Is this Darling's last Budget?
This isn't the last budget and there will be another
pre-election budget next year when presumably the government will
want to have a few sweeties to hand to help the electorate just
before they go to the polls so I'm not sure I share the premise of
How fast do you think the economy will recover?
Personally, I am not optimistic, but the government hopes by the
beginning of next year there will be green shoots sprouting all
over the place and people will feel much better and more
optimistic. I think that's the plan they've been working to,
however implausible it might seem.
Will Alistair Darling lower employers' national
The problem with all these things is how are they going to be
paid for? I can see there would be a very good argument for doing
this in terms of helping labour costs and employability, but I
can't quite see that they're going to have the freedom of manoeuvre
within the Budget to do that.
What other measures do you expect the government to
They seem to be emphasizing very active industry policy,
spraying money around favoured industries, it seems to be a bad
idea, Lord Mandelson seems to be actively promoting that. They may
also do something on credit insurance, which is a very important
area. I hope they will be able to do something on that.
There are some suggestions about making commercial rate relief
obligatory, rather than making them apply through this complicated
application process which is often done with the help of local
councils so there may be something in that area.
What would you be doing if you were in the driving
I think we need an honest statement about the scale of the
problem. At the moment there's lots of spin, there's a lot of
speculation, there's a lot of uncertainty, and what we need is a
very good, clear, honest, up front statement about the state of the
economy and the likely range of government borrowing and deficit
requirements over the next few years.
Do you think the Labour government has a culture of
Yes, there is. The government's credibility is at a very low ebb
because they were very slow to recognise and even slower to admit
that the British economy was heading into recession. We had this
long period when they were claiming there was no more boom and
bust, and then we had the period when Britain was uniquely equipped
to fight the recession, which was complete nonsense.
Even now we get these carefully doctored statements by Lord
Mandelson predicting to be able to see signs of recovery which are
not based on anything objective. I can understand why people want
to be positive, of course they should be positive - but I can see
no evidence the economy is indeed turning around.
Federation of Small Business (FSB) are advocating
compulsory payment terms. Do you think we're going to see anything
I would hope so. Some of the really big commercial operations
like Tesco are behaving outrageously - big chains are just screwing
their suppliers. There are penalties for late payment under
existing legislation, but actually getting those enforced is
difficult. If it could be enforced, though, I would welcome
Do you think businesses will forgive the Labour government
if they have to foot the bill?
What business does have to face up to, if it wants the
government to be disciplined with the Budget and cut down on the
Budget deficit, is that there is no money available for large-scale
tax cuts for companies, and that's part of the reality. The main
stimulus government is giving at the moment is through monetary
policy and quantitative easing through devaluation which has a
massive impact on businesses.
What message should Darling be looking to deliver to
The big message which has to get across is that Britain isn't
bankrupt, but we do have a serious problem.
We have some great strengths in the British economy - there are
many outstanding British companies and they will pull through. What
the government has to do is to address some of the big long-term
failings in the public sector, the fact that we are heading for a
large budget deficit, and explain how that's going to be dealt with
in order, in the medium term, to create space for good companies to
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