Here in 1997, the electorate decided that a bunch of tired old has-beens who had been delivering a fantastic, sound economy were not as appealing as fresh new faces who had excellent media control. And ignoring the fact that every single Labour government has ended in catastrophe, people were swayed by the promise of a Labour government that finally had its head screwed on when it came to economics. Mandleson famously said that Labour was intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich. Ed Bollocks came up with the "neo-endogenous growth theory". It all sounded so promising.
But to my skeptical eyes, Labour did very, very little in their first term. They managed to spend vast swathes of money but none of it made any difference that I could see. Still, the economy boomed, mostly because the government did nothing. However, in their second term, people started asking questions of Labour, so they started to need to prove that all the money they were spunking out was doing something. And the culture of managerialism and targets came to the fore. Do you see how it all went wrong there?
Because while they were "just" spunking out huge amounts of our money, things were going fairly well. But when they started to actually do things, it all went tits-up.
And actually, can you point me at one department of government that could be considered "well-run" or effective or even cost-effective? The mantra is that we must "preserve front line services", but an "efficient" government only has one pound in two reaching the front line. The norm is one pound in three reaching the front line. So when you see that "eye-catching initiative" of 10 billion spent on schools (or whatever), the reality of it is that somewhere between 3 and 5 billion will actually reach schools. And that excludes the traditional arse-raping of taxpayers by government suppliers everywhere.
Government has recently decreed that the 270,000 poorest Labour voters would all receive a free laptop and internet access, with the laptop coming off an "approved list" and up to £500 for every voter bought. Now, to you or me, that would look like £135,000,000, in itself a nice chunk of cash, but nothing compared to the £135,000,000,000,000 or so of government debt that the Gorgon has signed us up to. However, this is misleading, for three reasons:
- firstly, the laptops will not be worth what is being charged for them and the level of usurious profits made by the approved vendors would attract recriminations from the Guardianistas. So we would be spending £135,000,000 to buy, at best, £100,000,000's worth of laptops. If this doesn't sound too bad, I need to point out that the normal margins on commodity hardware are paper thin.
- secondly, there will be the inevitable administration costs. If we are lucky, then spending this £135,000,000 will only cost us £270,000,000, but it's actually more likely to cost us the thick end of half a billion pounds. Still think that buying 270,000 votes for half a billion of your British pounds is such a good idea?
- thirdly, do you really believe that everyone who has been given a free laptop will not flog it down the pub for some much-needed money? Or that they will use it for the intended purpose? So the money spent will not have achieved £135,000,000's worth of benefit to society, which is what the money is supposed to be spent on.
So, getting back to the economy and, to an extent, why voters are so "disengaged" with politics: we are offered a choice between a party that will continue the idea of tax and spend, a party that will fellate a shotgun of insane tax and spend, a bunch of flip-floppers who will tax and spend somewhere between the other two and the BNP's command economy.
Curiously, in all these models, the people who get to decide policy are all immune from the consequences of their decisions.
I suspect that the only sensible decision left to people who care about their future is to vote.
With their feet.