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Gideon needs to put his house in order, pronto.
That’s the message I’m taking from the fact that the previous article on this blog – Austerity programme proved to be nonsense based on a spreadsheet mistake – has become the most popular ever to appear here. More than 10,000 of you read it within 24 hours of publication.
Clearly, the fact that a principal pillar of his faith – the work by Harvard economists Reinhart and Rogoff – has been disproved, and by a student at a rival university, should have shaken his confidence. It is also ironic for a member of the Conservative Party to realise that they would have got their sums right, if they had done them the old-fashioned way.
But we’ve had no expressions of apology or acts of contrition from the Treasury. It seems Mr Osborne is determined to keep going, no matter what damage this causes.
I don’t reckon that’s good enough. I think he should be brought to account. So I have written him a letter, asking him to justify his position.
I reproduce it below. If you agree that it is time Mr Osborne put his cards on the table, you might wish to consider using it as a template for a letter of your own.
Here it is:
The Right Honourable George Osborne MP
Chancellor of the Exchequer
Horse Guards Road
London SW1A 2HQ
Following the revelation that a fundamental justification for your austerity policy has been disproved – the paper by Reinhart and Rogoff that was based on a mistake on a spreadsheet – I am writing to ask: What other documentary evidence do you have that supports your policy of economic austerity?
I am mindful of the fact that one of your aides is quoted in The Guardian newspaper as saying “the suggestion that the case for dealing with fiscal deficits and debt rests on one paper is patently absurd” (http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2013/apr/18/uncovered-error-george-osborne-austerity), but this person did not provide any other examples.
It should also be noted that this aide added, “It remains the case that the majority of economists still back the government’s strategy.” I await proof to justify this statement as well. Perhaps it is worthwhile to remind you that, of the 20 economists who publicly backed the Osborne Austerity plan in 2010, only one was willing to publicly back it in August last year. Nine publicly disavowed you, and the other 10 had no comment or went on holiday (http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/politics/2012/08/exclusive-osbornes-supporters-turn-him).
Be advised that it will not be enough for you to discount the quotations above because they come from left-wing sources. As it stands at the moment, the situation is that your policy has no evidence to support it, nor does it have the support of expert opinion that is being claimed for it. Bear in mind that even the International Monetary Fund is criticising your policy, despite having been a staunch support in 2010.
You will recall that the Coalition came into being, nearly three years ago, for the specific purpose of bringing the economy under control. Your policy is the instrument with which this was to be done.
If you do not provide evidence to support its continuation, then what are we, the public, to think? That you are inflicting austerity on us – primarily upon the poorest of us – purely to shrink the state? To sell off the profitable parts to private industry, for the good of private bank balances rather than for the benefit of the nation as a whole? For spite?
If I were in that position, honour would demand an admission of the mistake and either an alteration of policy to one that is more likely to support economic growth (I understand alternatives are available) or – considering this government that was formed to fix the economy has spent three years doing the exact opposite – the dissolution of this administration and election of one that is better-equipped to make the best decisions, in the interest of the nation as a whole.
I look forward to your response.