The economic runes become unreadable at moments of transition. Clearly the West has been moving away from a severe global downturn but only after a massive world-wide financial intervention by European and US administrations and at at huge political and economic cost to the participating countries. There is little appetite for more financial pump-priming, necessary though it may be, among electorates, parties or governments. As at all times of transition there are good signs and bad: employment in Britain is rising, currencies are stronger, the cost of financing debt has fallen and the balance of payments is moving in our favour. However, these changes lack permanency for we are selling into stagnant markets and are busily destroying hundreds of thousands of jobs; consumer and business coinfidence has fallen steadily to be suspended now in no man’s land.
It cannot continue like this and although, in economic management as in life, experience is not normally at the extremes, these coming moments may be different. We cannot look to Obama and the United States for economic leadership for the President is running scared of the mid-term elections and Gordon Brown (of blessed memory) is no longer with us. In his place we have governmental pygmies and a painful and unconvincing contest for the leadership of the Labour Party which so far has served us ill.
The proving ground (I almost wrote killing ground!) comes upon us in October with the pre-budget report. If, as I believe, the economic position will have worsened something (surely something!) must be done to steady our ship of State and to draw back from hara-kiri. There is a key role for the Opposition: it is a time to be clear and decisive about what must be cut and what saved and what more can be done internationally and nationally to prevent the drift into a decade of economic depression, and a downward economic cycle. It is only when we have a clear political alternative that we can find an economic one. Might this not be the time when an olive branch can be given to those glum Lib Dem members that occupy benches on the wrong side of the House and shouldn’t we be thinking of it NOW. It took the Coalition six days to cobble together a programme for Government. What can the progressive Left put together in ten weeks? Surely something a good deal better, not just for Britain, but for the world’s trading community, can be fashioned from the ruins of the old?