Labour government 1998: Is this when it all started to go wrong for the UK?

At my normal snail’s pace, I am reading through A Walk-On Part: Diaries 1994-1999, by then Labour MP Chris Mullin.

Last night I came across two entries which I think encapsulate the moment when Labour started to mess up the economy. It is quite spine-chilling to read this now:

(Note that Ed Balls was Gordon Brown’s economic adviser at the time).

Monday 13 July
Gordon Brown made a statement setting out his spending plans for the next three years. All good stuff on the face of it. Billions being splashed out. Education to rise 5.1 per cent of GDP in real terms. Health by 4.7 per cent. Transport by 16 per cent. A minimum income guarantee for pensioners. Overseas aid up (modestly). The mystery is where it is all coming from. There will be cuts in Defence and at the DTI. Also Gordon has – as the Tories allege – slyly raised taxes, but none of this begins to explain the apparent largesse. No one is quite sure. For the time being, however, doubts are churlish. All hail to the mighty Gordon, worker of miracles.

Wednesday 15 July

Gordon addressed the parliamentary party in the wake of yesterday’s triumph. He is a man reborn. No more hiding behind tired slogans and sound bits. Every question directly answered. His calculations, he said, were cautious. The possibility of a downturn had been allowed for. We would not be blown off course by recession. As for the Tories, we must rub their noses in it. When they complain about our spending plans we must ask which hospital, which school they want closed. Joy was mainly unconfined. Even Dennis Skinner applauded, albeit modestly. For the moment Gordon can do no wrong. To suggest, as the Tories and other malcontents do, that a certain amount of sorcery has been employed is to appear ungrateful. We must await events.


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