Monday, 12 April 2010

The Elephant in the Room.

Posted by  Tania Kindersley.


Here is what no one has mentioned. I had to go and look it up. The British national debt is £780 billion.

Let's look at that another way. It is


Is there a reason no one is talking about that? Is it just one too many zeros? Is it because no one knows what to do about it?

The current economic argument is not about the debt, it is about the deficit. The deficit is about £160 billion. Compared to the debt, nothing. Small change. Pack of fags. Still, the best the parties can do is offer about £20 billion, tops, of reductions in that deficit. No one mentions that gnarly old elephant of the debt. It is like Fawlty Towers: for gawd's sake, don't mention the war.

Gordon Brown says that none of this is his fault. I know I am cross with him because I once believed and I feel betrayed and singed. I know that perhaps I am more angry with him in some ways than natural Tories, because he is giving my party a bad name. But I am attempting, with every fibre of my being, to be fair. It's just that when he tells Jon Snow that it was nothing to do with him, it was the banks, it was the global crisis, and anyway, he was warning the world about lack of regulation and under-capitalisation ten years ago, but no one would listen, I want to throw large objects at the television.

There are economists who will tell you that this level of debt is not quite the disaster all those zeros would suggest. They point to Japan and Italy, who have much worse situations. They remind us of the levels of debt which poor old battered Blighty survived after the second war. Yet, if you look at a graph of the national debt, it goes up to a terrifying peak in the early fifties and then comes down on a stuttering downward line all the way to the noughties, before shooting upward again. This suggests to me, ignorant laywoman that I am, that quite a lot of people of all political stripes thought debt reduction must be a good idea. Otherwise why did all the parties do it? I know that common sense can be deceptive; I know that people who bang on about common sense are quite often crazed right-wingers who think that government should be drowned in a bathtub. On this occasion, I think that spending £30 billion each year on interest payments might be something that common sense suggests is a reckless waste of money, and I think common sense might, for once, be right.

I'm just saying.

In the meantime, here is some more wildlife to cheer you up:


At least we still have the penguins.

(Genius photographer sadly unknown.)


  1. Yes, I guess that is what keeps us going. The penquins. Music, families, wine. If not, it becomes too overwhelming, depressing. Cute penguins, though.

  2. And now I've found you thanks to our dearest Miss Whistle! How fun! Thank you for your sweet comment on my blog and now must scroll through and catch up on yours! xo Mrs L.

  3. Nothing - but nothing - is ever his fault. Despite his chancellor-hood and stewardship over the last 13 years, it's not his fault. Neither is the war, the lack of suitable armoury for our soldiers, unemployment or even the curiously unpublicised fact that pensioners waiting for their bus pass due in 2015 will now not get it till 2020. And that will be a lot of people... sigh.

  4. I am not surprised that he is trying to deny it is his fault- and of course while it isn't entirely his fault at all a braver chancellor might have called for prudent saving in the corn years rather than encouraging our belief in the banks as all seeing gods and selling our gold.

    As a wider point though what astounds me is how little respect most of the politicians give the electorate- do they think we don't know they are fibbing or don't they care? and which is worse?

    What we have now is a low calibre of politician in terms of life experience and depth of knowledge away from politics, too many career politicians and a move to remove the checking power of the upper chamber which has always been integral to our system (which is not to say I am in favour of the way the upper house was historically chosen but I don't see how replacing the Queen and Church's mates with the mates of the party in power really helps or is in anyway more democratic- I would rather have some stuffy harmless old chap falling asleep than the dreaded Mandelson plotting the dark arts on a red sofa because we removed him from teh green ones).

  5. Midlife Jobhunter - so agree about the music,families and wine. And, of course, in my case, the dogs and the novels of F Scott Fitzgerald.

    Mrs L - Welcome to the blog. And hurrah for the lovely Miss W.

    Jo - so glad it is not just me. I get crosser and crosser about the passing of the buck.


  6. Rose - so, SO, agree with the thing about politicians appearing to think the electorate are foolish. I don't think most of them actually do think that, but they ACT as if they do, with the fudging and the refusal to answer the question. I have followed politics for years, and I genuinely do not understand it. I know that some of them are charlatans, but some really are good and clever, and yet even they do the soft shoe shuffle. Shall never get it, if I live to be eighty.

  7. At least in the US the deficit didn't go down, its ratio to GDP did. So the actual amount owed stayed the same, but it mattered less. Did the same happen in the UK?


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