The other night I found a recording of Dragons’ Den and soon saw Gordon Brown staggering up the stairs with Alistair Darling carrying a big book labelled Golden Rules. “Brown and Darling,” said Evan Davis, the presenter, “seek £2,500bn to support their project, UKplc.” Gordon Brown made his pitch: “Following a decade of year-on-year growth and inflation within the target range, we face global uncertainty outside my control. To support essential services and stay on track to deliver best-in-class education and a free health service at the point of delivery, we need to invest £2,500bn.” Alistair gazed admiringly while Gordon mentioned social housing, joined-up thinking and more new deal money to create a world-class workforce. A Scottish Dragon interrupted. “Why would I invest in a chief executive who got his company heavily into debt?” “But,” replied Gordon, looking irritated. “Borrowing is below acceptable levels set within my Golden Rules.” “But you changed the rules,” continued the Dragon. “No!” replied Gordon crossly. “The rules remain the same but we have entered a new economic cycle.” Alistair nodded in agreement. Another Dragon spoke. “Your balance sheet excludes Northern Rock and ignores your pension liabilities.” Avoiding the question, Gordon bragged about low levels of unemployment. “How many new jobs have gone to civil servants?” asked another Dragon. “Glad you asked that,” deflected Gordon. “Our £26bn Gershon economy drive included substantial hidden non-cash savings through forecast improvements in our sickness record.” “Mr Darling,” said the Dragon. “How many people in your department have experience of business?” “My extremely competent team,” said Alistair, “are all highly trained civil servants.” The Dragons had heard enough. “You don’t deserve my money,” one said. “You’ve lost control of expenditure, gone heavily into debt and customers don’t trust you. So, Mr Brown – I’m out.” With those words he left for Monte Carlo. Alistair and Gordon trudged downstairs to be replaced by a smiling David Cameron happy in the knowledge that the next recession won’t come until 2025. To read Timpo’s full column, see the next edition of Real Business. You can register for your copy on our homepage.
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