An economist on the Today programme just apologised in case he and his fellow professionals are confusing us with the latest round of figures about public spending. How could we possibly be confused? We don't know the numbers. We don't need to know the numbers. It's quite sweet that politicians of all sides think it's about the numbers, as if we can be dazzled by a little book cooking, or "re-prioritising" as some government spokesman had it the other day. If you want to know how it's going you don't look at the figures. You look at their eyes.
My grandmother was no economist but even she could have told you that when the government has borrowed as much as ours has, unemployment and its attendant costs are rising steeply, the pound is in bad enough shape to frighten anyone who buys a bottle of Chianti, let alone goes on a holiday abroad, almost a million young people are not in work, education or full-time training, the one source of taxation income, financial services, is on the bones of its arse and according to the World Bank and the ratings agencies Britain is getting a reputation among the lenders of money of a particularly bad-risk sink estate, then the fantasy that public spending won't have to be reduced and taxation won't have to rise is one that you couldn't get past Pollyanna, let alone the supposedly sensible British public.
When every business or household in the UK is planning for no-growth, decline or armageddon, the idea that the present government is going to have a leetle bit of a look-ette at the figures after the election gives you an idea of what an empty charade that's going to be. Either they think somebody else will be looking at the books after the election (which is certainly what the polls believe) or their research has told them that we'd prefer not to have our pretty little heads clouded with the awful truth. I find this kind of collective delusion a lot more frightening than the truth could ever be.