Monday, September 29, 2008

Jeremy Spoke In Class Today

At this time of international financial turmoil, with once mighty banks falling victim to speculation and tightening credit conditions, and being driven into the arms of larger suitors or forced into the safe harbours offered by nationalisation, we look to our elected representatives for leadership. In such trying times, it’s comforting to know that we have people like Lib Dem MSP Jeremy Purvis on the case to look after our interests.

Admittedly, if he hadn’t been scribbling in today’s ‘Scotsman’ to tell us all how energetic he’s been on our behalf, I confess his efforts would almost certainly have gone unnoticed, at least by me. However, let’s not be churlish – it’s clear that while the world financial system has been imploding, Jeremy has been a very busy little bee indeed. Frankly, my admiration is unbounded.

You see, he’s met personally with representatives of Lloyds TSB and HBOS, to make the case for jobs and competition. Good for him, although the fact that the talks were arranged so all major parties could participate seems to have been omitted from the final version of his article - presumably having been cut by a negligent sub-editor somewhere. However, and this is the really impressive bit – it’s not just the high-heidyins of the banking world with whom he’s been meeting in recent weeks. Oh no – Jeremy’s also been meeting with some ‘ordinary people’ in the past month as well!

Amidst the frenzy of cap-doffing and forelock-tugging which this doubtless inspired amongst a grateful multitude, do you know what these 'ordinary people' have been telling him? Go on – you’ll never guess! It was that the cost of living was going up, particularly the cost of energy and the interest payments on mortgages. You can say what you like about Jeremy and let’s face it, lots of people do, but there’s nothing that gets past him. Clearly, Holyrood’s gain was Scotland Yard’s loss. Or should that be the other way about? I don’t know. Anyway, this is getting off topic.

You see, Jeremy has a cunning plan to help us all through the credit crunch. The Lib Dems want to cut the UK basic rate of income tax by 4p. However, not content with this, Jeremy wants to use the Scottish Parliament’s tax varying powers to slice another 2p on top of this from the Scottish budget. And how is it to be paid for? Well, by eliminating ‘waste’ from Scottish Government spending.

Now, no-one likes paying more tax than they have to. However, if you’re going to call for tax cuts, you should be honest enough to admit how you’re going to make the books balance, and what you’re going to go without in consequence.

Calling for efficiency savings is great, since few object to reducing waste. However, the SNP Government has already committed to finding £1.6bn, achieved through efficiency savings in the public sector of 2% pa. The Lib Dems decried these at the time, even finding criticisms of the freeze in council tax. However, while welcoming their conversion to seeking value for money in the public sector, they’ve now moved from a position of demanding higher public spending to demanding double the efficiency savings they already criticised the SNP for seeking!

Now, of course, most governments have the power to borrow to meet mismatches between revenue and expenditure. Sadly, this option isn’t open to the Scottish Government as things stand. However, the option to borrow is open to the government in London. Given that UK borrowing this year, excluding nationalisations and PFI is in the order of £40bn, the Lib Dems presumably have no problem in seeing this total rise in order to help pay for their tax cuts.

That £40bn debt is funded by international borrowing. International borrowing, you’ll be astonished to learn, involves borrowing money from other countries. Therefore, you’d imagine securing the use of resources from overseas is something which Lib Dems seeking to increase government borrowing would be in favour of.

But wait! Who’s this criticising the SNP for apparently seeking to secure investment from the Qatari sovereign wealth fund? Why, it’s none other than Jeremy Purvis – sneering that "Before the election, Alex Salmond promised that patriotic families would be able to buy bonds for an iconic bridge across the Forth. He never said he meant Qatari families."

I’m sure Jeremy’s just trying and failing to be clever with that remark, so I’ll overlook the rather unpleasant undertones which appear to accompany his statement. Nonetheless, it’s worth having a wee recap of his position as expounded to date:

  • SNP efficiency savings of 2% = unachievable.
  • Lib Dem efficiency savings of 4% = achievable.
  • SNP Council Tax freeze = service cuts.
  • Lib Dem 6p income tax cut = leaves services intact.
  • UK international borrowing = a good thing, no matter what the source.
  • Scottish Futures Trust securing overseas investment = a bad thing.

Notice a pattern? A recurring theme on matters financial seems to be that everyone else is wrong, particularly if they’re in the SNP, and that only he can bring a rigour denied to lesser mortals to such elevated matters. Anyway, given that he had to create his own murmurings to deny about his seeking the Scottish Lib Dem leadership, maybe I shouldn't be too hard on him.

Instead, I'll leave that to a most unlikely source, via a story which I've pinched from Christine Grahame MSP. Apparently together with Jeremy and then Green MSP Chris Balance, all 3 were visiting a school in the Borders to speak to the pupils about politics. As part of a general chat about how they had become involved in politics, Jeremy said that aged 16, he’d done two things – made a living will and joined the Lib Dems.

The mild-mannered Chris Balance, I’m told, simply enquired whether the two events were in any way related...

1 comment:

Adopted Domain said...

I hate it when politicians use the phrase 'ordinary people.' You'd have to be sub-ordinary to be not realise how awful that phrase is.