The NHS: decline and fall?

I’ve worked in the NHS for 32 years, man and boy, so to speak.

I don’t do private work, though I don’t have an issue with it ideologically.

I admire Bevan and Beveridge who kicked off the whole enterprise in 1948, although I’m pretty sure that they’d be horrified by what much of the NHS and the associated welfare state has become.

We do seem however, to be approaching an NHS End of Days scenario, by which I do not mean the ludicrous cry of “they’re privatising the NHS”. ‘They’, generally speaking, are not capable of such sophisticated thinking, and ‘they’ are unable to tame the behemoth of NHS spending. It’s probably not possible under the current provision. The answer is not more money.

It’s always interesting to gauge what outside healthcare providers think of the NHS. When I get tourists and similar in as emergencies, they often can’t believe that all this is ‘free’. It isn’t of course, if you pay tax, but you know what they mean. The unappealing spectacle of billing and insurance checks is absent from our clinical areas. But what seemed free, high quality and good value, has been overtaken by hangers on, from the shop floor to the upper tier of government. Everyone wants a slice of the pies – both the goodwill and ‘nobility’ associated with providing healthcare, and also the financial rewards*** embedded within its now enormous bureaucracy.

Here is Ted Noel, a retired US anaesthetist, musing on the problem:

Bevan succeeded, but his victory is being erased by the Law of Subsidy**. What was sold as a boon to the poor has become a subsidy for bureaucrats. The Law of the Bureaucrat declares that while a bureaucracy may have been created to deal with a perceived problem, the bureaucrat’s Prime Directive is to ensure that he has a job forever. And because he was appointed to solve the problem, he’s smarter than everyone else and should be paid accordingly.

Perversely, the bureaucrat can never solve the problem, or his job would disappear. So he continues with the language that created him, trying to sell greater and greater funding for his failed enterprise. And when it fails more dramatically, he blames anyone but himself, and gets rewarded with a bigger budget. Ultimately, as Margaret Thatcher famously quipped, “The problem with liberalism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.”

The Law of Subsidy has killed the NHS. It just doesn’t realize that it is dead. But thousands of those it was created to care for are dead, because it simply cannot fulfill its promised goals.

He may be right.

hospital-ward-1950s-cropped
…good times

 

**The Law of Subsidy says that “When you subsidise something, you get more of it and it gets more expensive.”

*** subsequent to this blog post, here’s a nice confirmatory piece from the estimable Max Pemberton

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Knifonomics (part 39): we’re all the same

can

I haven’t blogged in this area for more than a year. What is there to say, other than Trump’s tax cuts will be interesting to watch, given the positive precedents of Kennedy, Reagan and Thatcher .

However, public spending brings out the worst in politicians, in terms of pandering to various interest groups – at all points on the political spectrum – and the persistent inability to cut back. Cutting back, not because of a desire to hammer ‘the poor’ etc, but more because the fabled future generations will be saddled with the potentially unpayable bill.

The can is always licked down the road (see also NHS management techniques).

However, here in Western Europe, there is a view that the USA is different, and that greedy capitalists have failed to apply a welfare state type of safety net. Not so however. Virtually everything in this passage on the new bipartisan US budget deal applies to pretty much all developed economies in Europe and North America. Singapore, not so much.

Of course, last week’s agreement has some virtues. You can’t spend so much money and get nothing in return. We may be spared another government shutdown over the budget, because the agreement sets spending levels for two years. Similarly, the agreement suspends the federal debt ceiling — how much the government can borrow — through early 2019. This presumably postpones another self-destructive debate over whether the government should default on its debt, damaging its credit rating and flirting with a financial crisis.

In truth, much of the spending authorized by the agreement is desirable. Future deficits have been wildly underestimated, because projections for defense and non-defense “discretionary” spending were unrealistically low. On defense, Obama’s budgets reduced readiness, left the services too small and made it harder to counter new technological threats, most notably cyberwarfare. There was a similar squeeze on many vital domestic agencies, from the Internal Revenue Service to the National Parks.

