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Honesty in politics

When a party loses power after an election it is traditional for departing ministers to leave personal notes to their successors, usually consisting of advice on how to do the job. In a rare and beautiful display of political honesty, the departing Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Liam Byrne, wrote the following to David Laws, the Liberal Democrat who is taking over:

“Dear chief secretary, I’m afraid there is no money. Kind regards – and good luck! Liam.”

This almost reached the sublime level of the parting message of Reginald Maudling to the new Chancellor James Callaghan in 1964: “Good luck, old cock … Sorry to leave it in such a mess.”

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6 comments to Honesty in politics

  • Dyspeptic Curmudgeon

    Perfect opening for Cameron to do a Sean Gabb style ‘ shutdown all the quangos’ routine. It IS what is needed and should be done. Just the quangos and other useless crap. Leave welfare, benefits etc. strictly alone. And tell every department to chop 10-20% of its staff, all above the median income level!

  • I had a look at the TPA quango list the other day, and by the end felt a trifle depressed. Well, even more than usual.

    The problem is, although there are one or two obvious total deadweights like The Jam Authority and the Morris Dancing Strategic Alliance, most of them are doing something. It’s not something we want them to do, but they are woven into the fabric of the state in some kind of strategic or planning or organisational role. Trying a significant quango cull while retaining Big Government is virtually impossible; it’ll be a painful, complex restructuring process.

    Of course the easy answer, the Gabbite one, is to just get rid of the whole lot and Big Government with it. And we would all applaud, but that isn’t on this government’s agenda.

    Additionally, some of the ones that need most urgently to be entirely gotten rid of- OFCOM springs to mind here- don’t cost “The Taxpayer” a bean, since they’re funded by fees levied on industry, so we are all paying indirectly, but that’s not understood by most people and thus can’t be explained as a cut in State expenditure.

    I can’t see them in practise getting rid of more than a few non-entities like the North Wales Public Wastebins Authority or something. It’ll be hell, in the current paradigm, trying to unpick any of the enormous tapestry woven by Labour and Conservative governments alike since the 1970s.

  • michael

    How about the Gordian Knot approach? Just cut all QUANGO budgets by 20%. Now. For this year.

    Then review them slowly and carefully. I suggest a committee of senior back benchers be given the task.

  • Brian, follower of Deornoth

    Telling the truth is only honesty if there is some prospect of a lie being advantageous. Telling the truth when there is clearly no alternative may be no more than brazen effrontery.

  • Paul Marks

    Various good people above have made sensible suggestions about what Cameron and co should do.

    However, please look at what they HAVE DONE.

    Already little George Osbourne has given in to the E.U. over the regulation of hedge funds (about 80% of the hedge funds in the E.U. are based in Britain – so these reglations will eventually savage this country) this is the result of the BIG LIE that the current crises was casued by “unregulated markets” or “lack of regulation” – this big lie went unchallenged by Cameron and co and so (over the last two years) has created the climate for these regulations.

    Also Cameron and co have indicated they intend to increase Captial Gains Tax (the tax on INVESTMENT) – particularly in the sensitive housing market and stock market.

    Please consider all the above.

    I put it to you all that these things show a lot about Cameron and co – why it is a waste of time to give such people advice.