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TALK IS CHEAP
By John Newsome on 12th December 2013


Forget what they say, it's what they do that matters. A point reinforced by the tale of the Reverend Paul Flowers. A man whose credentials should have been impeccable now has questions to answer regarding historic expenses irregularities, consorting with rent boys and buying crack; there are also drugs allegations. Multiple ironies abound here; the Co-op was forever touting its ethical credentials yet was chaired by an individual whose peccadillos should have rendered them persona non grata. Furthermore, the disaster that overtook its banking operations has left the Co-op group a minority shareholder in this enterprise. The remaining equity is now controlled by hedge funds and it's difficult to see where they might have fitted in with the Rochdale Pioneers' original vision of mutuality.


But, saying one thing and doing another is by no means the sole preserve of de-flowered preachers. Whilst in opposition, David Cameron and George Osborne sensibly laboured the point that the U.K. economy desperately needed rebalancing away from consumption and debt, towards productive investment and exports. However, as Prime Minister and Chancellor, they preside over the Help to Buy (votes) scheme whereby prospective house purchasers can put down a 5% deposit and then, depending upon the scheme variant, the government (taxpayer) potentially lends/guarantees the next 20%/15% respectively, with a conventional mortgage funding the remainder. With the average salary so far removed from being able to fund the average house purchase, it's difficult to see how such premeditated distortion of the market has anything to do with rebalancing. In the words of Yogi Berra, it looks like déjà vu – all over again.


Talking of saying one thing and doing another, Ed Miliband's attack on the energy companies caused a stir. According to him, they are fleecing customers and their vertically integrated business models need to be scrapped, thus separating retail supply from generation. Well, maybe they are and perhaps it does but curiously, when he, as Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, was in a position to correct the supposed wrongs that bedevil the energy market, this crusading consumer champion took no action at all; well, apart from loading the average bill with some more green levies which, inevitably, aggravates his self-styled 'cost of living' crisis. It's odd what time (and political opposition) can do to the memory.


It is tragic that politics has descended to this level of abject banality. The last government drove state spending to insane levels and as the current one is nowhere near eliminating the yawning deficit, we have now moved beyond either bribing voters with their own money or, indeed, somebody else's. It is now about bribing them with the debt that will be bequeathed to their children and grandchildren. The lead singer of The Who, Roger Daltrey, captured the vacuity of the political class; "I find it really worrying that politicians tweet. That really worries the f... out of me. They should be sitting there thinking about doing a good job rather than telling us what they had for breakfast or what colour suit they're wearing." Not quite how we'd phrase it, Rog, but we know what you mean.


John Newsome can be contacted on:
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