To some extent, the new agreement represents a catch-up from this stringency. Meanwhile, so-called “entitlement” programs such as Social Security and Medicare — for which people automatically qualify — were largely untouched. They represent about 70 percent of federal spending. Together, costly entitlements and expanded discretionary spending produce enormous deficits, exceeding $1 trillion a year, as far as the eye can see. 

That’s a huge gap — roughly 5 percent of our gross domestic product — to close or shrink. Most politicians are can-kickers. They want nothing to do with the necessary tax increases or spending cuts, including possible reductions in Social Security, to curb the out-of-control deficits.

Ignoring them seems to involve few economic or political costs. The extra borrowing caused by deficits hasn’t sent interest rates sky-high. Indeed, after the Great Recession, deficits helped the economy recover. Now, despite our political and social problems, foreigners still seem happy to hold U.S. Treasury securities as “safe” financial assets. In general, the public doesn’t seem aggrieved by big deficits, especially when compared with the alternatives.

How many people know that 70% of US federal government spending goes on social security and healthcare? I’m not sure exactly how the two compare, but in the UK it’s half that, 34%. The single biggest chunk is on pensions, of course. And the public, by and large, are happy with it.

We are indeed, all in the same boat. Except Singapore.

 

Most people are normal (AKA politics today)

Harvey Weinstein Hosts a Private Dinner and Screening of "Bobby" for Senators Obama and SchumerGiven numerous news ledes, most recently Theresa May’s ludicrous claims about racism – which indicate she leads a pretty closeted existence  – here is a nice summary of what it is to be a normal citizen in the UK today:

        chancers4  To be a normal  UK citizen is to constantly be scolded, to be lectured, to be treated as a morally bankrupt simpleton in need of the guidance and direction provided by an urban elite ruling class notable for its empty academic credentials, its track record of incompetence, and its idolization of people who erotically abuse the foliage.

chancers3If we are to have betters, is it so wrong for us to demand that they actually be better? Superiors should be distinguished by their superiority – if you presume to take charge shouldn’t you demonstrate tactical, technical, and moral mastery? So what has our ruling class mastered lately? What is the skill set that sets the smart set apart?

chancers1
…still a classic

As you may have twigged from the foliage reference, this otherwise accurate take is actually from the US, by the impeccably grounded Kurt Schlichter.

What did we do to deserve these people? As Kurt correctly goes on to point out:

Where are the elite’s achievements? Our betters have been running things and yet they are the ones crying loudest about how awful things are. It’s another scam, of course. Things are awful, but not for them

Thank God things are slowly changing.

The SNP: decline and fall (15)

Things are ticking over nicely. Three little gems:

48. Unfunny ex MP Eck could be going on tour

What is it about the bullying despotic politically inclined type that makes them want to go on stage? Eck is possibly following in the footsteps of gruesome thug Alastair Campbell (1, 2), in selling his tedious schtick for cash and adulation once the political spotlight has begun to fade.  German journalist Matthias Matussek, reviewing Campbell’s nonsense thirteen years ago said: He provided a strange white noise, two hours long. Sounds about right for Eck. What could go wrong?

49. Well this could..

Eck continues (see 47) to damn his successor with faint praise, knowing exactly what the headlines will say.

DISLOYALECK
…with friends like these…

 

50.  More seriously though. Money.

There is now a more open, and less adulatory mood in parts of the Scottish media when it comes to following whatever the SNP party line is this week.  Former Salmond adviser, Alex Bell, transformed himself into a sharp and knowledgeable critic of Salmond and the Nats some time ago. Here he is this week:

There are days when Nicola Sturgeon must wish Alex Salmond gone. Not for the sexist gags or the disloyalty to her (though how he would have hated that in return). It is the legacy which leaves her trapped between hard numbers and soft promises, destined to disappoint the nation…

….But she is never free of the legacy, the memory of her political mentor, as Salmond is built into every atom of the modern SNP. She can no more be free than start a new party – a thought that must have crossed her mind in darker moments. Her dilemma is when the annual round of economic figures (GERS) come out showing a big gap between what Scotland earns and what it spends within the UK.

