The Corner

Blair, Another Tribute

From Jeff Randall at The Daily Telegraph. He attacks Blair over Iraq. Agree or disagree, there’s nothing new about that, but this commentary on his economic record ought to make bracing reading for some of his fans over here:

After what seemed like a promising start, Labour’s so-called business-friendly policies have turned increasingly hostile. Small companies are being strangled by red tape and stealth taxes. The British Chambers of Commerce calculates that the cost of regulation introduced since 1998 is more than £55 billion. Tim Ambler of the London Business School says: “Government talks less regulation, but has actually increased it by 50 per cent.” Business organisations that once queued up to bathe in Blair’s warm glow have gone cold. A survey this month by the Institute of Directors found that 45 per cent of companies believe Labour has been bad for business; only 32 per cent said it had been good. A failure to tackle Britain’s woeful transport infrastructure and skills shortages were cited as particular disappointments. This week, the CBI urged government to cut business taxes by £17 billion over three years to help shore up Britain’s creaking competitiveness. In a league of 55 developed countries, the UK ranks only 20th, below the US and several European rivals, including Denmark, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Ireland and Germany. Blair and his finance director, Gordon Brown, boast about how much they have pumped into schools and hospitals. Budgets for education and health have been inflated to bursting point. But as any businessman knows, spending is the easy bit. Delivering value for money is.

According to Derek Scott, the Prime Minister’s economic adviser 1997-2003: “There hasbeen too much money and too little reform… the lion’s share has gone into salaries, without any corresponding increase in productivity. In other words, the state is paying more people more money to do roughly the same amount of work.” The CBI says, “much of the massive increase in public spending has been wasted”. For evidence, look no further than the ludicrous tax credits system, which has doled out nearly £6 billion of overpayments in just three years, about £2 billion of which will have to be written off. If a business behaved in a similar fashion, it would quickly collapse.Insolvencies are booming. Corporate failures jumped by more than 10 per cent in 2006 to 20,000 – the highest for more than a decade. But that is mild compared with the explosion in personal bankruptcies. When a youthful Blair urged us to join him on his journey, a trip to Carey Street was not what we had in mind. Bailiffs, however, are loving it. Last year more than 100,000 people went bust. This year, the trend has accelerated with 30,000 insolvencies in the first quarter…Apart from granting the Bank of England independence to set interest rates, Labour’s most significant triumph has been rejection of the euro. Blair, of course, takes no credit. Left to him, the pound would have been scrapped, along with many key elements of British sovereignty – and our economy wrecked.

Read the whole thing.

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