The latest "Private Eye" came this morning and understandably reminded us about its long opposition and critical views on the Private Financial Initiative, PFI. Often one does not like to see a journal crying "I told you so" but this time it is probably justified.
The 1992 General Election had left us with a Conservative Government that did not expect to be there and a Labour Party wondering how they had managed to lose it. As it could happen that another election might be soon, their thoughts turned on just what to do next.
The Conservatives as well as having a small majority had a lot of members in marginal seats who quickly formed a long queue at The Treasury wanting big money projects spent on their patches. The Labour Party when under its new leader Blair were talking big money to add to this.
But the money did not appear to be there from conventional sources so new means had to be found. PFI was the idea that came up from a dream team of the time. When the "Eye" issued its warning of 1994, my reaction was that whingeing Lefties were trying to spoil things. But just for fun I would try running the figures.
It was later when try as I could the figures did not seem to work. In fact, the longer the periods and the greater the cost the worse it looked. Being an interested amateur, I could add or remove what I liked in doing the calculations. Among mine were unforeseen added costs and long run maintenance and repair.
These were things not in the government figures or a lot of others. What scared me was that then the figures looked not simply bad but catastrophic unless underwritten by a government prepared to take the hit. In the politics of the late 20th and into the first years of the 21st centuries, these things were not on the agenda.
By the time the "Eye" had a major go at PFI around 2005 Major was long gone and PFI had become one of the Blair and Brown ways and means of buying votes, helping out their financial friends and claiming to be building a new Britain. We all know what happened next.
Also, we should know why successive Chancellors of the present and immediate future are becoming more and more strapped for cash or for new investment. Given the way elections go, who votes and what they vote for it is not getting any better.
And the demands for new projects are no longer in the tens of billions in long run costs but hundreds of billions.