Some people just can’t help themselves. Faced with a hornets’ nest, their immediate response is to aim a well-placed kick and then stick around to see what happens. Such a person is Dan Hodges, whose hornets’ nest of choice is the Labour Party of which he is a member.
A stickler for economic responsibility, Hodges has already attracted the ire of his Ballsian comrades; but now, to judge from his Telegraph blog, he’s moved on to a much bigger target – the British people:
- “The time has come to establish a public inquiry into the great British public… We are losing the plot. In fact, there is mounting evidence we never had much of a grip on the plot in the first place.”
Exhibit A is the banking crisis – in particular, public anger at the reluctance of the banks to lend as freely as they used to:
- “That lending-us-money thing. Wasn’t that what got us into this mess in the first place? The mountains of cheap credit the bankers forced on us as we begged them: ‘No more! This is irresponsible and unethical. It will all end in ruin, I tell you.’
- “Of course, we weren’t saying that at all. Instead we just said ‘thanks very much’ and jetted off to Disney Land. We weren’t calling for inquiries. We were too busy ordering our new credit cards. When Fred Goodwin was awarded his knighthood, we didn’t rise up in outrage. We just shrugged and said ‘Isn’t it nice that Chris Tarrant and Roy Hudd have got OBEs.’
- “By all means, let us have an inquiry into the culture and ethics of the banking industry. Let’s spend twelve months and millions of pounds we don’t have on discovering what every single one of us knows already… We know precisely what the City culture is because we created it. We encouraged it. We enjoyed a period of unprecedented national prosperity in the back of it.”
To his credit, Hodges – an outspoken Blairite – makes it clear than this culture went to the heart of the New Labour project:
- “The bankers’ culture wasn’t only the bankers’ culture. It was everyone’s culture. Last week, it was announced that 20 NHS trusts, running more than 60 hospitals, were facing financial crisis because of debts created by the former government’s PFI scheme. I remember when the idea of PPP and PFI deals were first floated in Labour circles prior to the 1997 election. ‘What’s so great about them?’ I asked one of Tony Blair’s advisers. ‘They’re brilliant. They keep our spending off the books,’ was the response.”
But, as with the misdeeds of the banking elite, Hodges is equally adamant that the misdeeds of the political elite shame the nation as a whole:
- “We used an accounting dodge to underline our fiscal credibility. And what’s more, every commentator, financier and analyst lauded us for it. More importantly, people kept voting for it.”
Hodges does exaggerate a little. It wasn’t every commentator, financier and analyst that bowed the knee; nor did every voter opt for New Labour or some other party of the left.
No,it was only most of them.