eight mistakes of his own creation

Labour officials, particularly the dreadful Harriett Harman, are doing the rounds of TV and radio trying to put the blame for all that is happening to the Labour Party down to economic woes from abroad.

Whilst it is true that there are severe global issues have caused the UK lots of problems, which in turn have made Gordon Brown and Labour unpopular, it is worth looking at each incident in the last 12 months to examine just how much fault can be laid at the door of Gordon Brown.

1) A government of dither - A year ago Gordon Brown had a substantial poll lead and Labour sources let it be known that an election was imminent. Suddenly though Labour called it off, almost frozen in the headlights Gordon Brown looked like a man who did not know his own mind and this has become his image over the last 12 months. A man feigning a smile and a man who does not really know what to do.

Verdict - This cannot be blamed on international financial problems.

2) The Credit Crunch - Whilst it is easy to dismiss this as a global phenomenon, and it is, Gordon Brown is in part to blame of the implications it will have on the UK. It was Gordon Brown who as chancellor let UK financial institutions make a massive investments in to the sub prime market and let the UK be more over exposed than it might have been. Similarly the UK's over dependence on credit in order to keep Gordon Brown fake boom going has made matters worse. House prices were allowed to get as a high as possible by Brown and Blair in order to fool people in to thinking they were well off with no view as to the consequences of a house price drop and all the implications of negative equity.

Verdict - Gordon Brown's actions over the previous 10 years mean that the credit crunch is worse in the UK then it might have been had we not been more "prudent".

3) Northern Rock - For the first time in decades a UK bank had a run on it. Why ? In great part due to dithering from the government and as mentioned above, a lack of financial control from the Treasury (led by Gordon Brown) in controlling Northern Rock's exposure to sub-prime. I listened to Robert Peston, the BBC Radio business correspondent who said that he had said 12 months before the Northern Rock's collapse that it would happen and he was not alone. Why didn't the Chancellor see this too ?

Then there is the issue of how the mess was dealt with. Gordon Brown dismissed the Liberal Democrats view that the Northern Rock mess should be dealt with quickly and, if necessary this meant a quick nationalisation. The Labour party, like the Tories, had no answer, but unlike the Tories, Labour needed to come up with something. Instead they waited several months before finally adopting the proposal the Lib Dems put forward in the first place. And throughout these months of dithering the population's faith in the UK economy dwindled.

Verdict - Northern Rock was avoidable (if Gordon Brown had dealt with it as Chancellor) and could have been sorted out a lot sooner, without worrying the public so much and lead to recessionary fears. This is NOT all the the fault of world financial markets.

4) Recession - Again, this is blamed by Labour on world problems. The truth is though that in the good times Labour failed to make savings which means now, when the economy needs a boost from tax cuts and the housing market needs to be stabilised, there is no money left to do these necessary things. This means that recessions is now more likely than not.

Verdict - Brown failed, when chancellor to make plans financially for the bad times. As it stands now we have no money to dig us out of the financial hole.

But is is not just the economy that has rocked confidence in Labour, there are other clearly domestic issues.

5) Sleaze and finances - Peter Hain, Harriett Harman, Wendy Alexander and dodgy loans, in short Labour have been the architects of their own downfall. Despite worse from Conservatives in recent months, Labour's brand, so early on in the tenure of Gordon Brown was not so much tarnished as scratched. No matter how much you clean a scratched badge, you can always see the scratches. That's why Tony Blair got a new badge, "New Labour", but for Gordon it is too late.

Verdict - Labour can't blame this in international events.

6) Bad policy and a lack of ideas - When Labour stole the Tories "non dom" tax ideas and swiftly raised inheritance tax thresholds, they could barely contain their delight at seeing the Tories policies being swiped from under there noses. The problem is though that this again sowed further seeds of dither in the minds of the electorate and actually made the Tories look more credible. Brazenly stealing the opposition's policies does not make a government look clever, it actually makes them look silly whilst at the same time giving credibility to the opposition. The "non-dom" plans in itself is not a particularly good policy, but Labour must take the blame.

