Who is left defending George Osborne?
The economists have deserted him, and business leaders are nowhere to be heard.
So far, we have heard from 13 of the 20 economists who signed the now-infamous letter to George Osborne in the Sunday Times in February 2010, in which they argued that:
[The] government's goal should be to eliminate the structural current Budget deficit over the course of a parliament.
Eleven of the economists responded to the New Statesman's request for a comment, two and a half years on. Of those, nine admitted that the changed situation had caused them to change their minds; one, Albert Marcet of Spain, remained supportive of Osborne; and the eleventh, Oxford's John Vickers, declined to comment either way.
Since then, two further signatories have got in touch with the Daily Telegraph to confirm that they, too, remain supportive. But what of the other seven? Will they admit they got it wrong; stake their colours ever firmer to a dying idea; or take the cowards' way out? We are still waiting to hear from:
- Sir Howard Davies, then of the London School of Economics, now working for France's Science Po
- Meghnad Desai, formerly of the London School of Economics
- Andrew Turnbull, former Cabinet Secretary
- Orazio Attanasio of University College London
- John Muellbauer of Nuffield College, Oxford
- Thomas Sargent of New York University, joint winner of 2011 Nobel prize in economics
- Anne Sibert of Birkbeck College
The economists aren't the only letter writers who should be embarrassed of their record. What about the 35 businesspeople who signed, corralled by CCHQ, their own letter in October 2010, to the Telegraph, which began:
It has been suggested that the deficit reduction programme set out by George Osborne in his emergency Budget should be watered down and spread over more than one parliament. We believe that this would be a mistake.
This letter was signed by the 34 men and one woman in their personal capacities, but some of them have surely been hit hard by the collapse in confidence which has ensued in the last two years. Andy Bond, ASDA's former chairman, can't be too happy about the impact the weak economy has had on his old company's sales growth, for instance.
Of course, some are unlikely to recant no matter what the evidence. Party-funding transparency website Search the Money reveals that five of the 35 are donors to the Tories, with donations totalling over half a million pounds between them.
Will any of the business leaders recant? The full list, including positions in 2010, is below. The New Statesman awaits their response.
- Will Adderley, CEO, Dunelm Group
- Robert Bensoussan, Chairman, L.K. Bennett
- Andy Bond, Chairman, ASDA
- Ian Cheshire, Chief Executive, Kingfisher
- Gerald Corbett, Chairman, SSL International, moneysupermarket.com, Britvic
- Peter Cullum, Executive Chairman, Towergate
- Tej Dhillon, Chairman and CEO, Dhillon Group
- Philip Dilley, Chairman, Arup
- Charles Dunstone, Chairman, Carphone Warehouse Group, Chairman, TalkTalk Telecom Group
- Warren East, CEO, ARM Holdings
- Gordon Frazer, Managing Director, Microsoft UK
- Sir Christopher Gent, Non-Executive Chairman, GlaxoSmithKline
- Ben Gordon, Chief Executive, Mothercare
- Anthony Habgood, Chairman, Whitbread , Chairman, Reed Elsevier
- Aidan Heavey, Chief Executive, Tullow Oil
- Neil Johnson, Chairman, UMECO
- Nick Leslau, Chairman, Prestbury Group
- Ian Livingston, CEO, BT Group
- Ruby McGregor-Smith, CEO, MITIE Group
- Rick Medlock, CFO, Inmarsat; Non-Executive Director lovefilms.com, The Betting Group
- John Nelson, Chairman, Hammerson
- Stefano Pessina, Executive Chairman, Alliance Boots
- Nick Prest, Chairman, AVEVA
- Nick Robertson, CEO, ASOS
- Sir Stuart Rose, Chairman, Marks & Spencer
- Tim Steiner, CEO, Ocado
- Andrew Sukawaty, Chairman and CEO, Inmarsat
- Michael Turner, Executive Chairman, Fuller, Smith and Turner
- Moni Varma,Chairman,Veetee
- Paul Walker, Chief Executive, Sage
- Paul Walsh, Chief Executive, Diageo
- Robert Walters, CEO, Robert Walters
- Joseph Wan, Chief Executive, Harvey Nichols
- Bob Wigley, Chairman, Expansys, Stonehaven Associates, Yell Group
- Simon Wolfson, Chief Executive, Next
Read David Blanchflower's most recent column for the New Statesman, "Perhaps Iain Duncan Smith will accuse me of peeing on the data", here