If the IMF is right, the Tories owe Liz Truss an apology

Hats off to minister James Cartlidge for a courageous Commons performance on the day the IMF said our economy will shrink. A handsome fellow with strong hair, his website says he plays drums in a pub – hence he’s used to perform for small, unappreciative audiences.

Labor turned out in reasonable numbers, but only about a dozen Tories bothered, one of whom, I think, was reading a magazine. Perhaps the rest of the party shares my happy ignorance of economics. When the radio declared, “Britain’s growth has been downgraded by the IMF,” I heard “MFI” – and thought, “What’s it got to do with fitted kitchens?” Besides, glass houses and all that. They went bust with Allied Carpets years ago.

Cartlidge, however, works for the Treasury, is familiar with all the funny buttons on a calculator and was determined to talk up the economy. Innovation, investment and the lowest unemployment since Dusty Springfield: he addressed these rousing remarks not to Labor or even the Speaker, but to the Conservative MPs behind him, as if whipping up a crowd at Wembley Stadium. It took Dame Angela Eagle to point out that “the benches opposite are empty”. That woman really is a Debbie Downer.

Nonsense, said Cartlidge, “there is colorful support from our benches!”. It was unclear if he was referring to Michael Fabricant’s blond hair or Harriett Baldwin’s blue jacket, the latter so velor that every time the material rubbed, a charge of electricity surged through the building and the lights flickered.

The Tories are sailing a “ship of shame” cried Labour’s Barry Sheerman, and the Chancellor has sent his “cabin boy” to defend them! Well, at least Cartlidge’s sums add up, Barry. Labor plans billions in extra spending and seems to imagine it can finance it entirely through a tax raid on Rishi Sunak’s wife.

Also, Conservative Greg Clark made one very good point: this is only a forecast. The IMF has been known to get those wrong. Indeed, I’m reliably informed by a friend who I think is good at business – he owns a briefcase – that the IMF bases its predictions on data, market trends and trawling through tabloid horoscopes, which explains why in its latest report it advised Italy to avoid the number six and told France it was going to meet a tall dark stranger.

Moreover, it’s the same clever-clogs IMF that advised us not to cut tax last year that now tells us our economy is in a nosedive because we raised taxes. Somebody owes Liz Truss an apology.

Where is Miss Truss by the way? Apparently she’s been spotted in America, at Right-wing think tanks, talking tax. When she is introduced as a “former prime minister”, I wonder if the chairman mentions how long she did the job…

Well, she’s plotting a comeback in Britain, and don’t rule out success. The more Rishi comes unstuck, the more she looks like the low tax Napoleon – exiled not at Elba but the Grover Cleveland Institute for Supply Side Economics.


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