Thursday, 8 April 2010

What he might have said

Gordon Brown being interviewed on radio this morning runs two lines:

1. My chancellorship was great. We said we'd bring down inflation and unemployment, and we did. That is what I meant by no more boom and bust, not anything else.

2. The banking crisis was absolutely nothing to do with us - it was a global thing, well, actually a USA thing, their triple A rated sub-primes. Nothing to do with me. Global. Have you got it? Global. In case you missed it, it was, what was the word? Yes, global.

His Mansion House speech in 2007, congratulating the City and encouraging it to carry on, began as follows (my bold type):

Over the ten years that I have had the privilege of addressing you as Chancellor, I have been able year by year to record how the City of London has risen by your efforts, ingenuity and creativity to become a new world leader.

- Now today over 40 per cent of the world's foreign equities are traded here, more than New York:
- over 30 per cent of the world's currencies exchanges take place here, more than New York and Tokyo combined,
- while New York and Tokyo are reliant mainly on their large American and Asian domestic markets, 80 per cent of our business is international, and
- in a study last week of the top 50 financial cities, the City of London came first.

So I congratulate you Lord Mayor and the City of London on these remarkable achievements, an era that history will record as the beginning of a new golden age for the City of London.

And I believe the lesson we learn from the success of the City has ramifications far beyond the City itself - that we are leading because we are first in putting to work exactly that set of qualities that is needed for global success:

- openness to the world and global reach,
- pioneers of free trade and its leading defenders, with a deep and abiding belief in open markets,
- champions of diversity in ownership and talent, and of flexibility and adaptability to change, and
- a basic faith that from wherever it comes and from whatever background, what matters is that the talent, ingenuity and potential of people is harnessed to drive performance.

And I believe it will be said of this age, the first decades of the 21st century, that out of the greatest restructuring of the global economy, perhaps even greater than the industrial revolution, a new world order was created

When asked whether he took responsibility for everything that had happened under his chancellorship and premiership, he said, 'Of course I do', but made it clear he was not to blame for any of the ill-effects.


This is what I would like him to have said:

By the time we came to office in 1997 we had little or no manufacturing base. We had abolished Clause IV in 1995. Communism had collapsed in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. For a year or two it seemed it really was the end of history. New markets were opening up there and everywhere else. We had been shaken by the events of the late seventies and eighties, and although the eighties were tough and hateful the country was on a reasonable economic footing when we took over. There was no way back. We ourselves didn't want to go back. The only way forward was to use what strengths we had and hope to improve the situation of the poorest, of the health service, of education, employment - in fact of all the usual objects of our concern. And, I contend, we did do so.

The only strength the country really had following the Thatcherite revolution was money and the City. Very well, we said, that is what we will use. We will not push the ideology. We will be, in Harold Wilson's words, pragmatic. Pragmatic is what we were. We moved forward little by little, often in very difficult circumstances. The country was with us. That was partly because the broad centre of the country could afford to be, and we had to keep them affording to be.

Economic activity was the mainspring of everything. The more activity, the more energy. Governing such energy is a very difficult business, because, once you have decided to live by it, you have to let it have its head, while making sure it works for the greater good which is not, I assure you, its tendency. If some people got very rich, that was the price we paid. In any case, no state's economy exists in isolation from another's in our world. That is what I mean by 'global'. Labour moves around - that being a key aspect of the EU - and so does capital. Feverish movement is of the essence, providing you can be in the place where that feverish activity is at its greatest, a feverishness much magnified by contemporary technology and communications. The money passes through your hands and a useful part of it sticks. Nothing new about that as a principle: it was just that the circumstances gave maximum momentum to the principle.

Believe me, it could be pretty scary, the way the momentum kept us spinning ever faster, but once on that roundabout, it was impossible to get off. There was no opportune moment - and where could we go anyway? We either lived by it or didn't live at all. Don't think for a second that the Conservatives would have done any different. They'd just have cared a lot less about where the less advantaged people in the country stood. Their philosophy would have demanded an even faster rate.

It was a scary ride but, look, you had ten years of dizzy, exhilarating well-being. You travelled, you bought big, you were expansive. Don't tell me you didn't enjoy it. I know you will take scant comfort at the moment from inflation being low, but your life would be much worse if it was high.

My own chief regrets are less about the economy than education, health, bureaucracy, immigration, multiculturalism, and yes, probably the wars. But I'll talk about those things another time.

