Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
Julius Caesar, Act 4, Scene 3
So also are nations sometimes offered a golden opportunity to change course. There was one such moment in 1979, when the bankruptcy of tax, borrow and spend had become apparent to all except the Labour party's suborned tribal voters. As we know, that opportunity was seized by a principled woman in the teeth of opposition from the Heathite castrati of her party and for a few decades Britain ceased to be the sick man of Europe and an international laughing stock.
Another came last year, but the capons who now run the Conservative party have not merely let the opportunity slip - they have thrown it away quite deliberately. Today's editorial in Critical Reaction states what has been obvious to me since before the last general election: Cameron is the new Heath, and thanks to his moral cowardice and unfitness for high office we will get the Labour pukes back in a few years time to complete the destruction of the nation.
Whatever a screaming 0.5% contraction in the economy might be due to, it hasn’t been as a result of George Osborne’s slash n’ burn - for he hasn’t. He claimed in opposition massively stringent measures would be needed, but the self-styled ‘political’ politician neglected to start making these genuinely hard choices last May, his one true moment to do so.
While it’s characteristic of Tory modernisers to announce what their tactics are as they engage in them, it’s also equally characteristic that these tactics don’t work. If the public are going to believe in cuts – if ever they actually happen – they have above all else to believe that the government believes in them. They are never going to do so for as long as a spin-obsessed Prime Minister and Chancellor think that it is smart politics to run away from ‘little, noisy fights’. Those are precisely the fights where the government needed to stand its ground if ever it was going to convince the electorate of its wider sincerity.
Public sector borrowing is greater than Brown’s at his most expansive, with November’s figures being the worst ever in British history. Ed Balls’ secret weapon in making the case against ‘Tory cuts’ is not the cuts themselves, but the fact that Cameron and Osborne haven’t had the courage to make them. That case is even harder to make now, and we can have even less confidence that this pair will make it.