Barry: Flocking to allocate blame
Oct 20 2010 by Barry Gibson, Huddersfield Daily Examiner
I’VE been reading The End of the Party, journalist Andrew Rawnsley’s fantastic book about the decline and fall of New Labour.
It’s an 800-page epic giving the inside story of the last Government, from its 2001 election victory through to the defeat this May.
This week I reached the three-quarter mark of the book, which deals with the economic crisis of 2008.
It’s an appropriate time to revisit this period of the recent past, given that chancellor George Osborne will announce the Comprehensive Spending Review this lunchtime.
In effect, the bill for the actions of two autumns ago arrives today.
Reading Mr Rawnsley’s account of those frantic days in October 2008, when HBOS, RBS and Lloyds TSB stood on the brink of collapse, it struck me just how close the world came to catastrophe.
The author describes how bankers and politicians met at the Treasury one Friday that month knowing there was a real chance banks would not be able to open their doors the following Monday. Credit cards and cash machines would have stopped working – it was that serious.
Mr Rawnsley includes an anecdote about a hedge fund manager who, at the height of the crisis, visited a farmer near his home in Sussex and bought a flock of sheep as an emergency source of food for his family.
I don’t think those of us looking from the outside realised at the time that things were quite that bad.
From that frantic weekend two years ago came the bank bailout, which brought stability of a sort but at the price of a massive increase in the national deficit.
And it’s that bill which we all have to start paying from this afternoon. Mr Osborne will rise in the House of Commons at 12.30pm to outline the Government’s spending plans for the next four years.
Everything except health and international development will be cut, and some things will be slashed severely. What he says will affect every town and village in the country, it will hit benefit payments, policing numbers and school buildings.
Everyone is going to feel the pain, and some people are going to be in agony.