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Going For Broke …

It’s happening here, as the Chancellor ushers in a new era of risk-taking with the British economy. And it’s happening there, as Vlad the Mad desperately tries to muster more cannon fodder for his war. As our Political Correspondent Peter Spencer reports, outcomes are – to say the least – unpredictable.

Already that period of quiet reflection on Her Majesty’s demise feels an age ago.

In its place, a Prime Minister bristling with fundamentally different ideas about how the country should be run.

And in Moscow, a regime risking running its own nation into the ground in its efforts to to do the same to Ukraine.

Clearly, the two leaders have been working on Hamlet’s to be or not to be question.

‘Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles. And by opposing end them.’

In both cases, their answer seems to be ‘just do it’.

More about Putin’s murderous strategy later. For now, Liz Truss’s unswerving resolve to bet the farm on economic growth.

Budgets come and go. There’s a pattern here. The Chancellor gives a feelgood interpretation of the figures, generally getting reasonably good headlines.

Next, the number-crunchers get to work and everyone has a good grumble for a few days. Then, pretty soon, it’s lost in the mists of time.

This one is different. For a start, it’s not even called a budget, but a ‘growth plan’.

And what’s in it will resonate at least as far as the next general election, as clues filter in about whether the economy’s growing bigger. Or smaller.

No one’s seriously questioning the hundred-billion or so cost of the energy price cap announced earlier, as it was that or wholesale catastrophe.

But Friday’s package of half as much again in tax cuts is a different beast altogether.

Gone is the top rate of income tax for top earners. Coming in sooner than expected is the cut to the basic rate.

National insurance and corporation tax rises are out of the window, likewise most of what people pay in stamp duty.

Also down the tubes are business taxes in up to forty specially designated so-called investment zones.

In all, it’s one of the deepest diggings into the public pocket ever, at least in peacetime. And it’s got Truss’s dabs all over it.

It’s a rule of thumb that Prime Ministers and Chancellors generally fall out with one another pretty quickly.

Only to be expected, as Number Ten always wants to please as many of the people as it can, as much as it can. While Number Eleven says we can’t afford it.

Now that they’re at one with this approach, it’s the Bank of England’s turn to say: ‘Oi, we ain’t got the dosh.’

Or, as its governor cautioned, in his more formal, banker-ish way, UK is already in a recession and these tax cuts may well make things worse.

The gamble is that the economy will surge ahead so quickly that it’ll repay the money borrowed for this huge bosses’ bonanza, with interest.

However, the pounding the pound took against the dollar was swift and scary.

A risk-laden punt then? Or dead-cert loser? Certainly, when Labour wanted to borrow its way out of recession in 2008 someone suggested ‘herein lies madness’.

That someone was none other than our current Chancellor, Kwasi Kwarteng. Funny how times change.

The unyielding truth, however, is that the giveaway will be ever so much bigger for those who’ve already got a cash stash.

According to a leading thinktank, the national insurance non-hike alone will make the richest ten per cent nearly seven hundred quid more so.

By contrast, the poorest ten per cent will be little over a tenner better off.

Truss’s theory is that it’s the well-off who drive growth, so in the end everyone will get something out of it.

It’s what’s known as trickle down economics. Back in the day, Ronald Reagan was well up for it. Margaret Thatcher was pretty keen too.

But the fact remains it’s going to look to many like a flood tide for the haves, and a meagre trickle for the have-nots.

Or as a Labour MP in New Zealand put it in his 2011campaign launch, it’s: ‘The rich pissing on the poor.’

Plenty more where that came from at our own Labour party’s conference in Liverpool, and worries in Tory ranks that some of it might stick.

It’s not just that the latest YouGov poll puts the opposition eight points ahead. Nearly a quarter of those asked don’t know which way they’d jump.

A troubling thought for the two-thirds of Conservative MPs who didn’t even want Truss as their leader anyway.

One ex-minister told The Times her ‘ideological agenda’ ignores economic realities. Another said: ‘The danger is we end up looking right-wing and extreme.’

And, after the Chancellor sat down, some others were even more withering.

There is, however, grudging respect – and some surprise – that she’s stuck to the script she used to get comfortably off Tory members to choose her.

Well, so far.

As the boxing legend Mike Tyson pointed out: ‘Everyone has a plan … till they get punched in the mouth.’

Looking eastwards now, Putin’s first biff in the chops came when his lightning attack on Kiev failed to unseat the Ukrainian government.

And now that his ramshackle mob of bully boys has suffered a succession of setbacks he’s had little choice but to resort to partial mobilisation.

No surprise large numbers of would-be conscripts are fleeing Russia to dodge the draft. Likewise the whiff of unease across the country.

And his threat of nuclear strikes spreads that anxiety across the globe.

Wiser heads point out, however, that even if he pressed the Armageddon button, the generals who’d have to make it happen probably wouldn’t.

They’re old enough to remember from the Cold War that’d mean mutually assured destruction. For short: MAD. Putin may be bonkers, but they aren’t.

And there are a couple of other life-affirming stories kicking around just now.

One in particular concerns the dreaded Big C.

Boffins at London’s Institute for Cancer Research have been treating terminally ill patients with a genetically-engineered version of the herpes virus.

Injected directly into the tumour, it caused the malignant cells to burst from within, and helped mobilise patients’ immune systems.

In a quarter of cases the lumps stopped growing, got smaller, or simply disappeared.

It was a small study, and those behind it are very keen to try the treatment on a much larger scale.

ASAP, according to thirty-nine-year-old builder Krzysztof Wojkowski. Having started out on end of life care, he’s now back at work.

‘I’ve been cancer-free for two years now, it’s a true miracle, there is no other word to describe it,’ he says, with considerable feeling.

And, in another extraordinary inroad into the frontiers of medical science, researchers at Durham Uni have been tickling the tastebuds of unborn babies.

Yup, you read that right. Scans of women towards the end of their pregnancy produced different results after they’d eaten different things.

Believe it or not, the dear little creatures in their tummies appeared to be smiling when their mummies had gulped down carrot tablets.

Perhaps less surprisingly, they didn’t take so kindly to the flavour of kale pills, judging by the fact that they looked like they were crying.

The scientists think that, as a result, the mums may be able to influence the little ones’ food preferences. Basically, to get them to eat their greens.

Getting them to sit up straight, however, will take a little longer.

Watch Peter’s report HERE

Peter Spencer has 40 years experience as a Political Correspondent in Westminster, working with London Broadcasting and Sky News. For more of his fascinating musings on the turbulent political landscape, follow him on Facebook & Twitter.


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