ANY country needs good government and never more so than when it is trying to face up to the mega-crisis we are in. Last week's Queen's Speech crystallised my misgivings about the Coalition.
If governments are to go in for Queen's Speeches then last Wednesday's effort was pretty lamentable. The only issue worthy of highlighting is the state of the economy, and how the simply massive overhang of public debt is stifling any economic recovery.
The Queen's Speech should have consisted of one or two sentences alone, and for these sentences to emphasise beyond any doubt whatsoever that economic growth, while managing the public debt, the single Herculean task facing all of us, was of paramount priority. All the measures announced are superfluous to this overriding goal.
There could then have been no mistake in the media on the Government's intent.
Instead of that, the media ran off with half a dozen stories. It is this simple mess-up over the Queen's Speech that crystallised my concerns about the Government's ability to understand the task of gover ning.
This failure is noticeably reflected in the Government's inability to understand how best to use their power to influence the economy. I argued at the time of the Autumn Statement that the chancellor should have sent out, above all, a single message to employers.
Employers, by not laying off workers at the rate they had done in previous recessions, were telling the Government something important: they were keeping faith with the Government's strategy. I argued then that it was at this point that the Government should make some dramatic key moves to boost employer confidence.
Here I bring in the great economist, J M Keynes. I do not think Keynes would be arguing at this point for reflation. Every pounds 24 of each pounds 100 the Government spends is being borrowed. This is Keynesian reflation on stilts.
But Keynes also stressed the crucial role of boosting business confidence in a recession. Here the desperate failure of the Government is apparent.
Instead of making in November some dramatic moves to boost business confidence, the Government did nothing. Their failure to act will send unemployment rates up later this year. But equally bad is how the Government's failure has rebounded on the expectation of firms about investment.
Some of our biggest firms are sitting on mega-sized reserves to invest. They will only use this when they believe such investment will pay dividends.
By maintaining business confidence, and thereby beginning an investment-led boom, the Government would have ensured that the economy came off the bottom without adding one single penny to public debt.
The chancellor failed to act in November when he could have made a difference on this score. That squandered opportunity that will increasingly dominate this Parliament made me begin to question whether the present administration even begins to understand what the art of governing is about.