If she admits the truth, that Scottish spending would have to be different to the UK budget, she exposes Salmond’s trickery. If she defends it, she holds the movement back from seeing the truth and facing questions about spending priorities and tax increases…

….Most of all, she has wrestled with the SNP belief that Scotland can afford what it wants because Salmond told them so. Whether Salmond ever believed this, I can’t tell. But it seems unlikely as the man isn’t stupid.

The numbers are the numbers – and they show that UK spending attached to Scotland is greater than Scotland could afford if it was detached. Salmond was smart enough to realise that admitting this would end up irritating voters so he never did. And because of what Salmond spun and the SNP believed, the party are based on an illusionist trick – that anything is affordable.

Painful stuff  for true believers, although evident to sentient thinking punters for years. If you want to know what those GERS actually show in their cold, uncomfortable detail, then visit the indispensable @kevverage over at Chokkablog.

Scottish National Party Hold Their Annual Conference
…keep him where you can see him Nicola…

 

 

 

 

Post-election blues and the truth

The more I study politics and especially the ways in which it is reported, the more I come to realise that the motives of media journalists are often no more noble or sophisticated than the average Twitter troll (personal disclosure: I am an average Twitter troll).

So when the wolves come for Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill, Mrs May’s close advisors, it doesn’t mean that all of the message they were promoting was wrong. Indeed this links with a corollary, that Mr Corbyn’s (very relative) success does not mean that his mad prescriptions were right or practical.

In any event, the overriding issue (along with terrorism)  is social care. As someone who doesn’t stand to inherit a bundle of cash anyway, I greatly dislike the notion that it is better for me and my children to fund other people’s parents’ and grannies’ care in old age, just so their inheritance can be bigger. In fact, my feelings are more than ‘greatly dislike’. So the Tory plan for social care was brave and necessary, if only to kickstart the discussion as opposed to kicking the can down the road.

Here is the key excerpt from a concise and honest reflection by Nick Timothy, I’m afraid it’s 100% true.

The biggest complaint, though, was about our social care proposals. You can criticise the policy, but we need to be honest with ourselves. Since we have an ageing population, we need to spend more on health and care, and we need to decide how to pay for it. We can ask older people to meet the costs, subject to certain protections, from the wealth they have accrued through life, or we can tax younger generations even more. Somehow we have reached a point where older people with assets expect younger, poorer people to pay for their care. With Britain’s demographics, that is not sustainable; neither is it socially just.

The Boris Johnson/left wing cabal is still with us

Bizarrely, it seems that Boris Johnson, the bien pensant left from various parties and the Scots Nats all share the same political philosophy. To quote Boris:

“My policy on cake is pro having it and pro eating it.”

I see this all the time, because I’m a standard middle class professional, who pays a huge whack in taxes, and I work in the public sector, where I’m fairly well paid. The thing is, I’m not complaining.

I have various colleagues – not as many as you might think, as NHS surgeons tend to be realists, not fantasists – who bang on about Thatcher (stepped down twenty five years ago), Tories (I am not one, by the way) and ‘unfairness’. Oddly enough none of them actually claim the NHS is being privatised, because it’s manifestly not.

All these people, and many many more, including some of my relatives, rant on about Michael Gove (the most polite bogeyman ever), Osborne and Cameron as if they’re devils incarnate. Strangely, rich middle class politicians like the politically late Vince Cable, Ed Balls, even the monstrous hypocrite Alex Salmond, get a free pass. Same for hacks like the ridiculous and wealthy Polly Toynbee, Will Hutton, James Naughtie and the rest of the BBC cosa nostra.

My theory is that in the privacy of the polling booth, quite a few of these people probably voted Tory. There was an interesting breaking of lefty ranks when the mansion tax absurdity looked like it might become reality, and various dopey showbiz types realised that Ed Balls actually did intend to rob their bank accounts, if given the chance. I’m pretty sure that the Guardian editorial conference finds someone like Dave far more congenial than they would ever admit to in print. However, none of these people would ever relinquish their right to complain in public but benefit in private.

