Jeremy Corbyn’s claim that the Conservative government’s economic response to the coronavirus package shows that his policies were right proves what an astonishingly poor grasp of economics he has. The economic rescue package has involved a massive increase in spending and borrowing, and also a temporary part nationalisation of people’s wages – both things he has argued for. But the circumstances are totally different and what helps in an unprecedented crisis can be massively damaging if carried out in normal times. In medicine, some life-saving treatments can be life-threatening if inflicted on a healthy patient. If someone’s heart has stopped, it can be right to put electric pads on their chest to give them an electric shock to restart the heart. But if you did that on a healthy person, you could kill them. Chemotherapy can save the life of a cancer patient but will make a healthy person really ill.
The UK can only afford this huge economic rescue package because the government had already taken the difficult measures to reduce the annual budget deficit and curb the growth of the national debt. If we started this crisis as indebted a country as Corbyn believes we should be, then there is no way we could afford this rescue package. He is arguing for the very opposite of mending the roof when the sun is shining. He has the financial irresponsibility of a householder who blows their rainy day fund on a luxury holiday and then can’t afford to repair their boiler.
The coronavirus economic rescue package has been delivered on a scale, speed and flexibility which is astonishing – and will massively reduce the damage done by this crisis. It will take years for us to recover fully. But it is important we come out of this crisis still supporting common sense economics. As a country, we must retain our support in sound finance – living within our means, broad support for free enterprise, and a welfare safety net that doesn’t trap people in unemployment. If we lose support for that – and start believing in Corbynomics – then we will turn a short term crisis into a never-ending slump.
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