You would have thought that the prime minister would now have his public sector spending numbers at his fingertips – given that David Cameron has made the issue his focal point for three sessions of Prime Minister’s Questions in succession.
Apparently not. “Capital spending…will fall after 2011″ he said. Then, later: “Capital spending will rise to 2011 and then fall.”
This is less wrong than his previous PMQ claim that capital spending would keep rising until the Olympics (2012).
But it’s still wrong.
There was a clarification towards the end of the half-hour session when Brown said that in fact the figure would fall in 2010. His admission came after prompting by a Tory MP who reminded him that the Treasury’s own capital spending figures show £44bn this year and £36bn next year.
Some pundits are wondering whether Cameron should start following a different strategy and stop using up all his questions on the same theme. They ask whether the impact is blunted by repetition. I’m not sure. After all, Brown’s reputation was built on his solid grasp of numbers.
I forgot to mention Brown’s preposterous claim that the Tories were expecting unemployment to rise in the coming years – as if he was not.
Surely the Treasury’s own economic forecasts are based on unemployment rising substantially from today’s levels? Given that this is the consensus of almost all independent forecasters.