Letter: Blair or Machiavelli

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The Independent Culture
Sir: Machiavelli would have given somewhat better advice to the Prime Minister and Chancellor than Donald Macintyre, who dismisses the effect of high interest rates on British industry and seems more concerned with the success of government tactics than the ultimate result of their reliance on interest rates to govern both the level of demand and the level of the pound (Comment, 5 June).

Machiavelli was, above all a realist. He would surely point out that this small country which lived on its wits had to sell more than it bought; that, for that, it depended on its industry. So if a government crippled its industry in its first year of office by a high pound which made it uncompetitive and high interest rates which undermined its capacity to invest in new products, neither industry nor the economy would be likely to recover in time for the next election.

He might go on to suggest that the point at which to change from the absurd reliance on interest rates alone to govern both domestic demand and the exchange rate was four years before the next election when the Government's huge majority would be judged entirely on its performance and not on excuses or promises.

He would agree that the Government had made some unfortunate electoral commitments not to use taxation as a regulator of demand and not to seek the help of its trading partners in supporting the currency at a fixed but competitive rate.

So the peak of his political skill would have been to find new external conditions, unforeseeable at the election, which compelled government to act speedily, despite its previous commitments, and gave it the solid economic success needed to win the next election.