If you speak to people up and down the country, all them will have an opinion on the current recession and how we got ourselves into such a mess. Some will blame America, many will hold the last Labour government responsible, others think Cameron & Osborne should carry the can and everyone agrees that most bankers deserve a damn good thrashing, but the truth is that very few of us actually understand the exact circumstances of the credit crunch and the fall-out that followed it. With experienced economists struggling to get their heads around the intricacies of the situation, that’s not surprising. It may not be rocket science, but macro-economics is still a pretty demanding subject.
Yet by explaining the events of the last few years against the backdrop of the last half century, in Your Money And How They Spend It, Nick Robinson succeeds where numerous other documentary-makers have failed and manages to shed some light on the murky waters of how public money is doled out. As he maps out the shifting patterns of government spending in post-war Britain, the man with the best pair of spectacles in journalism is able to penetrate some of the confusion that surrounds the topic. To be honest we should expect nothing less. Explaining the political issues of the day to John Q Tax-payer as the BBC’s political editor is something he does on a daily basis.
Robinson starts by hitting us with a quick crash course on where the lion’s share of government spending goes; Education, Social Security and Health. But he then he begins to unwrap the political decisions behind the topics that perennially dominate local headlines. We shouldn’t be surprised to hear that politicians attach more importance to certain causes according to the public’s perception of them – no matter how wrong the unwashed masses are. The idea that students are more likely to be sacrificed instead of OAPs because they tend to vote more is a no-brainer and finding out that most MPs who fight to save their local hospital are just putting on a face is also obvious when you think about it, but Robinson presents these nuggets clearly and in a refreshingly unambiguous manner. He’s also helped by a few MPs who are more than happy to tell it like it is, although perhaps it’s all down to his fabulous interview technique. Either way, the whole thing works.
“I’ve lost count of the number of ministers who come to me and say ‘I completely understand why you’re trying to do this, but I need to be seen to be fighting against this hospital closure'” explains Alan Johnson, and there are people on the other side of the political divide saying roughly the same thing a couple of minutes later. As such, the real message behind Robinson’s analysis is that public spending and economic dips are much more cyclical than many of us realised and his giant CGI graph shows that British governments have consistently been spending beyond their means since the fifties. Unfortunately for us all, the figures he presents us with suggest that this is more true now than ever before, meaning the underlying message is that the Coalition’s cuts could be justified. Discuss..