Announcer: Good evening and welcome to Money Matters. This week we are fortunate to have with us Antony Trite. If his party wins the next election, he will be in charge of the country’s finances. Our interviewer is, as usual, Linda Bobbins. Over to you, Linda.
Bobbins: Thank you. Hello, Mr Trite. It’s good of you find the time to be with us.
Trite: My pleasure, Linda. I was delighted when I got the invitation to join you.
Bobbins: I’d like to start by asking you to comment on your reputation for answering any question with a question.
Trite: Wherever did you hear that?
Bobbins: My case rests. Now, let’s get right down to it. You hope to be holding our collective purse strings in the near future, and you’ve been very critical of the present government, in particular what you see as its failure to get a grip on the annual budget deficits and the associated national debt. Many of us are very concerned about these matters, so how would you go about putting our affairs in order?
Trite: Ah, I’m glad you asked me that, Linda.
Bobbins: Good. Would you care to respond to it?
Trite: I will, but first let me say –
Bobbins: No, Mr Trite. Please answer the question.
Trite: Very well. I’ll come straight to the point. The government has totally failed to do what it said it would do – clear our debts.
Bobbins: Be that as it may, I’d like us to concentrate not on what you believe those now in office have got wrong, but what you would get right.
Trite: I’ll tell you. If elected, we shall tackle the fiscal problems with all our energy.
Bobbins: But you haven’t yet spelled out what measures you would take. This is your chance to do so.
Trite: We have fully costed schemes which will get the budget into balance during the course of our first term in office.
Bobbins: Will you give us the details.
Trite: Certainly. First, we shall not pander to those urging us to soak the wealthy. You don’t make the poor richer by making the rich poorer. The well-off people are contributing massively to our coffers, so we shall see that they are protected.
Bobbins: What about the poor?
Trite: We have always been a compassionate society and that will continue. The less affluent people must be looked after, so we would not take anything from them.
Bobbins: I see. That leaves those in the middle.
Trite: Precisely, and they are the backbone of our great nation. They work hard and pay their taxes, so we wouldn’t do anything inimical to their interests.
Bobbins: Remarkable. You seem to have ring-fenced everyone, so who will pay to get us out of the hole we’re in?
Trite: As I said, we have worked it all out and our figures have been verified independently. There are savings to be made. For example, we can gather much more money than we do now by adjusting the levels of property tax. That will bring in four hundred million. Then we can withdraw benefits from those who don’t need them. There we have another eight hundred and fifty million. You see?
Bobbins: I do see, but what you’ve mentioned amounts to a tiny fraction of one year’s budget deficit. What about the rest?
Trite: Well, we shall need to look at the books when we take over.
Bobbins: The books, at least in broad outline, are available to all of us at any time. I was looking at them only today.
Trite: Yes, but the devil is in the detail.
Bobbins: Some detail!
Trite: That’s true. Let me say that we wouldn’t burden the groups I’ve mentioned with heavier taxation. They already pay enough. Therefore we do not envisage any increases in income tax, national insurance, value added tax, corporation tax or excise duties.
Bobbins: But I’ve just said that you have indicated your intention to protect everyone, yet somebody must pay something to clear our enormous debts. The areas of taxation you’ve just said you won’t increase cover about eighty per cent of government revenue. If you aren’t going to raise the necessary money by taxation, presumably you have plans to curb public spending.
Trite: Ah, I thought you’d say that. Now let me make this perfectly clear.
Bobbins: I do hope you will.
Trite: We shall not be tampering with spending on health, education or social security, including pensions, nor do we intend to reduce the defence outlay, and of course we cannot avoid paying interest on our debts.
Bobbins: There you go again. Those items account for over eighty per cent of public spending, which leaves you hardly any room for cuts. That simply doesn’t stack up, Mr Trite. Having as I said ring-fenced practically everyone with respect to income, you’ve now pretty well done the same in terms of expenditure. You can’t go back on all your recent comments by engaging in a borrowing spree, can you?
Trite: Certainly not. You’re overlooking one thing, Linda. Under our stewardship, the economy will forge ahead, unemployment will plummet, consumer spending will soar and the revenues will come rolling in, so there will more for everybody. Now do you see?
Bobbins: What I see most clearly, Mr Trite, is what most other people see, which is that you have just given us a number of hackneyed political platitudes, a lot of pie in the sky and none of your party’s much-vaunted solutions to our problems. I’m bound to wonder why you are here.
Trite: Steady on, Linda. That’s a bit strong.
Bobbins: I had a mental list of things I imagined you might say, and you’ve said them all, yet I suggest that nobody is any the wiser for hearing them. The public is seeking clarity and you are providing opacity. This is extremely exasperating.
Trite: That’s just not fair, Linda. You have to leave me a little wiggle room. You don’t underst . . . hey, what are you doing? Where did you get that frying pan? That thing’s cast iron. It could do a lot of dama . . . ooh! ouch! Stop it. Somebody get her away from me.
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