|pic by born1945 via Flickr|
Listening to a politician talk about other people's money is always fun. They don't get bogged down by facts, reality or every single past experience of government spending and budgeting for the last hundred years. This is why Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin's recent trip to the Commons was laughable. He said the new projected cost of £42.6bn, up from £33bn, included "contingency" money. Even though they budgeted wrong before, they're pretty sure they've got it right this time.
And then there was the big gag. Mr McLoughlin said contingency money was built into the London Olympics budget but the cost ended up "below the price that had been set by the government". Ha ha ha. The Olympics was under budget? Okay, let's talk about this. And to do so, I'd like to refer to something I wrote a little while ago, which is now in my book, Death by Civilisation. It wrote it after MPs were taking exception to G4S charging the government £57 million for their services in the London Olympics, which they were all very pleased about.
It’s always galling when politicians club together and start clubbing private companies for wasting money. MPs have been calling on G4S to forgo their £57 million fee after their high-profile Olympics blunder in which they failed to recruit enough security staff and had to be bailed out by the Armed Forces. But G4S’s main error is that they weren’t anywhere near clever enough to get away with wasting such a small amount of money. The politicians, masters of misdirection, know how to waste so much more with much greater subtlety.
So let us remember two numbers. When the games were won for London, the budget was £2.4 billion. Bafflingly, VAT and the security costs were omitted from this. But when the games were held, the budget was £11 billion. £11 billion. Not £2.4 billion. You have to admire the cheek. In June 2012, the government had the nerve to announce that the games were under budget by £476 million, omitting to mention the original budget had been inflated by £9 billion. And then there’s the imaginary economic benefits that they always claim, and yet have not one shred of evidence for...The same goes for this rail link. There's no decent evidence of the effect this rail link will have on jobs, but the politicians plough on, courageously spending other people's money. Sadly, any right thinking MP who can see trying to vote this idiocy down was defeated. 325 MPs vote for this white elephant.
Death by Civilisation is available in paperback or as an e-book. It's a book of articles about this sort of thing. A toxic mix of politics, money, media and religion. With jokes.