For a political party that always invites the electorate to compare its what it maintains own steady economic stewardship with what it maintains would be the almost certain economic chaos of a giving any other party the reigns of power, the events of Tuesday proved that that the Conservative horse has well and truly bolted.
First off there was the news that the government is going to sell off its 71% stake of Royal Bank Scotland (R.B.S) for an as yet undisclosed price, but certainly for a loss. Now we – and I mean that in the loosest possible sense as the government bought it for us, without asking us first for £58 billion. It’s a bit like someone buying you something you don’t particularly want, but they assure you need and then somehow getting you to pay for it.
Anyway, since the purchase in 2008 R.B.S has lost money. A lot of money. To date £90 billion and that’s on top of the £58 billion it cost to bail them out in the first place. Has this stopped them paying bonuses? Hazard a wild guess!
And the government plans to sell when it’s on the cusp of starting to make a profit? This is textbook economic illiteracy of the very highest order. With no hint of irony Sir Vince Unable questioned the low price as not getting good value for money for the taxpayer. When I heard this on ‘Today in Parliament’ on Tuesday, I shouted at the radio. Was this the same Sir Vince who presided over the controversial sale of the Post Office? Controversial not least because a by the in a report by the National Audit Office found that it had been massively undervalued and in wanting the sale to conducted in one day, that decision cost us £750 million? The very same!
The second example concerns what is known as the Brexit divorce bill settlement, but which also raises questions about the British governments negotiating position. Has Teresa May ever seen ‘Life of Brian’ and specifically the scene where an exasperated market trader tries to teach a hapless Brian how to haggle?
Not on the evidence before us, because a couple of months ago in Florence, our strong and stable leader suggested that she was willing to stump up £20 billion to settle and move on. Europe did its best impersonation of the market trader in market and asked if we were having a laugh. Only they worded it in far more diplomatic language than that but and here’s the crucial bit. They know we want a deal, because only then can other talks begin. The whole thing is a mess, they know it and they also know we need a deal more than they do. We can’t just walk away.
So yesterday it was announced that our next offer was north of £45 billion. An exact figure hasn’t been agreed upon. So not only are we signaling our willingness to cravenly capitulate, but also there is much more they can extract from us. If our Brexit negotiating team were florists, they’d close on Valentines Day!