Saturday, 3 June 2017

Magic Money Tree

It reminds me of a song by the late Burl Ives, Big Rock Candy Mountain. What does? The phrase "magic money tree".

You may have heard Theresa May utter it at last night's BBC election debate in York. Other senior  Conservatives, which is to say former Cabinet Ministers, have also used it - Justine Greening or Amber Rudd. Perhaps all three of them have found it useful way of contrasting their own carefully calculated manifesto plans with those of Jeremy Corbyn.

"There is no magic money tree." It reminds me of beleagued football managers distancing themselves from universal savious such as Gandalf the Wizard. "There's no magic wand," they are liable to say, as though credulous fans thought there was. 

If there was such a thing as a magic wand there could be a magic money tree and if there was a magic money tree nobody would have to pay income tax, corporation tax, VAT. Short of emigrating to Saudi Arabia there's no chance of that happening, not even if the UK government stops wasting money on climate change nostrums or paying into the EU.

I was going to say that a heavyweight politician such as the late Denis Healey would never use such an infantile phrase in a general election debate. Healey, after all, was obliged to seek a loan from the International Monetary Fund prior to the Winter of Discontent, after the Arab-led member nations of OPEC jacked up the price of crude. On second thoughts he might if he was putting somebody in their place.

Healey it was who likened a verbal assault from Geoffrey Howe to being "savaged by a dead sheep". We're not going to hear put-downs as good as that during the remainder of this campaign because campaign managers are evidently terrified of their charges - T May and J Corbyn - saying what they really think about nuclear weapons, the NHS, the state of teaching in schools and universities, the EU, the special relationship with the United States.

Whoever coined "magic money tree" should think about retiring to write cautionary tales for young children. Make sure you don't go down to the tigerish woods today, my son, lest you fall under the spell of the magic money tree and start imaging a future in which people can afford decent homes and don't have to apply for a bank loan to pay train-fares to and from work.

The Tories, of course, are sarcastically suggesting that Labour's spending plans belong to the realm of fairy stories. Unlike the economics of the last Conservative Chancellor George Osborne, whose five year austerity plan led to more borrowing, more public debt. The magic money tree that he had access to was known by an altogether more prosaic name - Quantative Easing.

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