Verdict - A mess of Labour's own making.

7) Taxation plans and the budget - I cannot remember in all my years a series of budget announcements being so wholly out of step with the economic climate and a taxation policy that has been so uniformly criticised as Labour's 10% tax fiasco. At just the time when the poorest needed the most help, Labour decided to take money from them to give to the better off. This alienated traditional Labour voters across the country. But then Labour exacerbated their dithering reputation by providing a temporary solution that actually gives money to the poorest for a short time, but also gives more money to those who had already been made better off by the budget in the first place. And with it all times to make Labour look good before the Crewe and Nantwich by-election it looked so staged and party political that it won over nobody to the Labour cause, as the resulting by-election proved.

Then there were the plans to raise tax older cars, which Labour MP's have suddenly woken up to the fact will mean that older voters and those who cannot afford new cars will have to pay in greater numbers than the richer in our society. Who do these policies alienate ? Just about everyone.

Verdict - Mess after mess of Labour's own creation. He cannot blame this on economics and world markets.

8) Personal Data Losses and ID cards - I know you can't blame Gordon Brown for the loss of personal data on a massive scale, but you can understand why the public are being turned off Labour on a grand scale by Labour's reaction to the data loss.

After the loss of data for several tens of thousands of Standard Life customers as a result of a government department losing a disk, the government issued a strong statement saying that systems and processes would be changed immediately to ensure that this could never happen again, yet literally just days later the details of 25 million people were lost because what the government told us was not acted upon and was not true.

Given these catastrophic errors, one might expect the government to say that any plans to centralise data in one place and to introduce an ID card scheme would be shelved or reviewed. but no. This government is going full steam ahead and to hell with the data losses.

Is it any wonder that people who worry about civil liberties, people who used to look to Labour to provide them and safeguard them are now turning away from Labour.

Verdict - Labour have not got a clue about protecting our data and this shows the electorate that they are not reliable. It all feeds in to the public perception of a government that is not governing and is not in control. This cannot be blamed on the international credit crunch.

If we take any of these events in isolation, they would not have much affect on Gordon Brown. But taken together, they have holed him below the water line. But for Labour and Brown to constantly say that his unpopularity and the Tory lead in the polls is all the result of international markets and the credit crunch is simply not true.

The truth is that a distinction has to be drawn between the political mess that Labour are in and the economic mess the country may be faced with. The economic mess might not be of Labour's doing (although their policies, as I have shown, have done little to help and may make things worse). But Labour are clearly in some sort of electorate meltdown, and it is the result of Gordon Brown and the Labour Party's own doing. Simply dismissing this reality seeks to make out that the electorate are fools and will only serve to make the problem worse for Labour.

The sooner they realise that Gordon, not the economy is their biggest political problem, then that will be the time that Labour can start to look forward again.


Steve said...

You called it a 'non-*com' tax idea in the 1st sentence of 6.

These are not the only mistakes that Gordon has made. In no particular order, what about:
stealth taxes, especially NI and dividends to pension funds,
target culture for schools, huge increase in spend on dodgy management consultants and doctors salaries soaking up much of the extra spending on the NHS, renaging on promise to hold referendum on EU Constitution, AKA Lisbon Treaty, numerous expensive failed IT systems (not least in the NHS and MoD) destroying taxpayers money,
proliferation of the quangocracy that creates a culture of patronage in Parliament,
the failure of the New Deal and repeated other attempts to reduced the benefit claimant count which now (including job seekers allowance and incapacity benefit) has reached above three million,
persisting with ID cards.

Basically, Gordon has been a disaster as Chancellor, and only seemed to be competent because of a very favourable global environment. Now his pigeons are coming home to roost.

Letters From A Tory said...

Nicely spelled out, although thankfully the public's cynicism towards Brown has meant that he cannot get away with this rubbish anymore.

snowflake5 said...

Hmm - the chancellor "let UK financial institutions make a massive investments in to the sub prime market"? Are you saying that these private institutions asked approval from the Treasury as to which paper they should be invested in, and it's all the Treasury's fault?

