spiked-geist: Day 23

Mr Sums and Mr Shrink; Grey Vote

Josie Appleton

Topics Politics

Having devised a campaign ad that showed Tories William Hague and Michael Portillo as Mr Boom and Mr Bust, at today’s Labour Party press conference Tony Blair and Gordon Brown showed that they are just as capable of doing a double act on the economy.

Mr Sums is the guardian of the ‘two fiscal rules’ and the ‘five economic tests’. He is obsessed with economic stability and making sums add up. He devised the framework for Labour’s ‘monetary and fiscal regime’, and assures us that our accounts are safe in his hands. He reprimands the Conservatives, who cannot match his vigour, for having ‘no fiscal rules’ and being a bit foggy on their inflation target.

Mr Shrink feels our pain. He knows what we ‘hard-working families’ go through, struggling daily to balance the household accounts. He understands the ‘anguish’ that people suffered because of the soaring interest rates under the Tories. Mr Shrink’s assistant today, Stephen Byers, explained: ‘Labour cares about hard-pressed mums and dads trying to balance work and family’ – so Labour will continue trying to make ‘this balance a little easier’.

But neither Mr Sums nor Mr Shrink can promise to control the economy in the interests of the electorate. Mr Sums talks about ‘fiscal rules’ as if they were pre-ordained; only those with a sufficient grasp of the sums will see what the economy needs in order to balance.

Mr Shrink’s job is to make us feel better – not to make our lives better. Mr Shrink’s assistant said that because parents value flexibility in working hours, they are to be given the legal right to ‘request to work flexible hours when their child is young’. But only if ‘this does not harm the competitive position of business’. So presumably employers have a right to refuse parents’ legal request for flexible hours.

Mr Sums’ prudence has given Britain low mortgage rates, which Mr Shrink knows is one of the issues ‘at the heart of people’s daily lives’. But with nine days to go, can’t they think of anything more exciting to talk about other than how we feel about paying the mortgage? JA

Grey Vote:

On a day when Liberal Democrats and Conservatives launch rival bids for the Grey Vote, read:

Election 2001 and the Grey Vote: It’s the numbers, stupid, by Jennie Bristow

spiked-proposals: Pensioners, by Phil Mullan

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Topics Politics


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