What’s the time, Mr Wolf?

Half past kidding time.Time to kid again.

Except this is no playground game.

Two Sundays back, Malcolm was struck by Andrew Rawnsley’s opener:

What do the following have in common? Angela Merkel, cold weather, Ed Balls, Silvio Berlusconi, the wedding of William Windsor and Kate Middleton, British civil servants, Brussels bureaucrats, people concerned about global warming, employment tribunals, trade unions, banks, bank holidays, Liberal Democrats, energy prices, Gordon Brown and the world?

The answer is that they have all been deployed as excuses by members of the government for why the economy is so dire. The proliferation of alibis offered by ministers, and their inability to stick to the same one, is a symptom of increasing desperation about the unravelling of their economic strategy.

That is now quite a meme among columnists, and here is Martin Wolf, in his blog for the FT, reprising it as a punch-line

The big facts are that the UK is set for a lost decade and a longer period of stringency than expected. The government’s position is that there is no alternative. That has now become a self-fulfilling prophecy. So blame foreigners: that always works.

Wolf’s piece is devastating, and particularly so since it is delivered from the highest financial platform in town. What Wolf was saying, far more eloquently than Malcolm’s gloss, is tomorrow’s orthodoxy:

  • that Osborne was the warm-up: the main event was the OBR report down-grading “growth” predictions — we have, in effect “lost” 3.5% of 2013’s GDP between last March and now, and with it one huge whack of “structural” deficit;
  • that what is on offer from Osborne is regressive (the burden falls unconscionably on the poor), and moreover
    • that “credit easing” is less about boosting the economy than lowering borrowing costs — which puts into proportion that swagger about the disparity between UK and German borrowing costs,
    • and that the British obsession with a “property-owning democracy” skews the economy by throwing money at domestic bricks-and-mortar when the Germans prudently put it into industrial investment;
  • that any Treasury plan to restructure or, in the current argot, “rebalance” the economy has given way to gimmickry — in other words, eighteen months into this ConDem thing, the government has completely lost the plot.

In all that, Wolf manages a vicious swipe at the Thatcherite “right-to-buy”:

why should gifts be made to people fortunate enough to live in social accommodation? This is not really a “right to buy”. It is a right to loot.

Any time now Cameron will start considering his “legacy”, that specious divide between the failed politician and the venerated statesman. About the same time Osborne will be looking for his ace-trump to see off Blasted Boris in the Tory inheritance stakes. As things stand, all either will be remembered for is that massive embuggerance of Britain’s “lost decade”, of which the main beneficiary will be Alex Salmond and the SNP.

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