You have to be nearly my age to remember the benefits that Thatcher provided for all of us, not just Tory voters. No-one would ever go back. The Guardian and the Mirror rapidly copied Murdoch’s new production techniques that lead to the famous Wapping strike. Everyone takes easy access to communications for granted – phone, post offices etc – believe me, it wasn’t like that in the 70’s. There are hundreds of practical, everyday examples.

The SNP are possibly the most hypocritical of them all. Here is the incisive Iain Martin, who understands the Nat psyche far better than most of the other London based hacks, on ‘Full Fiscal Autonomy‘:

If the Nationalists complained about getting such a deal, with full fiscal autonomy, because the collapse in the oil price will leave a massive black-hole in Scotland’s finances, there would then be the beautiful spectacle of the SNP complaining about the Westminster Tory-led government wanting to give the Scottish parliament too much power. In such circumstances, God help Scottish taxpayers.

It goes further. At every election/referendum there are always a few public figures so far up their own backsides that they issue proclamations about leaving the country if they don’t like the outcome. The most delicious of these is naturally Paul O’Grady.

This is a professional Scouser of limited talent, who made a fortune by playing a professional Scouser drag queen whilst tapping into the anti-Thatcher zeitgeist from 1978 onwards. He now doesn’t wear a dress, but the act is the same, and naturally, given he’s on the BBC a lot, he’s a publicly funded multimillionaire. As Paul said:

“I can’t live under this bloody Government any more. I am going to get a house on the Lido in Venice. I have paid a fortune in tax and I will say ‘you can have that mate’. What I am going to do in a house on the Lido in Venice when I can’t speak Italian and hate pasta, God only knows. But I can’t live under this Conservative Government, this Coalition. That is why we have to vote Labour, we have to get Ed in, we have to make changes.”

At the time of writing, he seems to still be here.

Similarly, as everyone knows, if you genuinely want to pay more tax, as opposed to lofty declarations about the desirability of such a course of action,  then HMRC will gladly accept your cheque. I’m making enquiries, but it seems that the anticipated flow of money from North London to the Treasury has yet to start.

Really, all these idiots should publicly thank all the voters who stopped Miliband et al getting in, because  they are the major beneficiaries. And in their heart of hearts, they know it.

O'Grady
O’Grady…
...and an airport.
…and an airport.

Vote Nicola and die

The best of Scotland...(Edinburgh 1920, by Alfred Buckham)
The best of Scotland…(Edinburgh 1920, by Alfred Buckham)

Five years ago, just after the last election, The Knife posted a piece called Vote Labour and Die. It actually became my most viewed piece, simply because it got highlighted by Guido. It resulted from a paper in the BMJ, on Public Health (which is purely the specialty’s name, it doesn’t necessarily mean the actual health of the public). Written by a leftie (as are many PH docs, see Prof Ashton), published in a leftie journal, it noted that in Labour voting areas, you were more likely to die young. This was the fault of New Labour, and by extension, wicked Tories etc.

It was an observation, rather than cause and effect, although the two are regularly conflated, both by the Daily Express and by ‘top doctors’ on a mission.

Fast forward to the imminent general election. Here is Scotland’s First Minister:

‘The Tory/Lib Dem government’s plan to further increase the state pension age is a worry to people across the UK who are planning for their future, but the failure to take Scotland’s specific circumstances into account is particularly unfair. SNP MPs will reject any plans for a further increase in the state pension age Our comparatively low life expectancy rate is an issue which I will do everything in my power to change but in the meantime it would be completely unacceptable for people in Scotland who have paid in to a state pension all of their lives to lose out. That is why SNP MPs will reject any plans for a further increase in the state pension age.’

Note that phrase ‘Our comparatively low life expectancy rate is an issue which I will do everything in my power to change’. Ms Sturgeon, in case anyone had forgotten, was Scottish Health Minister from May 2007 to September 2012. Much of that time was spent bossing hospitals about arbitrary targets. The Scottish life expectancy remained dire in the usual areas of the country. Despite her careful phrasing, Ms Sturgeon’s schtick is quite clearly that we’re dying young, give us the money now. There is no meaningful attempt to rectify a serious social issue. The answer is certainly not more dependency, more welfare state.

