UK Elections & Gilts: A Primer For Politicians Talking About Debt

Excerpted from Bill Blain's Morning Porridge commentary,

“He knows nothing, and thinks he knows everything. It points clearly to a political career. ”

I probably don’t need to say anything about Labour or Tory spending plans re the current UK election. You just need to listen to the various spokespersons from both parties – and then figure it out for yourself. Watching most politicians talk about debt is a painful thing – and that’s not surprising. Most folk know very little about bond markets. We like to keep it that way. The less they know, the better the population will sleep soundly at night….

Relax and don’t worry. The bottom line is the UK Debt Management Office is probably the most professional bond issuer on the planet.  The Treasury is smart – they will say “Yes, Minster” and make it not happen. Governments can raise as much money as any government wants – the issue will be the price. If the government plan is credible, the price of that debt will remain low. If its stab-in-the-dark-guesstimate-maths – of the kind promoted by certain politicians in car-crash interviews - the plans won’t be credible and the yield on UK government gilts will soar – creating all kinds of issues for sterling, jobs and growth which are unlikely to be positive. 

Since a key battleground in this election will be “who can spend the most the fastest”, let me offer aspiring UK politicians hoping to hold the purse strings after Dec 12th some advice. 

Here is the Blain primer for Politicians talking about Debt:

1) It’s all about credibility. If you are credible, you will be able to raise money at the best price.

2) Best way to build credibility is to at least know something about what you are taking about. If you don’t – Shut the **** up. 

3) Enhance credibility by listening to the questions about spending and answer clearly and honestly. It is better to present proper plans on achieving proper economic goals (like infrastructure, training, education, renewables, etc), rather than screaming about a £30 bln unscoped spending binge plucked out the air to meet a vague policy goal canvassers have identified as high on voter priority lists. 

4) If you have to bluff – build credibility by explaining one thing well rather than lots of things badly. 

5) Don’t fluff or make it up – your credibility will be ripped to shreds and can’t be stitched up again. 

6) Don’t say we have to spend billions on plan x. Credibility will be enhanced if you explain what we need to spend it on, and how you are going to do it.

7) Remember it is all about credibility. And credibility is critical. Don’t forget its about credibility. 

I am available at a very reasonable price to coach candidates of either party on how not to come across as complete numpties in this debt-based election. (Liberals will charged triple rates because I’m sure they will tell me they know it already – while conclusively demonstrating they don’t.)