Tuesday, 25 November 2008

I before E

An interesting interview between Osborne and John Humphrys, this morning, in which Osborne explained his plan for Government to insure lending from banks to small businesses, and Humphrys laid into him demanding to know quite how he, as Chancellor, could possibly ensure that lending took place.

Then, of course, we had Darling on, to explain yesterdays (pre) Budget (report), and the debate moved on from whether this was possible and whether it would/could work to the simpler one of whether we could afford it and whether we should still call them "New" Labour.

In this, I think we saw the real difference in thought processes between the left and the right. Darling and Humphrys see politics as a process of writing cheques for things they approve of and sending tax demands to those they don't. If things are going badly, you just need to write bigger cheques. Oddly, the same recipe also works when things are going well.

Darling's comment about NHS spending reveals this; he asked hypothetically whether any health spending could be a bad thing, Err, yes Darling, it can be. If you double NHS spending but achieve only marginal improvements, then almost all of your spending was bad. Anyone can see that if they go into Tesco, buy their usual groceries, then tip the till operator by the same amount that they spent on the groceries, their additional spending has not been "good" (except for the lucky till operator, of course)- it has not produced anything; it has been wasted; it need not have been spent. But for Darling, all Government spending on an "approved" cause is good spending.

Osborne represented the right-wing approach; that it is not just about how much money you throw, but the manner in which you do it. In response to an unwillingness to lend by banks that is hurting the economy, Osborne plans to address the cause of that reluctance and thus address the cause of the slowdown. Humphrys, in a statist frame of mind, sees the issue as one of spending or not spending, ordering banks to act or not ordering them, so he hears the word "ensure", not "insure". The alternative, of taking steps to create an environment in which businesses can decide for themselves to take actions which generate profit for the individuals involved and also help the economy in general - hardly a novel concept as any student of Adam Smith will tell you - is simply not on the leftist statist radar.

Whish is why, even when Osborne was setting out the plan in black and white for Humphrys, he didn't hear it. And this, in turn, is why we on the right think the BBC is biassed while it maintains that it is not; the BBC and other institutions of the left simply speak another language.


  1. And this idea that the government can find a puny £5bn of savings but every single penny that the Tories identify is a CUT!

  2. Thankfully the BBC gave the Conservatives a fair ride during the coverage of the PBR and the newspapers have thoroughly enjoyed tearing Darling to shreds this morning.

  3. dos vadanya comrades.This is the Today program.

    I used to think it was all myth about bias, its just one's own perception.
    Trouble is the entire BBC has a different perception to me.

  4. Yes, it did seem that Humphrys had lost the faith. The number of times he said to Darling "But that's simply not true" (or similar) was impressive. Even to those of us who have been shouting that at the radio for years...

    But I thought that Humphrys' mishearing and Darling's NHS comment were both quite revealing.