When Labour appointed City grandee Paul Myners to the job of City minister in 2008, at the height of the credit crunch, it must have seemed like a great idea – well regarded in the Square Mile, with a highly successful business career behind him, he had exactly the sort of credibility and influence the Government needed at a time of crisis. Not a party man, perhaps, but the perfect example of Gordon Brown's much-hyped 'government of all the talents'. But now they're probably wishing they'd looked a bit closer to home, after Myners launched a withering attack on their economic policy – not least their wasteful spending and mistaken belief that the State can create jobs. Better late than never...
In a speech to fellow peers yesterday, Myners attacked Labour's 'flawed thinking' on the economy, arguing there was 'nothing progressive' about a government that 'consistently spends more than it can raise in taxation' or endows future generations with massive debts. He also said he had witnessed 'considerable waste in public expenditure' (which he hopes the new Government will stop) and spoke of his frustration about sitting in meetings with fellow ministers as they talked about creating jobs in the green economy. 'The Government can't create jobs,' he growled. 'The Government can create the environment which is conducive to the creation of jobs – but it cannot create jobs, and we mislead ourselves if we believe it can.' Quite right too – though we can't imagine it went down well at Labour HQ.
No doubt some will say that if Myners was so disgusted by what he saw during his spell in the corridors of power, he should have said so at the time – rather than toeing the party line and coming out with it now, when the political wind has changed. Some cynics might even see this as an attempt to ingratiate himself with the new administration (who have, of course, gleefully seized on his comments as further proof of Labour's incomptence) and talk his way into a new job – after all, the coalition would undoubtedly see the political capital in appointing a Labour turncoat to a position of influence. Equally, on a human level, it might be seen as rather ungrateful to the people who elevated him to the Lords.
But we're inclined to feel that Myners has done the right thing here. Once he agreed to be a Labour peer, and to serve on the Treasury team, it's surely right that – at least in public – he didn't rock the boat or publicly undermine his colleagues. Collective responsibility and all that. And, now he's out of office, there's no reason why he shouldn't have his say. Though it would be interesting to know whether he argued so vociferously against Labour's economic strategy behind closed doors...
In today's bulletin:
Cameron enjoys new broom effect - as Thiam and Hayward suffer
Lord Myners bites the hand that fed him
MT Leadership Visions: Mark Derry, Director of BBH Plc
Editor's blog: The real Sir Terry Leahy
Why new Tesco boss Philip Clarke got the top job