Eeew, what a financially illiterate stance! Banks in the UK are private institutions. For those not sure that this means exactly, it means they can invest in anything they think may give them a profit, and lend to anyone they deem may make them a buck. Regulation mainly concerns the retail side (i.e. so that financial advisors don't miss-sell to the general public), and on the reserve side (reserve requirements and capitalisation requirements). But on investments, banks are as free to lose their shirt on sub-prime, or lending to South America, as individuals are to lose their money at the races or investing in shares in Barclays.

All investment comes with risk.

What you are proposing is that banks should be unable to make any investment decisions without consulting the treasury - i.e. you are proposing that the government carry the can for all investment decisions made by the private sector. As this exposes the taxpayer to huge liabilities, a system like that would end up with banks only being able to invest in cash and treasuries, and the end of capitalism as we know it (capitalism requires punts on unknown and high risk ventures, and losing money is a normal part of the process, only 1 in 10 ventures pays off). Is this really what Liberalism and Conservatism has come to?

Also, we are not in recession, sweetie. You need two consecutive quarters of negative growth for that.

Finally - I see you are parrotting the "saving in good times" line from the Tories. The "good times" were the 1990's. Labour only came into power in the last 90's, during which time the Tories had built a large national debt (they most certainly weren't saving in the "good times"). Govt debt was accelerating under the Tories towards '97 as they tried to buy the general election. The budget didn't go into surplus till 1998 under Labour. By 2000, Labour ran a surplus of 2% of GDP (the highest since the last 1940's). This decade has been rough all over the planet from 2001 onwards. Think about it. The US went into recession for eight months in 2001. Then fearing a double dip recession, they had to cut rates to 1% from 2003 through 2004 - levels not seen since the Great Depression. Does that sound like "good times"? They've desperately cut again to 2% - does that sound like good times? The USA, France, germany, Italy and Japan have all dipped into recession during this century - does that sound like "good times"?

If we had tight fiscal policy from 2001-2005, we too would have gone into recession.

Norfolk Blogger said...

The FSA could have regulated Northern Rock, the government could have made it clear to Northern Rock that they were in trouble some months before. There are methods "sweetie" (What a patronising phrase that is).

As for recession, if you don't beleive we are heading for one then please tell me where you buy your rose tinted spectacles from.

Some also might judge recession as when growth is less than inflation. Perhaps not an economists way of measuring, but a useful one for the rest of us.

donpaskini said...

This thing about 'we have no money to dig us out of the financial hole' is a Tory talking point, but there doesn't seem to be much truth in it.

Our debt/GDP ratio (which is just over 40%) is far lower than that of, say, France, Germany or the USA (all over 60%). So if the government felt that it was necessary to run a Keynesian fiscal policy and cut taxes or increase spending, financed through higher borrowing, to help the economy during these difficult times (as you seem to support), it has plenty of scope to do so.

And the reason that our debt/GDP ratio is so much lower than that of other countries, and hence why we have more scope for borrowing, is because of Gordon Brown's 'golden rules'.

What is true is that to borrow more requires breaking the golden rules, but since the golden rules are arbitrary and far lower than those of comparable economies, that seems a minor thing if it will help the economy, right?

Bill Quango MP said...

"If all the contractual liabilities associated with the government's public private partnerships were added to the debts the government has underwritten, it would push the ratio of debt to GDP to over 50pc."

Germany France and Italy suffered recession to the high price of their manufactured goods. Or if you like the high price of the Euro.
"August 15, 2003
Germany and Italy slipped into recession in the second quarter, as the economies of the 12 nations that share the euro stagnated, according to government reports published today"

Donpaskini and snowflake5 you can believe in Brown's famous Brownies or half or even quarter truths, or his totally disingenuous tractor figures if you want to.
Someone has to I suppose.

Otherwise he would just be a poor actor in a cheap suit, clunking meaningless figures unconvincingly to .. well nobody really.

Dan said...

donpaskini - you should have a word with what the civil servants are saying in the Treasury. You might not believe Nic but you'd be scared if you knew half the reality.