Daily catch-up: Ed Miliband, ‘sort of clear’ about the public finances’ sea of red ink

And another lovely picture of how London used to be

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The Independent Online

1. I give you another of Sir William Davenant’s wonderful views of old London. This is Putney bridge and the village of Putney as seen from Fulham village c.1750.

2. Ed Miliband finally decided yesterday to do something about his Deficit Attention Disorder (one of Paul Waugh’s finest lines). The text of his speech is here, but the Labour leader summarised it in one pithy sentence in reply to a question from Patrick Wintour of The Guardian afterwards:

“Are you think about borrowing for investment, for example in road and rail?”

Miliband: “I want to be sort of clear about this. So, we are targeting a surplus on the current budget as well as the national debt falling.”

In other words, “Yes.” But “I want to be sort of clear about this” became the phrase of the day.

There wasn’t much in the speech, and a lot of what was in it made no sense. He contrasted Labour’s sensible or common-sense spending reductions with Tory slash and burn spending cuts, when the only difference is that Labour’s would be an unspecified amount smaller than the Tories’. He also repeated that a Labour government would balance the books “as soon as possible” in the next Parliament. Well, that could be in the first year if you simply decided not to spend any public money at all.

The speech was content-free, therefore, but at least by giving it he was pretending to care that the government is spending more than it is raising.

Hopi Sen explained why this matters: “It is no good having lots of clear red water if voters assume it is just a sea of red ink.”

2. Anoosh Chakelian watched Nigel Farage vs Russell Brand on BBC Question Time last night so that we didn’t have to. 

3. Diane Abbott was on London Live yesterday, and was asked what she thought of Blairites. “They're very nice people. But sometimes they remind you of the undead.”

4. Michael Keaton, interviewed in ShortList: Christian Bale recently said he felt jealous to see Ben Affleck wearing the cape and cowl – do you ever get that?

“No. Do you know why? Because I’m Batman. I’m very secure in that.”

5. Returning to Ed Miliband’s speech, here is the chart in last week’s Office for Budget Responsibility report on the Autumn Statement that gave rise to the 35 per cent figure (actually 35.2 per cent) for public spending as a share of national income, which is supposed to be a scary return to the levels of the 1930s – and which gave Miliband his chance to attack George Osborne as the top-hatted, face-grinding, mill-owners’ friend. As you can see, however, the 35.2 per cent, which no one expects Osborne to achieve in 2019/20, is only barely below the level at which mass destitution prevailed in the nation in 2000/01, under the oppressive Tory chancellor, Gordon Brown:



Flip Chart Rick has a useful discussion about the whole business this morning.

6. And finally, thanks to Chris Heaton-Harris for starting us off with:

How do you count cows?

Use a cowculator.

Martin Wood asked:

For sheep do you use an abaacus?

Kit Marsden:

For counting snakes, you just need an adder.