Should the reader look to Robert Colvile’s essay in The Sunday Times of November 22, 2020, for his answer to the conundrums enunciated by Mr. Sunak, and reported upon here at The Financial Times ? The headline gives the game away:
Headline: In case no one has told you yet, debt’s piling up and there’s only one way out — growth
The headlines could have been from parallel dimensions. One day the prime minister was announcing the biggest boost to the defence budget in decades. The next, the Treasury was reported to be preparing a public-sector pay freeze amid record borrowing figures and a national debt topping £2 trillion.
This hairpin turn from boom to bust doesn’t just suggest schizophrenic media management. It reflects the fact that despite the ejection of Dominic Cummings and Lee Cain, the government is still deeply divided over the fundamental issue of how much we can afford to spend.
During the pandemic, the government has spent and borrowed at extraordinary levels. Billions upon billions have been ploughed into furlough, test and trace, the desperate trolley dash for PPE and all the rest of it. It will surpass the 2018-19 budget for NHS England three times over.
Its ‘as if’ the ghosts of Hayek and Thatcher have conspired to inhabit Mr. Colvile, in tandem, producing the tinny echo of Neo-Liberalism’s collapsed Utopianism.