Some more budget items: £143 billions wasted on four white elephants
Amid all the usual wrangling over the pros and cons of today's budget, it's perhaps worth recalling a few items that the Chancellor of the Exchequer seems to have chosen to play down in his budget speech:
Item: The Iraq war. Cost to Britain (never mind to Iraq!) currently more than £1 billion a year, so cost thus far: about £4 billion, and counting.
Item: The Olympic Games in 2012. Cost to Britain, current estimate (likely to be far exceeded by 2012): £9.3 billion.
Item: Renewal of the Trident submarine nuclear deterrent platform: current estimate, including recurrent costs: about £100 billion.
Item: National Identity Register database and ID cards: estimate by LSE experts, nearly £30 billion ("The average annual running cost for issuing the controversial cards alongside passports was put at £584m." — Guardian report.)
Total commitment or expenditure of all four items: £143 billion. (Since the individual totals include both money already spent and estimates of future expenditure over different periods of time, the overall figure is purely indicative of the order of magnitude involved.)
These four items, ranging from a war crime to unnecessary and extravagant wastes of public money on a heroic scale, have all been accepted by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and approved by the full Cabinet without a single resignation from Cabinet in protest by a living Labour minister or ex-minister. The principal blame for all four inevitably belongs to Mr Blair. But almost equal blame must rest with a supine Chancellor and spineless cabinet ministers, along with mostly supine, spineless Labour MPs who have allowed a reckless prime minister to ignore the precautionary processes of orderly cabinet government and thus constantly to be allowed to get away with monumental follies — at our expense. They dwarf the Dome in absurdity and have cost, or will cost, a fortune in blood and treasure, with absolutely no benefit to the national interest. Any one of them could have been stopped by enough ministers and MPs being prepared to put their votes where their heads and hearts are instead of in tame obedience to the whips.
How on earth has it been allowed to happen?