Since the general election, opinion in Westminster has increasingly turned against the policy—but the size of the national debt leaves Britain dangerously exposed to another shock. Now is not the time to give upby Mark Littlewood / July 26, 2017 / Leave a comment
Read more: Austerity simply doesn’t work
The return of Game of Thrones seems apposite considering the current manoeuvrings and ructions going on inside the Palace of Westminster. Our own game of thrones seems to be proceeding apace fuelled, according to Justice Secretary David Lidington, by warm prosecco.
But it is regarding the scale of the national debt, not just the infighting, where I want to draw a parallel between Westeros, the fantasy setting for Game of Thrones, and Westminster. While it is often forgotten, the national debt of Westeros—due to the income of the kingdom being frittered away on the desires of those in power while forgetting basic economic literacy or the rights of those who would be expected to pay for it—was a major plot point in the first book.
Since the General Election (which I imagine felt like the programme’s brutal Red Wedding-style ambush to some former Conservative MPs) some of the feuding lords and ladies of Westminster have taken advantage of the precarious position of the prime minister to advise rolling back the austerity programme of the Cameron years. Such a proposal is both wrong-headed and downright dangerous, as the underlying economic conditions that made getting Britain’s public finances in order so crucial have not changed—and, as in the show, winter is coming. The weak growth figures published today confirm this.
And there is still a huge amount to do. Far from “fixing the roof while the sun shone,” as government promised during the past seven years, spending has continued to rise and the government’s debt is more than double what it was in 2008 and continues to grow. While the deficit has narrowed significantly from the highpoint of 2009/10, where the public sector spent more than £150bn more than the government was able to raise in taxes, the government is still expected to borrow some £58bn during 2017/18, equivalent to a third of the NHS budget or two-thirds of education spending.
“Not even Keynes himself believed that a country can spend itself rich”
There are several reasons why this matters, and why we shouldn’t listen to the siren voices who say that austerity has had its day and the spending taps should be reopened.
The first is that this debt is causing significant budget…