It's time to beat retreat

AS conspiracy theories go, Labour's alleged scorched earth policy is one which, on the face of it, seems highly improbable but on closer examination, there could just be an element of truth about.

Graham Dines

AS conspiracy theories go, Labour's alleged scorched earth policy is one which, on the face of it, seems highly improbable but on closer examination, there could just be an element of truth about.

Right wing bloggers are having a field day on the Internet, claiming that Gordon Brown's government is embarking on a reckless spending spree financed by massive borrowing, in effect mortgaging the Treasury.

Experts are already forecasting that this week's package of measures to kick start the housing market will have little effect, despite the millions of pounds being invested in the scheme. It brings back memories of Brown's last Budget as Chancellor which ended in pure theatre in the Commons, as dramatically he announced the abolition of the 10p starting band of income tax.


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Millions were meant to benefit, especially Labour's core voters. But when the first pay packets were opened in April this year, more than six million low paid workers found themselves worse off.

How could that be so? That nice “prudent” Mr Brown had spun the line that consigning the 10p tax rate to history would make every person so happy that they would joyfully march in serried ranks to the polling stations, endorse Labour, and consign the hapless Tory to history.

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But Brown had totally miscalculated the effect on the low paid. How and why he did may not be made public until his memoirs are published. Did he deliberately ignore the advice of civil servants or did they not warn him of the consequences?

But whatever, mess it up he had and his successor as Chancellor Alastair Darling was ordered to sort it out.

Darling could only do one thing - borrow £2.7billion pounds to restore Brown's reputation. Voters, especially those struggling to pay massive increases in fuel and food, are not so easily impressed. The Crewe & Nantwich by-election was proof positive of this.

But how will Darling or any future Chancellor pay back the £2.7billion? This is where scorched earth raises its ugly head.

Conspiracy theorists believe that the Crewe and Glasgow East results told even the most optimistic Labour politician that the game was up. There was no place for Brown to hide because fiscal policy - after 10 years of boasting over the economy - was unravelling before the nation's eyes. There would be no way back from the dreadful opinion poll ratings and that the next election was already lost.

And if that was the case, there would be no harm in spending and borrowing as if there would be no tomorrow.

The return of boom and bust - Brown's proud boost that there would be no rerun of the policy which has haunted the Conservative Party since the days of Norman Lamont is in ruins - means that up to May 2010, the probable date of the next General Election, Labour will become reckless with the economy.

The aim would be to mitigate the scale of Labour's defeat. But there would be an even bigger plus - the Tories after any election win could not embark on any major tax cutting because of the state of the public finances.

And as the Tories plunge into an economic crisis of their own, Labour would choose a new leader - probably David Miliband - who would be able to say “we told you not to trust the Tories again on the economy” and scupper David Cameron's government.

Scorched earth indeed - what a good conspiracy to peddle!

I like to think and certainly hope that no politician would engage in such shenanigans. It could well be that Labour actually wins the election and then would be wallowing in the mire of its own making.

But in the context of the bitter feuds and policy meltdowns which have consumed this government, it does sound plausible.

LABOUR'S SUFFOLK LOVE-IN

THE Suffolk air must agree with Labour politicians. Gordon Brown spent two weeks near Southwold early in August and now it has emerged that would-be Prime Minister David Miliband spent a few days soaking up the atmosphere in a hiring overlooking the River Deben in Waldringfield.

That's the very same Waldringfield where Labour's deputy leader Harriet Harman has a hideaway, while up the coast at Walberswick, Commons leader Geoff Hoon has had a second home for a number of years.

So it seems at least four Cabinet ministers spent some summertime in the constituency of Suffolk Coastal Tory MP John Gummer, who will no doubt use this knowledge to ensure the Government comes up with the cash to shore up the county's crumbling coastline.

Mr Gummer himself went en famile to the Beijing Olympic Games - using the green but horrendously expensive transport option of the Trans Siberian Express to get to China.

BROSNAN `WINS' MINDANAO ELECTION

A NEW ballot system for elections is being tested on Mindanao in the Philippines and a fake election was held between movie star “candidates” Pierce Brosnan, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kevin Costner, Harrison Ford and Sharon Stone. The winner was Pierce Brosnan, thanks to Remington Steele reruns still being popular in the Far East. However, when “Mamma Mia!” hits Philippino cinemas, expect his ratings to fall - singing is definitely not Brosnan's forte.

SCOTLAND WINS ONCE AGAIN

ONCE again, Scotland is benefitting from the largesse of English taxpayers - car parking charges at 14 NHS hospitals over the border are to be scrapped.

Nicola Sturgeon, Holyrood's Health Secretary, said: “It's simply not fair to expect patients or visitors to have to pay when they come to hospital, when they may be suffering personal anxiety, stress or grief. Put bluntly, a car parking charge is often the last thing people need.”

Quite - it just goes to prove how devolution is proving expensive for the long suffering English.

SARAH'S A WINNER

ANY doubts about the suitability of Alaska's governor Sarah Palin to be Senator John McCain's running mate were suitability squashed on Wednesday in her barnstorming speech to the Republican convention.

She has little experience in national politics and is a complete outsider to the Washington elite. These are no handicaps, but as she'll be only a heart beat away from the presidency if McCain is elected, it's only right that she's been subject to rigorous scrutiny.

Her big test was the appearance at the Republican Party's nominating convention in St Paul, Minnesota. The ecstatic reaction of the delegates and even some sceptical commentators was proof positive that she had passed the test.

Follow this link to Palin's speech

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