Basically the SNP now regard Scotland as a block vote client state, to do their bidding. It is likely that one day their emerging capacity to take the populace for granted and avoid genuinely improving their lot will rebound on them. How do I know this? It is because it is exactly what Labour did for years, with their Scottish block vote, and for which they are about to pay a very high price. The absolute high priest of that movement was Gordon Brown, now a broken figure, despite his referendum swansong. His prolonged bribe of the Scottish electorate has utterly failed.

All of this begs the question, what is wrong with the Scots? Why do they lurch from one unambitious greedy socialist regime to another?

Most commentators invoke the Enlightenment, and the spirit of Adam Smith as the example of Scotland at its best, what it could still be. The truth is there has been no thinking of that kind, no figure of stature in power or influence in Scotland for a very long time. The country actually did pretty well in many ways under the bogey figure of Thatcher, but such a claim doesn’t suit the narrative of either Labour or the SNP, for whom droning on about misreported events of thirty years ago is almost a form of prayer.

Here is one person, Chris Deerin, who gets it:

Scotland has become a soft and sappy nation, intellectually listless, coddled, a land of received wisdom and one-track minds, narrow parameters and mass groupthink. It slumbers, like a once-feared dragon now hidden away in a mountain, dozily coiled around its ancient, pointless treasures, interested only in its own welfare…..The Scottish Labour Party, now perilously close to oblivion, has only itself to blame. For decades, it has gleefully demonised the Tories, blaming them for all of Scotland’s ills even as it made a pig’s ear of running the Edinburgh Parliament. This cheap tactic, aped since the 1980s by the then newly left-wing SNP, created a sense of otherness, of moral superiority, in relation to England….

The relationship between business and the Government is comically bad, beyond a few pro-separatist oligarchs.

We have become a land peppered with conspiracy theorists who believe in secret oil fields and MI5 plots and rigged polls, all of which is tacitly encouraged by the Nat government. If anyone on social media – especially, God forbid, a non-Scot – dares to challenge these ludicrous myths they are descended on by the ‘cybernats’, a swarm of angry oddballs who refuse to read the ‘mainstream media

Deerin references another Scot, Bruce (the Brute) Anderson, who in a very eloquent piece, correctly entitled ‘Never before has Scotland been quite this deluded‘ spells it out:

The Scottish public mood is extraordinary. Over the past few months, millions of Scots have been baying at the moon. The most bizarre fantasies have not only circulated; otherwise sane people have given them credence….How can this be happening? The Scottish Enlightenment represented the triumph of rationalism, always in a calm and restrained fashion. Its philosophers and economists believed in using reason to improve the human condition, not to reshape human nature. They virtually invented free enterprise; they elevated Scotland to the intellectual leadership of Europe. In a splendid setting, the Castle on one side, the sea on the other, their contemporaries laid out the New Town. Calm, rational and beautiful buildings: it is the Enlightenment as architecture.

While it would be absurd to claim that every Scot has read Adam Smith, there were grounds for believing that Enlightenment values had influenced the Scottish character. Keynes poked fun at so-called practical men, dismissive of theories, who were actually in thrall to some long-dead economist. If that economist had been Scottish, the thraldom would be benign.

…(after Thatcher) there was a quarter of a century of demonisation, which drove economic common sense out of Scottish public debate. By the end, many young Scots had come to believe that Scots’ values were superior. Scotland stood for social solidarity, and indeed socialism. It stood for the public sector, not for private enterprise. Mrs Thatcher and her English capitalist friends hated the Scottish ethos, which is why they had set out to destroy the Scottish economy. This brainwashing explains why Nicola Sturgeon will have earned huge applause in Scotland for attacking Ed Miliband from the Left. Scottish Labour helped to sow the dragons’ teeth, never expecting that the dragons would turn on them. They ken the noo.

