Confessions of a Political Animal

September 30, 2008

“When the facts change…

…I change my opinion. What do you do, Sir?”, asked John Maynard Keynes, who if there is an afterlife, must surely be enjoying the Damascene conversion of so many unlikely suspects to his economic creed. Indeed, many seem to have gone still further, with the new ‘bash the bankers’ duo of Cameron-Osborne sounding almost Leninist with their spine-tingling threats of ‘a day of reckoning’ for the financiers and speculators.

And with the facts changing beneath their feet, Mr Osborne for one is certainly making a good appearance of changing his opinions, or at least his rhetoric:

As you yourselves know better than anyone, the success and size of your industry makes you an increasingly visible target. The GMB are trying to brand you “amoral asset-strippers”. Brendan Barber of the TUC preferred “casino capitalists”.It’s not just the unions. Alan Johnson said the GMB attack “raised some important points”. Harriet Harman wants to stop what she calls your “excessive, ridiculous bonuses”. Peter Hain called your bonuses “grotesque”, and raised “serious concerns” about private equity. And he’s in the Cabinet. You should not stay silent. You should respond to these attacks.

George Osborne MP, speech to British Private Equity and Venture Capital Association, 13/03/07

Compare with:

We know what Gordon Brown is trying to do. He wants to blame the right for the failures of the left. But Gordon, you won’t get away with blaming us for casino capitalism when you’re the man whose been running the casino and collecting in the chips for the last eleven years.

George Osborne MP, speech to Conservative Party Conference, 29/09/08

You would have thought Mr Osborne would have checked his own speech archives before sticking that phrase in, wouldn’t you? Of course, in a sense Osborne is right. Brown does have to shoulder some of the blame for the excesses of debt-driven, light-regulatory touch capitalism that are now coming home to roost. Yet this is a failure of the right, including the neo-liberal economic policies espoused by sections of the Labour Party, not of the left. In making such an absurd claim, Osborne places himself on the same plane of ideological comprehension as Texas Republican Rep. Jeb Hansarling who described the Poulson bail-out plan as

the slippery slope to socialism.

The expenditure of billions of dollars of state funds to bail out the richest in the land and kick-start the financial system that made them rich so it can creak on for another few years seems an odd definition of socialism to me. Must re-read my copy of the 1983 Labour manifesto to see if it features…

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