Friday, 30 April 2010

Après moi, le deluge

I saw a bit of the last party leaders' debate last night, slipping in and out of a state of vacant inattention as they bickered about how best to arrange the Titanic's compliment of deckchairs. Nick Cohen isn't to everyone's taste and I don't agree with every word he writes but the following article is right on the (missing) money. Read it, then buy up all the tinned food you can afford and start digging for victory:

The greatest failure of financial capitalism since 1929 ought to be an opportunity for Labour as it was for Obama and the American Democrats. But rather than face up to it, and by extension to its own failures in government, Labour has been unable to offer a credible banking reform programme or admit that the recession must bring change. Instead, it carries on as if the tax revenues were still rolling in and Fred Goodwin still pushing up the Royal Bank of Scotland's share price, and it pretends that the old war cries about "increasing investment" and fighting "Tory cuts" still have meaning. The LibDems are in better shape because at least they realised that a long boom built on debt could not be sustained. However, as we saw, they too could not accept the consequences of their insight.

As for the Conservatives, many people noticed an uneasiness about Cameron during the first leadership debate, a nagging fear visible in his flickering eyes and stilted movement that the times may not be propitious after all. If he isn't nervous, he ought to be. Only the bizarre sight of a centre-left government letting speculators run wild has hidden the problems for the Right. I've had an aide to Boris Johnson marvel to me at how in hard times people turn to the State, as if he was having to relearn everything he thought he knew, and gruff leaders of the Tory Right mutter that Cameron's biggest mistake was not supporting the nationalisation of the banks, as if it were the most natural complaint in the world for a tough-minded Tory to make. The extent of the rethink needed on the Right of politics can be encapsulated in a line. For a generation, Tories have repeated Baroness Thatcher's acid line: "The trouble with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people's money."

After the bailout of the banks, that seems to be the trouble with financial capitalism as well.