Not since the Thirties has a once great nation been in the grip of so many delusions. This is malign thraldom

So there you have it. One day, probably sooner than anticipated, Sturgeon et al will meet hard reality. I do not believe, even if there is another referendum, that the result will be any different. No Scots Nat has in living memory produced a coherent plausible argument supporting an independent economy, and the country knows that. However, as long as Labour and the Tories continue to assuage lunatics like the SNP with large tranches of public money, and no real responsibility for obtaining it, the current ‘malign thraldom’ will continue.

In the meantime, vote SNP and die. Just make sure you get your pension early, it’s what the First Minister wants.

…and the worst. I find this picture unsettling

People who underestimate George Osborne, again (from The Sun)

Ages ago, in 2011, The Knife invented PWUGO, in response to DUEMA (look it up).

I think I was right, and here, from behind the Sun paywall, is the august Trevor Kavanagh‘s take on it all, worth reading. I have already put money on the GE2015 outcome. It doesn’t involve Ed as PM.

HERE we go! This is the week that will decide if Mystic Trev got it right by predicting a Tory election victory on May 7, perhaps even with an outright majority.

My new year prediction was seen quite reasonably as “wishful thinking”.

How could David Cameron hope to win with all the electoral arithmetic so stacked against him?

Even in the good times, governments struggle to increase their majorities, so it was impossible to imagine the Conservatives grabbing the lead after five years of austerity.

But even those pollsters who studied their charts and muttered about marginals are now beginning to see daylight between Dave and Red Ed.

My friend Peter Kellner, whose YouGov poll appears daily in The Sun, thinks Labour is flagging at the most dangerous time.

The clincher comes on Wednesday when George Osborne’s Budget breaks the opinion poll deadlock and allows the Tories to kick up a gear.

“If the Chancellor’s budget goes down well, his party could gain enough extra support to govern in its own right,” says Kellner.

“Its prospects of an overall majority remain slim, but David Cameron might be able to lead a minority government for a full five-year term against a splintered opposition.”

True. But I believe the Tory lead over Labour will yawn wider as the election race gets into its stride.

Key to it all is the “splintered opposition”.

It is not just Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson who have given up hope. A third of Red Ed’s own Shadow Cabinet believe he’s a loser.

Rivals are already jockeying for succession.

This has nothing to do with bacon sandwiches or Ed’s many kitchens, although these images are being picked over and debated as much by leftwing papers as by the Tory press.

The party is split from top to bottom — trade union dinosaurs versus despised Blairites.

Thanks to Gordon Brown, it faces wipe-out in Scotland and may be fighting for its life as a viable political force South of the border.

The vacuum is filled by the opportunist SNP, shameless Lib-Dems, shambolic Greens and protest parties like Ukip who seem to have run out of puff.

George Osborne is a lucky Chancellor.

Thanks in part to falling oil prices, the economy is in better shape than he dared dream barely a year ago. But to be fair he has made his own luck.

He has been criticised both for doing too little and too much to slash spending and borrowing.

But his famous long-term plan, cobbled together along the way, is working.

The UK recovery, once derided as “flat-lining”, is now hailed by global experts as entrenched and robust.

Economic growth is surprisingly strong.

Unemployment is amazingly low, half the European average with jobless EU citizens stampeding across The Channel to join in.

Earnings are outstripping the cost of living.

Low-paid workers can earn more than £10,000 – close to a living wage in some parts of the country – before paying any tax at all.

That threshold will rise still further.

As tax revenues start to exceed government spending, the Chancellor finally has room for manoeuvre.

This week, he will tempt voters to give the Tories another chance.

There will be more help for the low-paid, a fairer deal for middle-earners, a boost for the crucial “grey vote” by ending rip-off pensions and the loathed inheritance tax on homes.

Broadband investment will fuel the boom in small business start-ups.

New rail links should boost the Chancellor’s dream of a “Northern Powerhouse”.

This will be a “feel-good” budget, a package of silver linings set against Labour’s cloud of despair.

