Enough of the dry politics of numbers. We need to discuss values and vision | Will Hutton


Political conversation has been drained of all vitality, fixated on a narrow set of targets. To breathe new life into it, our politicians should stop talking like accountants and rediscover moral purpose

My father was born in 1919 and died in 2002. For the first 50 years of his life the stock of government debt was very much higher as a share of GDP than it is now. But, strange to say, I never remember him once blaming his parents and grandparents for leaving his generation with such a high debt burden. Or, indeed, ever talking about it all.

Nor did the parents of any of my friends – right or left – discuss it. What would be characterised in today’s hysterical terms as overwhelming debts that threaten the life of the nation simply did not figure in any of their conversations, or more widely. If anybody had solemnly declared that the overriding national purpose should be to cap the national debt’s share of GDP at 80%, they would have been considered deranged. Their generation had more important things to talk about – the defence of the realm, for example, the creation of a good society and the need to do whatever Britain had to do to stay great. The politicians of the day traded their competing visions and debated how they would achieve the common good.

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