Thursday, 25 November 2010

Deconstructing Durkin...

I watched Martin Durkin's recent programme about Britain's debt on Channel 4. From the same director as "The Great Global Warming Swindle" it was always going to be a challenging argument. There's nothing wrong with film-makers or anyone else challenging orthodoxy but any argument needs to have some kind oif credible evidence.

Durkin's latest work was a homily to Thatcherism. His leading contributors were former Conservative Chancellors Geoffrey Howe and Nigel Lawson as well as Allister Heath of City AM and Mark Littlewood of the IEA. All are Thatcherites unreconstructed.

The figure of £4.6 trillion of debt was plucked out of the air in an attempt to shock and awe but it conveniently forgets that most countries run deficits most of the time. Britain has had crippling deficits in the recent past, notably after WW2 when we were effectively bankrupt and propped up by the Americans.

The Thatcherite assault on the public sector was also predicated on dubious statistics and tired arguments. We are to believe that the public sector employs seven million people which is patent nonsense. We were also then encouraged to believe that future prosperity lay in taking the route of Hong Kong.

Now, I've been to Hong Kong and it is a highly-regulated and bureaucratic country and needs to be with so many people in such a small space. Hong Kong also had the advantage of a huge pool of cheap labour from mainland China. Now, this is in itself a strong argument FOR immigration and indeed I would argue that the booms of the 1950s, 1980s and 2000s have all been predicated on an influx of cheap labour from the Caribbean, Indian Sub-Continent and Eastern Europe respectively. It is incredibly short-sighted and pandering to populist propaganda for the Coalition to be looking to cap immigration.

Durkin's argument was a sentimental eulogy for an economic credo long since discredited and an aspiration unachievable. For the more simple-minded on the Right, it has been portrayed as "the answer" but instead it was a 90-minute cul-de-sac of half-truths, misconceptions and inaccuracies that discredit a usually good film-maker.

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