Experience shows that the British press don’t always give out the right story. But today’s reports that our Chancellor of the Exchequer has jumped into the Ukrainian turmoil with “’We should be there with a chequebook to help the people of Ukraine rebuild their country” beggars belief – even if the reports were sensationalised.
Now the ideal Chancellor would be someone who combined financial acumen with geopolitical awareness and a tight grip on all forms of public spending. But in this case Mr Osborne seems to have failed on all counts.
The fact that the UK has huge debts, cannot produce enough to stop the debt spiral deepening, already gives away excessive amounts to undeserving nations and spends billions on vanity projects are not indicators of a well managed economy. The Bank of England’s continued all-time low for interest rates shows that the UK is still in a dire financial situation. And the fact that those of us not in Australia for a G20 meeting are facing wrecked homes and farms, broken rail links, pot-hole filled roads plus financial cutbacks causing closures of care homes, sports halls, libraries, etc just makes ill-considered offers of overseas handouts even more grotesque. It certainly hit a nerve on the comments sections with thousands supporting every critical message posted.
The gap between what the Chancellor allows to be spent and what he can actually afford is already too great. And this is despite the fact that even after retirement Grandads continue to pay so much in tax from their modest pensions. Add up the 20% VAT, 50% fuel duty and the multitude of taxes on our gas, electricity, telephone, TV viewing and even holiday flights to see how high everyone’s tax burden – on top of income tax and NI – has become.
But even if the UK was in a healthy financial position then offering an open chequebook to the Ukraine would still be bad economics. The country already has huge debts and a zero credit rating. Any money we send will never be seen again – and not help the country recover. Plus the prospect of a national breakup on ethnic, linguistic or east-west political lines is a real possibility. In an extreme scenario a NATO versus Russia military conflict could result.
So not the best time to be providing fuel for the fire bombs George. In fact there is never going to be a best time while the country whose economy you are charged with managing so badly needs some better management …
ps That country is the UK in case you forgot