I am not trying to be anything or sell anything here. I just tell you: this is where we are. We did as we did because it seemed to us the only possible thing to do. That was the Nu-Lab deal. Should we have regulated earlier? Yes. But when? At what stage to intervene? You tell me. You push the stop button and watch the bodies fly off.

So yes, I'm afraid it's all a pig's ear. And we're worse off than many because of all that stuff I was congratulating the City for doing in 2007. And no,I didn't save the world. But at least I'm used to it and have, maybe, learned a few things.

Bit long winded, I know. But that's just me. That's the least of your worries.

That pitch would probably suit me for now.


Mark Granier said...

Ah yes, if only.

'In a pig's ear' but, sadly, not an airborne one.

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Billy C said...

George, he should recite your wise words. I know it's what he means, but he seems incapable of understanding what truths matter to us. It's not a crime to admit that there are some things that even the greatest of statemen are incapable of controlling. Not that I'm saying he's one of them. I also wish the electorate would take a look around them and look at the new schools that have replaced the ones with leaking roofs and the new hospitals that have been built, etc., etc.. As for all the business's ganging up on him...well, they would, wouldn't they. A tax on jobs? No. It's a way of earning revenue to pay for the ever increasing care of the elderly and other social needs that no one wants to pay for. I seem to recall that these same business people also said that a minumum wage would bankrupt the economy.

I will be voting 'Labour' as I always have. More so when I see what a buffoon George Osbourne is and the sleight of hand politics of Cameron. I won't do a Benny if the Lib dems hold the balance of power and form a coalition with NL. If that were to happen then I think we would truly have a representative government. Just my humble opinion.

Unknown said...

Also voting Labour (doing very much better in Scotland, where the Tories are nowhere)and seconding Billy on Osborne, the only pol I've ever known remotely personally and someone I remembered well for how intensely I disliked him long before he became an MP.

We still have a manufacturing base, though (and don't I know it: I'm having to create a database this week of UK factories owned by foreign firms from just one country, and there are hundreds and hundreds of them blast it). I think we're 8th or 10th in the world for manufacturing, even now.

George S said...

Thank you for that, James. I hadn't realised we were doing quite so well in manufacturing. Is that in producing finished independent articles or components for articles assembled and branded elsewhere?

I was thinking of coal, steel, docks, shipbuilding, fishing, and cars in the first place. All major losses. And how are we doing on textiles? Farming? Dairy products? Medicine? Arms? Chemicals? Agrichemicals?

When I look on the National Statistics website those are some of the areas headlined (minus textiles, but plus photographic plates and film, and glue - incidentally have people stopped sniffing it?)

What did you make of Brown's 2007 Mansion House speech?

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A. N. Author said...

I have started sniffing glue again today in homage to the Cultural Changes that were Wrought on British Society by Malcolm McLaren, RIP.

I don't think John Humphries would let him get through the first half sentence of that George, nor that the PM himself is capable of such a dispassionate analyses.

Meanwhile, I've just seen (this is true) a white 1970s soft top Triumph Herald cruise round the top of our road. It was driven by a distinguished looking gent and was loaded up with Lib Dem boards. That's the most persuasive piece of electioneering I've seen so far.

George S said...

I rather thought of it as an old fashioned Party Political Broadcast, AN, Gordo behind a serious-looking desk or by a fireside, with Humphrys to follow the next morning.

Ah, the Triumph Herald voter! That follows the Mondeo Mandate, the Volvo Vote, and whatever the last was (Megane? White Van? Lotus?)

It's the ancient battered Ford Focus vote they should be after.

Gloy? UHU? Cow Gum?

Stephen F said...

AN is me, S Foster!

Stephen F said...

Ahha, I've sorted out my login.

I wonder what the BNP deliver their signs in. It must be White Van Man vans.

Unknown said...

It's not the textile industry of the pre-1929 era, but I am coming across quite a few textile factories with 200+ employees. Most of the manufacturing is relatively new and extremely hi-tech and hidden on greenfield sites near the M4 and M5. Quite a lot in Wales and, in the case of Scotland, outstandingly Cumbernauld. Which explains all of the smoking chimneys you can see from Stirling Castle, presumably.

dana said...

I would vote for any politician who spoke like this. But no one else would.

George S said...

Well, I clearly would, Dana. So that makes two of us. And with Billy, that makes three.

We should go out and conquer the world.