Mr Osborne insists there will be “no giveaways, no gimmicks”. But he likes to leave his supporters asking for more.

It will be surprising if there is not a surprise.

And a few cheers when the Chancellor skims a penny or two off a pint — as eerily foreseen in The Sun on Sunday’s crystal ball yesterday.

This blog began in the build up to the 2010 election, and I didn’t quite predict the outcome then: Cameron as PM, yes, but coalition seemed unlikely. Economically I doubted we’d be where we are now, it always looked like it would take two terms to right Gordon Brown’s (and the two Eds) many wrongs. This time I’m going for Cameron as PM, UKIP/DUP coalition or ‘arrangement’, probably marginally a minority government. Which, given the alternative, would do just fine.

Ed Balls: resigning from DUEMA and PWUGO
Ed Balls: resigning from DUEMA and PWUGO

DUEMA and PWUGO, again

In 2011, this blog introduced the concept of PWUGO (People Who Underestimate George Osborne), which was inspired by the Don’t Underestimate Ed Miliband Association (DUEMA), invented by Iain Martin in the Telegraph (since rebranded as the Don’t Unseat Ed Miliband Association).

PWUGO always had a large membership, such was Osborne’s reputation and the sympathetically reported rants of people like Ed Balls. DUEMA always had a small membership, and I would guess that it’s shrinking.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) were clearly signed up to PWUGO, witness the doom laden rhetoric of their chief economist, Olivier Blanchard, about a year and a half ago . Most of the  media went along with it at the time. Balls was clearly enjoying himself, but even then it was clear that they were wrong, if only because of the unfailingly reliable sign of Nick Clegg leaping on to their bandwagon, despite being, in theory, part of the government**.

Fast forward to now. The Knife is no uncritical admirer of the government, or of Osborne, but I take my hat off to the fragrant Christine Lagarde for openly apologising for the IMF’s behaviour:

“We got it wrong,” Ms Lagarde told the Andrew Marr Show. “We acknowledged it. Clearly the confidence building that has resulted from the economic policies adopted by the government has surprised many of us.”

“We said very clearly that we had underestimated growth for the U.K. and that our forecasts had been proven wrong by the reality of economic developments,” she said.

Pressed on whether she had apologised to Mr Osborne for the incorrect forecasts, she said: “Do I have to go on my knees?”

Seems fairly clear. PWUGO may have to be disbanded at this rate. Like DUEMA. How long ago this seems.

Eleven muppets
Eleven muppets

** as if by magic, the day after this post, here he is again.

Why are these thieving thieves trying to thieve from me?

This article, by Andrew Lilico, is so good it should be a mandatory read for any school pupil studying economics, philosophy, history, politics, sociology, psychology, the lot. It cuts to the very heart of nearly all political debate and manoeuvring in the UK (and elsewhere).

It’s not a long piece, and I’ve just pinched the first couple of paragraphs for an accurate taste of Lilico’s clear-sighted argument:

It appears to be all the rage to have opinions about how wealth is distributed, debating for example whether billionaires should ‘get to keep’ their money. I consider that impertinent, offensive and sinister.

Your wealth (and note carefully that I am discussing wealth, not income here – the issues with income are slightly different) is your property. Property is private. Your house, your car, your TV, your share portfolio – they are yours, just as much as your hair or your intelligence or your skill at tennis are yours. Suppose someone said: “I believe the distribution of hair is unfair, so we are going to take some of your hair away.’ You would think that a monstrous violation of your personal liberty, of your privacy. But would it really be any different if someone said: ‘The distribution of toys is unfair, so we are taking some of your children’s toys away’ or ‘The distribution of televisions is unfair, so we are confiscating yours’?

This is not really party political, as they all get this fundamental issue wrong at times, but clearly Ed Miliband’s entire economic policy, if you can call it that, is based on taking other people’s wealth, and the Lib Dem’s ludicrous ‘mansion tax’ is another fine example.

Where do we get these people from?

They used to hang you for robbery in this country
They used to hang you for robbery in this country